Chefs at Home: Lauren Lee (& Recipe)

Lauren Lee, born in Korea, grew up in Canada and the US and then moved to Berlin six years ago––you might already know her alter ego, Fräulein Kimchi. She’s one of the most exciting new chefs of the city, bringing together German, Californian and Korean kitchen. And producing the best Kimchi you can get here.

Actually, she’s an opera singer and massage therapist, but when she came to Berlin to work with a singing coach, she suffered from the lack of good Korean food. All the city had to offer back then was Ixthys, a quite okay but not really great Korean deli with an annoyingly oppressive missionary desire. So she started making her own Kimchi to be able to have a heartwarmingly delicious Kimchi Chigae, a stew made of, you guessed it, Kimchi. Out of this personal interest developed a small but thriving business, turning her and her as Fräulein Kimchi into a highly demanded Kitchensurfing chef, cooking trainer and Street Food Thursday bestseller. Which made it almost impossible for her to still have time for massages and singing.

A view into Fräulein Kimchi's Kimchi fridge
A view into Fräulein Kimchi’s Kimchi fridge

Kimchi is her passion but not the only food she makes, her mix of Californian and Korean kitchen (think Korean Tacos or cole slaw burgers with Miso mayonnaise) is equally popular. Besides working on enhancing the Kimchi production (until now, she does all of it herself), she’s planning a new supper club concept called “The Delish Tisch” that will start in fall and bring together impressive opera singing and delicious dinners.

Sometimes one still hears about people not liking Kimchi, but naturally, this is a dwindling stance, since Kimchi is not only very dainty, but also exceptionally healthy with almost no calories but loads of vitamin C, calcium, iron, fiber and lactic acid bacteria. It is, in fact, one of the five most healthiest foods (besides soy, olive oil, yoghurt and lentils), in case you need more arguments and believe in listings.

Alas, it’s not too easy getting Kimchi in Berlin. Some Asian markets have it in their fridges, but it’s mostly not too good. You can get Fräulein Kimchi’s outstanding Kimchi at her Street Food Thursday stall.

stilinberlin fräulein kimchi-1
A superior lunch: Kimchi Spätzle with sides of, well, Kimchi.

I met Lauren for lunch in her Prenzlauer Berg apartment, just down the street from Daniel Grothues’ place, where she was already busy preparing Kimchi Spätzle, the dish she suggested to introduce to the stilinberlin-readers. With a mix of Chinese cabbage Kimchi, red cabbage Kimchi (so good!) and real German Spätzle, the dish handles the wide gap between German and Korean kitchen with surprising easiness. And it’s seriously quick to be made, once you acquired some routine in preparing the dough and shaving it off the cutting board. Here’s her recipe:

Fräulein Kimchi’s Käsespätzle
(2 large portions or 4 petite ones)

125g Flour type 405
125g Flour type 550
3 Eggs
Between 80-100ml Milk or water
a lot of very ripe Kimchi*
50g bacon or Speck
4 sliced onions
100g grated Emmentaler cheese
Thinly sliced green onions
Toasted sesame oil

Mix the eggs with water/milk and add to the flour and salt. Beat until the batter is smooth and small bubbles form. Add more water or flour to adjust the consistency to a slightly thick batter.

Let the batter rest for a minimum of 30 minutes, then beat it again. I like to let the batter rest on and off for an hour, beating it intermittently while preparing other items for the Spätzle.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in frying pan. Add the onions and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let the onions caramelize over medium heat, then set aside. Using the same pan, fry up the bacon for 1-2 minutes then add the kimchi. Cook the kimchi until it is nicely caramelized.

Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. Place a Spätzlehobel on top of the pot and pour in some batter. Push and pull the hopper back and forth until the batter drops into the water. You can also cut noodles off of a wooden board, which is my preferred method. A tip to keep the batter from sticking is to wet down the board before you put the Spätzle batter on top. Cut the noodles into the hot water with a quick flick of your wrist. When the Spätzle is cooked it will rise to the top of the pot. Remove the cooked Spätzle with a slotted spoon and let the noodles drain in a colander while you continue making the rest of the Spätzle. Add a bit of butter to keep the noodles from sticking to each other.

In a casserole dish layer the noodles with the cheese and kimchi and onions. Top with a layer of the caramelized kimchi & onions. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 175 C, then garnish with the spring onions and enjoy! You can also cook the Spätzle in a pan if you prefer and serve when the cheese is melted.

*Remember to use well fermented kimchi for this dish. The kimchi should be sour to taste, if it is a new and unfermented kimchi it will not have the right taste when you cook it.