RECIPE: Chef Bill Kim's Magic Paste & Soy Balsamic Sauce

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Looking to spice up your meat? Chef Bill Kim has you covered with two delicious ideas! —INGRAIN, Summer 2018

Chef Bill Kim shares recipes for magic paste and soy balsamic sauce

RECIPES / Chef Bill Kim


I call this Magic Paste because, for me, it’s the ideal combination of ingredients. It’s got sweet spiciness from the ginger, funkiness from the fish sauce, nuttiness from the sesame oil, and gentle heat from the Korean chili flakes. This paste is the secret to how we make kimchi every day at our restaurants.

Makes 1 cup

1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

½ cup fish sauce (three crabs)

¼ cup toasted sesame oil

¼ cup Korean chili flakes


Ginger, garlic, and fennel seeds in a food processor and process until minced, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ginger gets chopped. Add the fish sauce, oil, and chili flakes and process for about 30 seconds.

Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Or freeze in standard ice-cube trays, then transfer the cubes (about 2 tablespoons each) to plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months.


This recipe is very dear to my heart, as it was my first attempt to use ingredients that didn’t normally go together, but made sense to me. In Asian cooking, vinegar is often used to cut saltiness from soy sauce or other ingredients. For me, balsamic vinegar has the perfect mix of sweetness, acidity, and body to combine with the brown sugar and soy sauce here.

Makes 1 cup

1 teaspoons cornstarch, or as needed

2 tablespoons water

¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup soy sauce


Cornstarch and water in a small bowl until the cornstarch dissolves and the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream, adding more cornstarch if too thin.


Brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir the cornstarch mixture briefly to recombine, then stir it into the soy-vinegar mixture and simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.


Sauce from the heat, let cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container. This sauce will last for months without going bad.

Grocery List: Chef Bill Kim's Magic Paste

Grocery List: Chef Bill Kim's Soy Balsamic Sauce

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