My friend Soo-Youn makes these amazing Korean vegetable rolls (Kimbab) for me sometimes when we are studying. ("Studying" meaning drinking coffee, gossiping, and occasionally cracking the binding of a book.) They were her favorite food when she was a child, and I can see why: soft, sesame-flavored rice wrapped around crunchy cooked vegetables with a spicy, salty sauce, all in a seaweed wrapper perfectly designed for chubby little hands to grip. They're great for children, but cut into slices they also make an acceptably sophisticated appetizer or entree for discerning adults. Here's how its done, minus precise measurements because Soo-Youn don't play that. ("Just taste it! Can't you tell if its right?") Well, don't take my word for it, try them once and crave them forever after. And never, EVER call them sushi.
(Note: Seaweed wrappers, sticky rice and good quality sesame oil are essential for this recipe and can all be found at your local asian market (and maybe even at healthfood stores). Try looking for korean chili paste or "goju jang" to add to miso for a dipping sauce, and you're really in Korean delicacy heaven.)
Step 1 is to make the rice. The best way is to make it in a rice cooker, using short grain rice that is made for making sticky rice. Immediately after taking it out of the rice cooker, add it into a bowl and while its still steaming, add in some toasted sesame seeds, crushing them slightly with your hands. Also add in a hearty drizzle of sesame oil, a few pinches salt, and a little bit of vinegar (say, 1 tsp. per cup, or less.) Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon and set aside. (The taste changes as the sesame seeds infuse the rice.) You can always adjust it to taste later, it should be a bit smoky from the sesame, salty, and tangy from the vinegar. If you like it, its correct.
Step 2 is to cook the vegetables. Use a hot pan, a bit of oil, and cook one at a time any of the following julienned vegetables until crunchy but cooked: carrots, leeks, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, radishes, etc. My friend uses eggs in hers as well, but you could also use thinly sliced and fried tofu. Pickles of some sort of also an option. Salt and pepper the veggies well when they are cooked. (The rationale for cooking seperately is that each vegetable takes a different amount of time to be perfectly "done".)
Step 3: Set up your work station with seaweed papers (plain, not toasted), the rice and a wooden paddle, and the vegetables. For each wrapper, pat a thick layer of rice down about filling about halfway up the sheet of seaweed. Then, place your selection of cooked veggies in the middle of that layer of rice. Carefully roll upwards, using your hands to even out the roll so it doesn't bulge too much on one side. (But messy is also ok.) If cutting, cut off to thin slices on the side (and pop into your mouth) then slice the remaining roll with a sharp knife into uniform slices. Like so:
Step 4: Serve with any sauce you like, (sriracha, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, etc) or the Soo-Youn special: a knob of asian chili paste (goju jang), and a few gulps of soy sauce and sesame seed oil. Mix well and toss in a few more sesame seeds or some thinly sliced leeks or scallions... so incredibly delicious.
A different variation on this recipe can be found here.
Song of the Day: The Smiths- Hairdresser on Fire