Buta Kimuchi(豚キムチ), is a milder Japanese version of the Korean dish Jaeyook Bokkeum (제육볶음). With only 7 ingredients (less, if you omit the garnish), my version of this dish is an incredibly simple stir-fry that comes together in a matter of minutes. The brilliance of Buta Kimuchi is that kimchi is so flavorful, that it does not need much seasoning beyond its own pickling juices to create a wonderfully complex stir-fry.
Although it's a simple dish, there are a few key techniques that can make the difference between a perfectly sauced stir-fry with moist tender meat, and a soggy mess with pork that has the texture of wet cardboard. The first point is that you want to marinate the pork with sake, add then add some potato starch. This not only infuses the pork with umami, the starch gels the juices in the meat that naturally come out during cooking, locking them in place so that they don't spill out all over the pan as the meat cooks.
The second key is to squeeze out as much liquid from the kimchi as possible. We all know the importance of Maillard browning in boosting the flavor of a dish, and if the kimchi is wet, it will not brown. By separating the liquid from the kimchi at the beginning and then reintroducing the liquid after the kimchi has browned, we're able get the browning while still having a sauce.
One last thing to note is that because the seasoning of this dish is primarily from the kimchi, if your kimchi doesn't taste good, your buta kimuchi won't either, so be sure to use a brand of kimchi you like, or make your own.
- Add the pork and sake to a bowl and mix well to combine. Add the potato starch and mix again to distribute evenly.
- For the kimchi, squeeze out as much water as you can and weigh out 250 grams. You should squeeze it until you can't get any more liquid to come out. You'll probably want to use gloves or your hands will turn orange and smell like kimchi for the rest of the day. This should produce about 1/2 cup of liquid, if you don't have enough liquid, pour some more in, or if you have too much, pour some out.
- Add 2 tablespoons of sake and 1 teaspoon of potato starch to the kimchi juice and stir to combine.
- Heat a frying pan over medium high heat until hot. Add the sesame oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the marinated pork and then spread it out into a single layer. When the pork has browned on one side, flip them over and brown the other side.
- Add the squeezed kimchi and stir-fry until the kimchi starts to brown.
- Give the kimchi juice another stir and then add it to the pan along with the garlic chives. Toss to coat everything evenly. The buta kimchi is done when the sauce has thickened.