So, all my friends on TikTok have been making the “perfect” french fries, and I wanted in on the fun. To be honest, the perfect fries, in my mind, can only exist when paired with kimchi. But not just raw kimchi-nope. I like my kimchi topping to be caramelized, sweet, and sticky.
One of my favorite Korean bar foods used to be dooboo kimchi, which translates into “Tofu Kimchi” (my veganized version of this favorite will be included in my forthcoming cookbook). Raw or steamed slices of tofu are topped with this gloriously stir-fried mixture of garlicky, sweet and sour kimchi. I decided to take that topping and put it on some fries. Can you think of anything more perfect than that? I didn’t think so.
“HOLD MY BEER” – Vegan Kimchi Cheese Sauce
It gets even better, though. Yes, there is a way to make these fries even more epic-we can add a KIMCHI Cheese Sauce! I created my Kimchi Cheese Sauce for my Kimchi Mac ‘n Cheese many years ago and it was so good, I fooled my non-vegan dog walker into thinking it was real queso! I’ve since tweaked the cheese sauce recipe to make it even more “kimchi-fied” and the results are truly mouthwatering. It’s basically Kimchi Chigae turned into a creamy dreamy cheesy sauce.
Now, there are a lot of ingredients to this recipe, and more than a handful of steps. But the cheese sauce will last you for several iterations of fries or pasta or anything you’d like to add Kimchi Cheese Sauce to (ramyeon? chips? ramyeon chips?). And, I’m going to break things down into parts so that it’ll be really easy. I promise!! And you will LOVE THE RESULTS!
The Aromatics, the Kimchi, and Cashews
There are really two main categories of ingredients to the cheese sauce. First, of course, are the things that impart flavor-the garlic, onions, spices, kimchi, kimchi juice, nutritional yeast, etc. Then, the cashews, potatoes, and the milk all help to create the creamy and slightly gooey texture.
I’m not sure what the science behind it all is, but the gumminess of potatoes (the regular old white potato-not sweet potatoes) create sort of a “glue” that acts like cheese or egg (I often use potato starch mixed with water for that purpose). Here, we’re going to add everything, including the potatoes and cashews, to a small pot, together with the aromatics and spices, and bring it to a boil until all the potatoes are completely cooked. Hence, I like to slice my potatoes very thinly, to ensure they cook quickly.
A lot of cheese sauce recipes require raw cashews soaked in water for 4 hours. I’ve never used raw cashews and I’ve never soaked my cashews. Cooking them in the boiling water (or BEER, if you can handle the gluten!!!) together with the potatoes softens them, so that they are ready to blend.
How to “Kimchify” this Cheese Sauce
It’s not just a matter of adding kimchi to your blender. I like to cook the kimchi to really concentrate the flavors. I also add a splash of good soy sauce to really enhance the umami of the flavors cooking in the pot, and then, of course, I add gochujang for additional “funk” (gochujang is spicy fermented soybean and chili paste) and heat. Finally, the final kimchi-inspired ingredient to this cheese sauce is the kimchi juice-i.e., the fiery brine that’s sitting in your kimchi jar. The brine adds that sour note to your cheese to make it more of a queso-the kind of cheese you’d add to your nachos.
In all, it really does look like you’re making kimchi chigae, right before you blend it all into a creamy sauce.
Baked Fries – Is It Really “Healthier” Than Fried Fries?
Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid of deep frying things. But, after frying some potato donuts this weekend (will be posting that later), I wanted to step away from the vat of oil and make fries that were a little less taxing on the heart (and my back-it takes forever to deep fry in batches!).
Now, just because you bake these (or air fry them) doesn’t mean they don’t taste good. Actually, I think they taste just as good as regular old fried fries. Here, I used Yukon gold potatoes (which I generally find to be creamier and less brittle than russets) and par-boiled them, which is a fancy way of saying that I boiled them until they were chopstick tender before crisping them up in the oven.
