I like the garlic smell of my homemade kimchi, but I’m not sure if I want my office to smell like it. Besides, I’m not a fan of bringing multiple containers to work. I don’t even want people to see me with a fork at my desk, and it’s even worse with an empty but dirty container. The ideal lunch is some kind of finger food, preferably balanced.
One afternoon, I decided to make ssam bab, a kind of roll with napa cabbage kimchi outside and stir-fried rice inside that I first saw in Kimchi Family and never in real life. You can find kimbab (rice roll in kim – seaweed) for very reasonable price in the Asian Ghetto just south of campus, but no Korean restaurants in the Bay dish out ssam bab. The only problem: I cut the napa cabbage leaves in half when I made kimchi, so now the leaves are not big enough to wrap up the rice, and things fall apart. Well, if I can’t make it the Korean way, I’m making it the Vietnamese way.
I use rice paper to wrap the ssam bab. The result: a cross between ssam bab and fresh spring roll. The perfect triple-layer balance: rice-kimchi-rice. The rice paper blocks the kimchi smell from diffusing across the room, keeps the roll intact thanks to its elasticity, and makes a clean, grease-less, non-sticky wrapper. The kimchi gives the roll a sour, spicy, garlicky edge so we don’t need a dipping sauce. Texture-wise, a bite takes us from chewy rice paper to juicy but crisp kimchi to the soft rice mixed with crunchy fried anchovy. Three of these rolls fill me up, but I chomp another just because.
Korean ssam bab: sauté pork and kimchi, mix with hot steamed rice, roll in a leaf of pickled napa cabbage, tie the roll with a leaf of cooked green onion.
Rice Paper Kimchi Roll
(make 20 rolls)
– 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced and browned
– 6 eggs, scrambled with garlic, and salt and sugar to taste
– 2 cups rice, cooked
– 10 quail eggs, halved
– 20 sheets rice paper
– 1 cup fried anchovy (myeolchi bokkeum)
– 20 pieces napa cabbage kimchi, the best size is 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches
Mix the scrambled eggs with the cooked rice.
Wet a sheet of rice paper in warm water until it’s soft, spread the rice paper on a plate or a chopping board.
On the rice paper, layer a piece of kimchi, some egg rice (about 1 tablespoon), a few row of fried anchovies, half a quail egg.
Fold the rice paper up along the kimchi piece to cover the filling, then fold the ends over.
Roll. The edge of the rice paper will stick naturally to the roll if the rice paper is moistened enough.
The rolls will stay good in the fridge for 4 days. Cover 3 rolls with a moist paper towel and microwave on high for 1 minute to regain freshness.