Crispy Braised Pork Shank with Quick Kimchi at Girl & The Goat ($25)
This is definitely one of the more original expressions of kimchi I found. Chef Stephanie Izard at Girl & The Goat tosses shaved butternut squash, shiitake mushroom, and sorrel with Korean chili paste, miso paste, and fish sauce to make a quick kimchi (she'll be the first to admit that it isn't fermented). On top of complementing the large Crispy Braised Pork Shank ($25), the marinading liquid is also finished with butter to create a kimchi-flavored buffalo-style sauce for dipping.
Kimchi Jjigae at Cho Sun Ok (stew; $7.50)
The Kimchi Jjigae from Cho Sun Ok is a modest classic. This one-pot dish is customarily prepared by using the more advanced (read: fermented) kimchi that's been hanging around the house for awhile, along with whatever else one feels like adding. This version includes tofu, glass noodles, scallions, and beef. Like most traditional Korean meals, it is accompanied by a plethora (9!) of side dishes, including a small bowl of the 'younger' kimchi. The smell alone is intoxicatingly pungent (in a good way), and spoonful after spoonful, one gets hit by spicy, sour, and salty all at the same time. This dish is a true kimchi lover's paradise.
Pork Belly and Kimchi Sliders from GT Fish & Oyster ($4)
Pork belly and kimchi ≣ peanut butter and jelly. I can't tell you how many times I've seen chefs combine pork belly and kimchi—not that I blame them. What better than the sharpness of the kimchi to cut through the fattiness of the pork belly? At GT Fish & Oyster, they sandwich this delectable duo between a buttery slider bun and finish it with crushed peanuts. For something so small to taste so good, it's no surprise that they goes through upwards of 3000 Pork Belly and Kimchi Sliders ($4) a month. On top of that, if you happen swing by the restaurant in the evening, they also prepare fried oyster sliders, too.
Yook-Gae-Jang [No. 16] from Joong Boo Market ($7.50)
Ordering food from the snack bar located within Joong Boo Korean Market (a.k.a. Chicago Food Corporation) is definitely a no-brainer. In my opinion, most dishes merit a try, but the spicy beef and veggie soup (Yook-Gae-Jang [No. 16], $7.50) is an approachable dish that really hits the spot. With plenty of braised beef, glass noodles, and scallions, the unctuous and mildly spicy broth is seasoned with Korean chili paste and flakes—the same used to prepare the two accompanying house-made kimchis. Lucky for you, if you're not a fan of braised beef, countless other dishes come with sides of kimchi. On top of that, if you're so inclined, walk into the grocery section and grab a jar (or in my case, a vat) to satiate all your late night kimchi cravings.