With its bright flavors, lengthy history and rising-star status in the health-food world, it’s no wonder kimchi is popping up all over DFW. The bright red side dish, or banchan, as it’s known in Korean cuisine, is working its way into Dallas menus in creative ways.
A building block of Korean dishes, kimchi is made by curing vegetables in salt and chili paste and allowing healthy bacteria to ferment the mixture into what we know as kimchi. The most common kimchi is made with Napa cabbage, but anything can be used in its place. It's served with most Korean meals as a condiment, a digestive aid or a delightfully pungent snack.
Despite being a mainstay in Korean food for eons, this funky ferment has only recently become a hot item in Dallas. Its salty, tangy, spicy characteristics match well with a surprising array of dishes; it can be made as mellow or as wild as the dish it's paired with. But kimchi’s superpowers go beyond its inescapable flavor. It's long been considered a health-food powerhouse because the bacteria that give kimchi its tangy bite also make it a probiotic that's good for digestion and gut health.
Whether you're a kimchi neophyte or a lifelong fan of the funk, here are nine DFW restaurants – and the dishes we recommend at each – that have a little fun with fermentation.
2069 N. Central Expressway, Richardson
Chicken Moto’s kimchi queso is a funky take on a Tex-Mex classic. The culinary cookbook is pushed aside here, where south of the border meets south of the Koreas. A sautéed 3-month-old kimchi makes the tangy, zesty, robust base onto which the classic golden cheese sauce takes hold. Try dipping the curry fries, taro chips, or hell, even fried chicken into it. Why it's not called kim-cheese, we may never know.
2817 Maple Ave.
Top Knot consistently impresses with a variety of Asian-influenced dishes with a twist. While the term karaage implies a starch-fried chicken, what arrives to your table at Top Knot is so much more exciting. Immediately after frying, the ultracrispy chicken is tossed in a "kimchi emulsion" made from all the concentrated flavors of the real deal. Garlic, ginger, Asian pear, jalapeño and house-made fish sauce give off an intoxicating aroma that you can smell as the dish makes its way to your table.
2901 Elm St.
Once deemed too out there to stay on the menu full time, the kimchi bloody mary at Junction Craft Kitchen is now a staple on the former Kitchen LTO's brunch menu. The crazy creative tampering from chef Joshua Harmon gives a new dimension to the brunch cocktail. The kimchi, made in traditional clay pots, is aged for up to six months and is sprinkled throughout the menu in both liquid and solid form. Tastes of ripened fruit, dried squid, cured beef and a lot of love make the drink as flavorful as it is unique. This bloody mary, garnished with togarashi, a dried Japanese pepper, is potent enough to cure any hangover Deep Ellum may throw your way.
6505 W. Park Blvd., Plano
Tucked away in a small section of strip malls in West Plano is a fusion restaurant with a hidden menu item that hits all the right spots. Kor-BQ’s Kuesadilla (short for Korean quesadilla) is a Tex-Mex Seoul food that brings together flour tortillas, a melty Mexican white cheese blend, your choice of beef or chicken (we recommend the chicken) and a chopped kimchi. The flavors play with each other surprisingly well, and because the kimchi is made fresh in house, it holds its crispy crunch all the way to the delicious end. Dip it into Kor-BQ's spicy sauce and enjoy the fusion of flavors and textures.
2560 Royal Lane
For a more traditional take, heat things up at Koryo Kalbi. This kimchi is hot in an entirely different way. Koryo Kalbi serves kimchi in jjigae (stew) form, which arrives at the table still spitting and boiling in a 5-pound cast-iron dolsot bowl that keeps the spicy soup hot for nearly half an hour. The stew is a rich red with hunks of pork, tofu and wilted Napa cabbage kimchi that dissolves in your mouth like fermented chili cotton candy. This dish truly shines in the broth, where the kimchi has sacrificed its physical characteristics to flavor. There are hints of brine, a tang of sour ferment and a deep complexity that takes nearly a dozen tastes to really pin down. Our advice: Don’t wear a white shirt.