The real variable for the texture of baked fries is the oil. How much oil will determine how “fried” your baked fries will be. The less oil you add, the less crispy. But of course, if you simply douse your potatoes in oil, at a certain point, it’s not that much different from deep frying them. In my case, I added about 2 tablespoons of oil to the baking sheet and then drizzled a bit more on top of the potatoes before sticking them in the oven.
I cooked them for about 15 minutes before flipping all of the wedges. I cooked them for about 5 more minutes and they came out crispy and perfect.
Sweet & Sour Kimchi Topping
Now, as I mentioned earlier, these Baked Fries are next level because of the sweet and sour kimchi topping. It is so easy to prepare, takes a handful of ingredients, and tastes out-of-this-world. You start with both extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil. The former is there to help increase the burn point. The latter is there to add a hint of sweetness. Then, you add scallions, garlic, and onions to really ratchet up the flavor profile. Get your oil lovely and infused and then dump your kimchi in.
Cook your kimchi for a few minutes until they just begin to caramelize and then you help that process along by adding the gochujang (which has some sweetness to it), a well as the maple syrup. And by the time you’re finished, you will have a pan full of kimchi you’ll want to eat before you add them to your fries, trust me. In fact, this would be perfect to eat with a bowl of rice.
After adding a generous serving of my Kimchi Cheese Sauce, I add a few more things to really make this dish special-some avocado I had lying around, toasted sesame seeds, and, of course, scallion greens.
Quick Tips for Making Baked Kimchi Cheese Fries
- When making the Kimchi Cheese Sauce, make sure to slice your potatoes very thinly, in order to cut down on the cooking time.
- If you really want to inject more flavor into your Kimchi Cheese Sauce, switch the water out for vegetable broth, a white wine, or your favorite beer.
- Use a good blender to blend the ingredients into a thick and creamy sauce.
- When making the Baked Fries, pick a waxier potato like a Yukon gold potato that’s less likely to fall apart after they’re par-boiled.
- Make sure not to overcrowd your baking sheet, as doing so will prevent the crispiness you’ll want out of your potatoes.
- Bake the potatoes at a scorching 475° F and do not line your baking sheet with anything.
VEGAN Baked Kimchi Cheese Fries
- baking sheet
Kimchi Cheese Sauce
- 3/4 small potato (thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 scallion white
- 1/4 cup vegan kimchi
- 1 tbsp gochugaru
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup roasted cashews (unsalted)
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp kimchi liquid
- 1/2 cup plant milk
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 4 yukon gold potatoes (chopped into wedges)
- sea salt
- 2 to 3 tbsp oil
Kimchi Cheese Sauce
- Place potatoes, onion, garlic, scallion whites, vegan kimchi, gochugaru, ground turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cashews, and vegetable oil in a small pot over medium high heat.
- Next, add the gochujang and stir until all the vegetables are evenly coated.
- Deglaze the pot with the soy sauce and stir.
- Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and lower the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Add all the contents of the pot to a powerful blender. Add nutritional yeast, kimchi liquid, plant milk, lemon juice, maple syrup. Blend on high until smooth (about 1 minute on a high powered blender).
- Preheat your oven to 475° F.
- Chop the potatoes up into wedges.
- Add them to a large pot of salted water.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, until they are chopstick tender.
- Add oil to a large baking sheet.
- Spread the par-boiled potatoes onto the baking sheet so they are not touching. Make sure not to overcrowd the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Place the baking sheet on lowest rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip the wedges and bake for an additional 7 minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
Sweet and Sour Kimchi Topping
- Add oils to a large pan over medium high heat.
- Next, add scallion whites, onion, and garlic to the oil and cook until the onions become translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add the kimchi and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Add gochujang and maple syrup. Stir the vegetables until evenly coated and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until the kimchi is soft.
- Top the baked fries with Kimchi Cheese Sauce, Sweet and Sour Kimchi Topping, sliced avocado, toasted sesame seeds, cracked black pepper, and scallion greens.