Monday, February 4, 2008

Bebop for Kimbap... California Style (닭고기김밥)

The healthy, organic version of Korean fast food sushi

Kickin' Californian Kimbap

Lucky the leprechaun just might forgo his Lucky Charms if he knew about kimbap*, Korean sushi, which is composed of a mishmash of colorful ingredients, thus capturing the rainbow in a roll instead of a bowl.


As an all-inclusive-meal-in-a-bite you can pop in your mouth, kimbap produces some odd bedfellows. Combinations in kimbap can range from your typical marriage of tuna and mayonnaise to the eye-brow raising duo of kimchi and cheese. Basically, it’s a free-for-all, so let loose your creative juices when choosing your kimbap fillings. Roll themes can range from all-organic, vegan and macrobiotic-friendly to rib-eye richness.



Although short grain white rice is the most commonly used grain for kimbap, I opt for a 1:2 grain ratio of organic sweet brown rice and organic short grain brown rice. Sweet brown rice is a glutinous, high-protein variety of rice, whose refined counterpart is commonly used in desserts such as mochi or dduk/tok. This grain mixture produces rice strongly characterized by a sticky, chewy and hearty goodness. Each grain seemingly pops with a sweet, nutty flavor under the grind of your molar. Adding sweet rice also increases the overall gluten, making it easier to use less rice and tightly roll the smorgasbord of meat and vegetables into the blanket of rice and seaweed.


Spinach may add a bold kick of green color to kimbap and remain a frequently favored darling among vegetables for Koreans, but I am not a fan of its flavor or texture in kimbap, so I gave it the boot. I prefer a combination of crunch and velvety richness balanced by enough vinegary acidity to make kimbap the way I imagine it should be: a-balanced-meal-in-a-bite, where every ingredient has its place and the addition of soy sauce becomes a travesty.



Kimbap

Kickin' Californian Kimbap Recipe

~ Yields 12 rolls,serves 3-5 people

To save time, consider preparing some of the kimbap materials the night before, such as the chicken and any of the vegetables, except the avocado.
Yummy Brown Rice Mix
I can always differentiate a good variety of organic short grain brown rice from inorganic rice by whether the eye of grain is intact. When organic rice is cooked, the light yellow eye should be staring at you from the tip of the grain.
1. Mix 1 1/3 cup short grain brown rice with 2/3 cup sweet brown rice.
2. Soak for an hour, drain, and add 2 2/3 cups water to pressure cook.
3. Melt 1/2 tsp honey into 1 tsp hot water, mix with 3 tsp rice vinegar and ¼ tsp salt.
4. Sprinkle this vinegar seasoning over the cooked rice while fanning the rice to make the grains shiny.
Kickin' Chicken
I know the health benefits of white meat outweigh the dark, but I prefer dark-meat. To compromise, I mixed chicken parts and then shredded everything together with a fork, but if you pick only breast meat for this recipe, I would advise that you purchase meat with some skin and bones because otherwise, there’s no flavor to savor! The marinade for this chicken is a healthier, sugar-free version of the standard Korean barbeque marinade. In lieu of maesil ju, Korean green plum wine, feel free to add mirin, grand marnier, or marsala wine. Each liqour imparts a different subtle flavor on the chicken and which you choose is a matter of personal preference.

2 ½ lb chicken parts
6 garlic cloves
½ onion
¼ cup ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup maesil ju, Korean green plum wine


