These kimchi arancini are a Korean-inspired riff on an Italian classic. Fried rice with kimchi is stuffed with mozzarella, deep-fried until golden and served with a spicy gochujang sour cream.
These deep-fried orbs of kimchi arancini with their inner melty, cheesy gooeyness are pretty much guaranteed to bring you happiness no matter what else is going on in your life. An absolutely brilliant Korean riff on the classic Italian fried risotto snack with an unexpected chile heat.–Jenny Howard
For the gochujang sour cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade gochujang* (see note below)
For the kimchi arancini
- 2 cups dried Italian-style bread crumbs homemade bread crumbs, or panko
- 2 cups tightly packed cold leftover Kimchi Fried Rice
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano plus more for finishing (optional)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
- Pinch gochugaru* (optional; see note below)
- Pinch salt (optional)
- 1 to 1 1/2 ounces low-moisture mozzarella
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Maldon salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling
- Sesame seeds chopped green onion, or chopped herbs, for garnish (optional)
Make the gochujang sour cream
- In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and gochujang until well-blended. The gochujang sour cream will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Stir before using.
☞TESTER TIP: Go ahead and double the gochujang sour cream recipe since it’s going to be your new favorite dip for everything. (We’re looking at you, potato chips!)
Make the kimchi arancini
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- If using panko or homemade bread crumbs, toss them in a food processor and grind until very fine.
- Chop any large pieces of kimchi in the leftover kimchi fried rice.
- In a large bowl, lightly beat 1 egg. Add the kimchi fried rice, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and stir until just combined.
- Set up an assembly station for forming the arancini. In a small, shallow bowl, beat 2 eggs. Place the flour in a separate shallow bowl. Pour the remaining bread crumbs on a plate and, if desired, season with a pinch of gochugaru and salt. Cut the mozzarella into a dozen 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes.
- Dust your hands with a little flour, scoop up 2 to 3 tablespoons of the kimchi fried rice mixture, and press or gently squeeze the rice together in both hands to form a ball about 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly round at this point.
- Press a cube of mozzarella into the center of each ball and massage the rice to cover any holes.
- Dredge the ball again very lightly in the flour. Dip it in the beaten egg. Shake off any excess egg and then roll the ball in bread crumbs to coat evenly. Press and shape the ball to make it more compact and uniform in shape. Place the finished ball on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the rice mixture is used. You should have about 12 balls.
- To deep-fry the arancini, in a large pot with high sides, heat 4 inches (10 cm) of oil (about 4 cups) until very hot but not smoking (350°F or 180°C). To shallow-fry the arancini, heat 1/2 inch (12 mm) of oil (about 2 cups) in a large, cast-iron skillet.
- Test the oil by dropping a bread crumb into the pot; if it sizzles right away, you’re ready to fry. Carefully lower the rice balls into the hot oil, one by one, and cook over medium-high heat, turning them gently as needed, until golden brown all over, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not crowd the pot.
- Using a slotted spoon or spider, lift the kimchi arancini from the oil, allowing any excess oil to drip back into the pot or skillet. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or a cooling rack. Season the kimchi arancini with a bit of salt or finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if using. Give the kimchi arancini about a minute to cool.
- Meanwhile, stir the sesame seeds, green onion, and chopped herbs, if using, into the gochujang sour cream.
- Pile the warm kimchi arancini on a small platter and serve immediately, passing the gochujang sour cream on the side. (Leftover kimchi arancini can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a 350°F (176°C) oven.)
*What Are Gochujang And Gochugaru?Gochujang and gochugaru are popular Korean spice products and can be found easily in most Asian markets, some larger grocery stores, and of course, online. Gochujang exhibits a subtle but complex flavor profile of smoke, spice, and slight sweetness and is a thick, fermented paste that usually comes in small, rectangular tubs. For the gochujang sour cream recipe here, you could also substitute an alternate Asian chili paste, such as chili garlic sauce, starting with a smaller measurement and adding more, to taste. Gochugaru is a coarse chili powder with a texture similar to crushed red pepper flakes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Korean inspired version of arancini is simply fantastic. The addition of kimchi to the rice was genius and completely elevated the dish without overwhelming it. Both of my children declared it a 10!
Forming and coating the arancini worked well though I wouldn’t fiddle too much with them as they can break apart easily. It was much easier to mold the ball shape once they were coated in the bread crumbs. I shallow-fried the arancini and the timing was accurate at 4 minutes. The mozzarella was very melty (and oh-so-delicious!).
I needed about 2 cups of oil to fit my 12″” cast iron skillet. I cooked the arancini in 2 batches for ease of managing them but I think they all could have fit in one layer.
I intended to serve them with the gochujang sour cream, but when I what I thought was a jar of gochujang in my fridge was something else entirely, so I substituted 2 tablespoons chile garlic sauce in place of the gochujang and this was a pleasantly spicy condiment that went well with the arancini. The arancini were not particularly spicy on their own.
These delicious morsels of goodness make me so happy. And they made everyone who tried them happy. The kimchi fried rice is enough to evoke an out-of-body experience on its own. But bread it, stick a hunk of gooeyness in the middle, and then deep fry it? Fugetaboutit.
I deep-fried them in batches using 1 quart oil in a large pot.
I will definitely be making these beauties again.
There are a lot of parts here, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so stay with this! We went the wholly homemade route, so this could be a whole lot easier and quicker if you purchased some of the parts; however, I’m going to walk through this with our approach.
We made a homemade kimchi. The recipe stated it could be eaten right away, but would optimize at 3 weeks. So, if you’re going all out with the homemade approach, this would be the best place to start. Due to dietary considerations, we made a terrific vegan kimchi.
Since the gochujang sour cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, make this anytime. We loved this sauce, so I suggest making a double batch and using it the leftovers as a chip dip, if you’re so inclined. I’m not usually a chip and dip person, but this breaks that rule for me.
While the recipe stated to use leftover kimchi fried rice, this is not necessary. This can be freshly made. There will be rice leftovers! The rice is delicious and was sensational scrambled with an egg later that week.
Back to the arancini assembly. Despite having completely dry hands and a dusting with a little flour, this was a very messy process, though you would never know it from the results. The balls were not only not perfect as noted in the recipe, but they wanted to fall apart. Fear not and continue on!
We deep-fried. Not being expert deep fryers, we had a hard time keeping the oil hot enough, which, again, you would not be able to ascertain from the results. While we had the previously noted troubles getting the arancini to hold together during assembly, they did stay together pretty well during the deep frying.
We were both surprised and impressed by how nicely crispy the arancini got! I have learned that the paper towel approach can cause lovely fried goods to turn oily and soggy, so we used a cooling rack. We used the seasoning with cheese suggestion as the Arancini came out of the fryer, and served them as an appetizer, plated and then with the dish of gochujang sour cream passed.
There were no leftovers when served as an appetizer to 4 people.
Originally published July 31, 2019