Make all your kimchi cheese dreams come true.
In my childhood home, there was one rule for breakfast: no kimchi. To start off the day with kimchi breath was considered a major faux pas. We could eat hearty Korean stews and every kind of banchan but somehow, kimchi was a no-go in the morning.
I still ate it anyways. If people thought I had bad breath, well, I was ok with that. Kimchi was worth it.
I loved kimchi so much that when I moved out, there was always a jar of kimchi in my fridge. It tasted good with Korean food. And it tasted good with pizza and Taco Bell, too. There’s just something about that spicy, crunchy bite of pickled cabbage.
That’s why the first time I ate queso cheese dip, I automatically thought, this would taste so much better with kimchi.
Queso cheese dip, a Tex-Mex amalgamation, is delicious. Commonly eaten at chain restaurants and casual parties, I consider it regular, good ‘ole American fare. Except that whenever I eat it, I’m always thinking it needs something more. Something pungent and funky. Something like kimchi.
If I do say so myself, kimchi and cheese are good friends. Add ground beef and a little gochukaru (Korean chile powder) to the mix and you get childhood BFFs. Kimchi really makes this dish spectacular.
This makes for a great appetizer but in truth, I like to eat this anytime of the day or night. It’s a wee bit greasy but sometimes, greasy tastes so right. That’s part of its charm. If it makes you feel better, the acidic crunch of the kimchi really cuts through the heavy fattiness of the cheese and ground beef. So does beer. Enjoy!
- 1 lb/250g extra-lean ground beef
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 2 Tbsp Gochukaru (Korean chile flakes) or chile powder
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese grated
- 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese grated
- 1 1/2 cup kimchi, divided chopped into small-sized bites
- Handful chopped cilantro or green onion optional garnish
Heat oven to 350F/ 175C.
Heat a 10 inch cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp neutral oil (I used grapeseed oil). When the pan is hot, add the onion, red bell pepper, gochukaru, cumin, and salt. Saute until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned, about 5-8 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup kimchi and saute until the color is golden and orange-y, about 3-4 minutes.
Increase heat to medium high. Add ground beef and break up chunks with a wooden spoon until cooked through and brown, about 5-8 minutes. Make sure to mix the ground beef with the vegetable mixture so that it’s well combined.
Remove from heat. Add cheese. Gently mix with a fork until well combined.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes. The goal is for the cheese to gently melt. Watch carefully so that the cheese does not overcook and harden too much.
Remove from oven. Add (uncooked) kimchi to the middle in a small mound. Garnish with cilantro and green onion, if desired.
Serve immediately with plenty of tortilla chips and hot sauce.
*The cheese will gradually harden as it cools. If it hardens too much, reheat in a 350F/175C oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts into runny puddles once again.
**If you don’t own a cast-iron skillet, cook in a regular pot/skillet up to step 3. Transfer contents to an oven-proof bowl and mix in the cheese. Then bake for 5-10 minutes, as per usual.
Do you love kimchi like me?
Here’s some reading + recipes for more inspiration.