1. Slice the garlic cloves into 1/8 inch thick disks and set aside.
2. Slice the ginger into thick strips and set aside.
3. Soak and rinse the chicken in water to get rid of any debris or blood.
4. Place the chicken and other ingredients in a pot with a thick-bottom or copper coating.
5. Cover and cook on medium heat until it starts to boil, then quickly reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove the cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until much of the liquid has evaporated and meat becomes shiny, falling off bone.
7. Wait until the meat cools a bit and then remove all the bones, ginger, and onion bits.
8. You can leave the meat in chunks or shred the meat slightly and pour the remaining
liquid back into the meat for extra seasoning. Set aside.
Crunchy Vegetables
Young carrots- the carrots should not be cooked too long or they will lack the firm, dense crunch.
1. Douse the carrots in boiling water for about five minutes to blanch.
2. Rinse carrots in cold water.
3. Slice each carrot length-wise into fourths and scatter ¼ tsp salt over carrots.
4. Pour just enough rice vinegar over to steep the carrots. I used shallow oval bowls, but you may also place them on a plate with high rim. Set aside.
Japanese cucumbers/kyuri- These cucumbers are similar to Persian cucumbers with a thinner middle and crunchier outside than English hot house cucumbers. Kyuri contribute a fresh, crisp crunch to the kimbap roll.
5. Slice each cucumber length-wise into sixths, trimming the seed middle a bit. Set aside.
Pickled radish/Daikon- I believe in making things from scratch for quality control, but pickling vegetables to crunchy perfection is an art of its own. The perfect daikon is wrinkly as the trunk of an elephant, about 1 ½ inches thick, and marked by a deep, edgy crunch.
6. Slice the daikon length-wise in halves. Slice that half into sixths. Set aside.
Pickled red radish/Fukujin zuke- this vibrant red pickled radish adds a subtle sweetness to the kimbap.
7. Drain the fukujin zuke and set aside in a small bowl.
Pickled eggplant & cucumber/shiba zuke- This pickled eggplant paints the kimbap with a beautiful purple, imbuing the roll with aromatic perilla flavor while adding a cushy crunch.
8. Drain the shiba zuke and set aside in a small bowl.
Avocado- Some people slather mayonnaise as a quick flavor fix or to offset the way their kimbap sticks in your throat, which is often caused by too much white rice and not enough filling. Slicing fresh avocados into your rolls, however, is a great, tasty alternative to mayonnaise. In this Kickin’ California Kimbap, avocados add a bit of creamy decadence and complement the nutty, chewy brown rice.
9. Peel and seed the avocado, then slice it length-wise in half.
10. Cut each halve into sixths and set aside.
Egg omelet/Gehran/Tamagoyaki
Usually, a little bit of sugar is added in the egg omelet, but I try to cut my use of refined, processed sugar wherever I can and instead, substituted a little bit of honey. The secret to making a good tamagoyaki is pouring just enough egg to cover the bottom of the pan and having the right pan. You need a heavy-bottomed, non-stick square pan.
1. Melt ½ tsp honey in 1 tbs of hot water, stirring in 1tsp mirin and ¼ tsp salt.
2. Beat this mixture into 8 eggs. You will cook omelette in two
batches. Heat up a square non-stick pan, lightly coated with olive oil on a low
fire.
3. Pour enough of the egg mixture to cover the pan.
4. Wait until the egg turns opaque and firm but not browned, then use a flexible pancake spatula to loosen the edges. Fold each end onto the middle in thirds, so 1/3of the egg remains as a bar in the middle of the pan.
5. Pour a little more of the egg mixture onto each empty 1/3 section of the pan. Wait until the egg turns opaque and solid, and then flip each end onto the third in the middle.
6. Repeat until half the egg mixture is gone. Set the egg aside to cool before cutting it into sixths. Repeat process so the next batch is cooked and cut. Set aside.
Easy Rolling Instructions
Select a roasted, unseasoned, thick, sushi-grade laver, and you will not encounter rolls that splinter before you can roll them.
1. Carefully spread ½ cup of rice onto 2/3 the laver sheet.
2. Position the chicken on the 1/3 line of the rice section.
3. Pile the egg and other ingredients on top of the chicken.
4. Tightly roll the fillings into the blanket of seaweed and rice, tucking them in if they fall out. Set each roll aside and pile them on a plate.
5. When you are finished rolling the kimbaps, slice each roll horizontally, about ¼-1/3 an inch thick. Wash your knife blade clean in a mixture of 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water when too much rice accumulates on the blade.
Variations
For smoked fish lovers out there, I also tried replacing the chicken with cold smoked white fish from my local Russian grocer and with great success. Cold smoked white fish is rich with natural oils, however, so watch how much avocado you put in your roll. Cold-smoked mackerel, although an acquired taste, also works beautifully.

Vegetarians should feel free to use smoked tofu. Smoked tofu, especially when combined with all the other ingredients in this roll, tastes delicious and has a texture a bit similar to some fish cakes. Vegans should also feel free to cut the egg out as well, although I really think the egg enhances the flavors of the roll.


*Kimbap is also sometimes spelled Kimbop, Gimbap, Gimbop, Kimbob, and Gimbob. The most common spelling, however, is kimbap.

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