Try Baked Chinese Yam Mashed with Kimchi, Cheese to Stay Warm During Winter; Fermented Dish Also Good for Health

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mashed Chinese yam baked with kimchi and cheese, left, and kimchi yakko

When the cold weather worsens, I crave food that warms me up. One dish that came to mind was Chinese cabbage kimchi. Chef and fermentation-meister Misa Enomoto shared two dishes using the vegetable.

It seems like it has been a long time since kimchi, which originated in South Korea, began proudly occupying a place in the supermarket.

Kimchi production in 2022 was about 187,000 tons, roughly three times the production amount of pickled vegetables, according to statistics from the Food Marketing Research and Information Center.

Indeed, I buy more Chinese cabbage kimchi and daikon radish kimchi than pickled nozawana turnip leaves and the like. I often eat a mixture of kimchi, natto fermented soybeans and yogurt for breakfast.

“Lacto-fermented kimchi is rich in sourness and umami, so much so that it can be used as a condiment,” Enomoto said. “Also, the red peppers warm the body,” she added, praising the dish’s warming abilities.

The first dish she recommended was mashed Chinese yam baked with kimchi and cheese. “Fermented foods go well together, and cheese and kimchi are a great combination,” she said.

The heat applied during baking destroys the lactic acid bacteria but leaves the acidity and pungency of the kimchi, which brings out the flavor.

When making the dish, start by putting the Chinese yam in a plastic bag and crushing it with a rolling pin. Add the sliced kimchi and spices to the bag and mix.

“When mashing the Chinese yam, it is best to mash it just enough to leave a crunchy texture so that it doesn’t turn into mush,” Enomoto said.

The dish is also great since its preparation uses no bowls or other cooking utensils, meaning less dishwashing time.

Just put the ingredients in a baking dish and bake everything in a toaster oven.

Since the Chinese yam can be eaten raw, the dish is ready when the sprinkled cheese turns brown.

The acidity of the kimchi, the umami of the cheese and the crispiness of the yam that remains in the thickened texture are well-balanced. I devoured the dish in no time at all after making it.

I felt very satisfied as the Chinese yam and cheese filled me up.

Our second dish is kimchi yakko, a small block of tofu topped with kimchi — a classic and simple side dish.

The secret ingredient is soy sauce and sesame oil mixed with the chopped kimchi. If you make it in a large quantity, you can keep it on hand as kimchi sauce.

To make the dish, cut 60 grams of kimchi into 1- to 1.5-centimeter squares and mix with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Prepare two blocks of silken tofu weighing 150 grams each, top each with half of the kimchi mixture and sprinkle with roasted white sesame seeds and sprouts.

The dish is quick to prepare and refreshing to eat. The soy sauce and sesame oil mildly change the taste and spiciness of the kimchi. The mixture also goes well with the light taste of the tofu. The dish is low in calories, so no need to feel guilty about eating it after coming home late at night.

I was even happier to find that the day after eating it, I had a good bowel movement. I once again appreciated the health benefits of fermented foods.

Mashed Chinese yam baked with kimchi and cheese

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

    300 grams Chinese yam

    60 grams Chinese cabbage kimchi

    40 grams pizza cheese

    ½ tsp soy sauce

    Green onion cut into small pieces, to taste


    1. Peel the Chinese yam and put it in a plastic bag. Mash it with a rolling pin or similar tool. Mash just enough to keep the shape and texture of the vegetable. Add the bite-sized kimchi pieces and soy sauce to the bag and mix.

    2. Place the ingredients in a baking dish, top with cheese and bake in a toaster oven for 10 minutes.

    3. After 5 to 6 minutes, check the cheese and if it looks like it is about to burn, cover with aluminum foil. When the cheese is browned, remove the dish and sprinkle with green onions.