Kimchi has a split personality. When I eat it raw, its crunchy sourness creeps towards my eyes, slapping them shut with a wince. It’s addictive, like sour sweets. But cooked to just shy of caramelised, as in today’s recipe, the cabbage softens, its inner sweetness is released and the rowdy sourness mellows to a point where it could only just raise an eyebrow.
Kimchi and tomato spaghetti with sesame breadcrumbs
Kimchi varies enormously in quality and saltiness. Buy the best you can (I like Eaten Alive and Kim Kong Kimchi) and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Gochugaru is Korea’s main squeeze when it comes to chilli. It smells sweet, like dehydrated strawberries, and has a low to medium heat. Look for it at your local Asian shop or online.
Prep 5 min
Cook 30 min
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil, plus extra to serve
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
150g kimchi, drained and finely chopped
2 tsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
2 tsp agave or brown rice syrup
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes – I like Mutti’s polpa
Fine sea salt
For the breadcrumbs
50g dried breadcrumbs
15g black sesame seeds
15g pine nuts
Pour the rapeseed oil and a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil into a medium saucepan on a medium heat and, when hot, add the garlic and cook for two minutes, until pale gold. Add the kimchi and stir-fry for a few minutes, until all the water has been driven off and the oil has visibly separated.
Stir in the gochugaru and syrup, then add the tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Turn down the heat, three-quarters cover with a lid (as the sauce thickens, it may spit), and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring irregularly, until it has thickened nicely. Season to taste (the saltiness of kimchi will vary – I used three-quarters to a teaspoon of salt).
In the meantime, make the breadcrumbs. Put the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a small frying pan over a low to medium heat and, when hot, add the breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sesame seeds, and stir-fry until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden. Stir through a pinch or two of salt and transfer to a bowl.
Fill a very large pan with water, season with salt (I use a teaspoon of salt for every litre of water) and bring to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions and, just before draining, scoop out a small mug of the cooking water and put to one side.
Tip the drained pasta into the sauce and toss using a spaghetti spoon or tongs, adding a little pasta water if the sauce needs loosening. Check for seasoning and adjust as you see fit.
Distribute the spaghetti across four places, sprinkle the sesame breadcrumbs liberally over the top and drizzle over a little more sesame oil, if you wish.