Drape a traditional fluffy omelet over a heap of ketchup-flavored fried rice, and you have omurice, a simple yet surprising meal derived from Yōshoku—the Japanese style of cooking that interprets Western recipes. But ketchup rice alone (sans egg) can be equally unexpected and satisfying.
While this adaptation adds a distinctly Korean influence to the mash-up with jarred kimchi (I prefer a standard napa cabbage version for this), it’s philosophically inspired by my Filipino-American upbringing. Like many of the 10 million Filipino immigrants scattered across the globe, my parents, who immigrated to California in 1990, improvised using local ingredients.
I grew up eating variations on the same recipes, depending on what we could afford that week. Kaldereta, a meat-and-vegetable stew cooked in tomato sauce, was a staple dish for our family. My parents usually made it with chicken and offal, but they would lean in heavy with potatoes and bell peppers if we had less money or replace the chicken with beef if we had more. Rice, though, was a constant, transformed in infinite ways. We boiled it into porridge, mixed it with chocolate, steamed it with broth, and, yes, fried it with Heinz ketchup when we couldn’t get traditional Filipino banana ketchup.
Like many fried rice dishes, this is a great way to marry day-old rice with the stray veggies from your crisper, adding pungent, umami-rich ketchup and kimchi. With a little mellowing time in a hot skillet and a fried egg on top, it’s a dish whose sum is much greater than its parts.
- Unless using leftover rice, steam 3 cups of white jasmine or Calrose rice. Leave it covered in the fridge for 24 hours. Fresh rice works as well, but day-old rice is preferred.
- Put kimchi (including the brine) into a small bowl and cut it into bite-size pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors, as kimchi brine tends to stain cutting boards.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and kimchi. Cook until fragrant, and until garlic and kimchi is browned around edges.
- Add rice to the skillet and pour ketchup evenly over the rice. Fold gently with a wooden spatula until the ketchup is evenly distributed and the garlic and kimchi are well incorporated. Rice should be saturated and vibrant red-orange.
- Spread the rice evenly across the skillet and continue to cook for about 5 minutes on medium, or just until the rice is slightly toasted. Season with black pepper.
- To serve, pack the rice into small bowls and overturn onto plates. Garnish with chopped green onion and serve with a fried egg.
Vera Blossom is a writer and artist born in the Bay Area and raised in Las Vegas. They are proudly Filipinx-American and passionate about fashion, film, food and many other deeply shallow things. They hope to one day own a small town diner in the countryside.