I first met Sally Kim in the backseat of a car outside the Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport in Italy. She, along with my brother — chef/owner of Delfina Restaurant and his then-chef Anthony Strong and Sally their sommelier — had just arrived from San Francisco and were about to embark on an R&D trip through the Emilia Romagna and Piedmont regions of Italy.
I was tagging along to document it.
For the next seven days, Sally and I were roommates, dining companions, drinking buddies, truffle hunters, vineyard visitors and once we got up early to do yoga but ended up eating breakfast in a castle instead.
I explain all this to clarify why we’re friends: meeting someone for the first time and then immediately spending seven days and seven nights traveling together in a foreign country is a make it or break it situation — you’re either going to return home and never speak to each other again, or you’re going to be friends for life.
Thankfully, this is a story of the latter.
Watching Sally drink, dissect and discuss the wines we drank with every meal, her take on how they paired with food, the nuances of their tannins, terroir and other terms I didn’t know, was, to put it mildly, an eye-opening experience. Naturally, when I started writing a “pairing” column, she was one of the first people I called.
“One of my favorite pairings is kimchee fried rice and rose,” Sally tells me over Facetime while walking about the Mission District in San Francisco. I catch glimpses of her cheekbones. The camera focuses in on someone wearing tie-dye (still a thing in SF) and then on the chocolate and vanilla soft-serve swirl she’s eating.
“The acidity of the rose cuts through the umami* flavors of the dish but has enough fruit to pick up the spices of the kimchee,” she continues. “It leaves your mouth feeling fresh while also really waking up your palate.”
Before Facetime cuts out, Sally adds, “Fried rice is basically Asian meatloaf, so it’s not like I measure the ingredients out. I just kind of look in the ‘fridge and whatever’s in there, I throw into the pan.”
Below is Sally’s recipe for kimchee fried rice which after further discussion, she managed to figure out approximate measurements for, as well as a generous selection of rose brands.
Kimchee Fried Rice
Makes 2-3 servings
What you need:
½ chopped onion
½ cup of chopped pork – either bacon (approx. 4 strips) or pancetta (preferably Columbus brand)
2 eggs — to either be added to the dish or fried separately and placed on top. Or do both!
1 ½ tbsp. sesame oil
1 ½ cups kimchee — get one that has been fermented up to two weeks; not super fresh.
1 cup of frozen peas and carrots
2 cups cooked white rice — best if it’s a day old. At the very least, cook it an hour before you make the dish to ensure it doesn’t get mushy.
Soy sauce to taste
Black pepper to taste
How to prepare:
Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a pan on medium/high. When the pan is hot, sauté the onion until it starts to sweat.
Add your pork product and cook until caramelized — when you can feel it get crunchy and turn nice and brown.
Add the rice and stir it all together.
Add the frozen peas and carrots and then pour in enough soy sauce until it’s turned a light brown. Best to start with approx. 2 tbsp., taste, and add more if desired.
Tossing everything together in the pan and work in the kimchee. Work that in and then add the eggs and more soy sauce to taste. If you’re only using fried eggs, omit this part.
Finish it off with the sesame oil and toss until it’s evenly mixed.
If you’re adding a fried egg, now is the time to place it on top.
And now … it is time for rose!
Sally’s recommendations are as follows:
Le Fraghe’s Chiaretto
*Umami – often called “fifth taste” after sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.