Picnic Time – Korean Style with Kimbap and Egg Roll Ups

The first time I tried kimbap, I was actually in China. I had been living there for a month already, and although I enjoyed eating Chinese food, I was getting a little sick of eating it all the time. Luckily, I found a little shop that sold kimbap, which is sort of like the Korean version of sushi. However, kimbap usually has meat instead of fish and more vegetables than Japanese sushi. The clean, crisp taste of kimbap was a delicious and welcome break from the rather oily, heavy Chinese food I had been eating the past month.

Kimbap is the perfect on-the-go meal. I’ve read that Koreans usually pack kimbap for lunch or as a snack for hikes or picnics. You can put whatever you’d like into kimbap. Usually, the standard ingredients are carrots, spinach, pickled radish (takuan), and marinated beef (bulgolgi). I decided to use marinated baked tofu instead of beef and added in some strips of egg. I loosely followed these recipes from Serious Eats and spoon fork bacon.

Making kimbap is pretty straightforward. Cook the rice and add in some rice wine vinegar and sugar. Saute the vegetables (spinach and carrots) and slice all of your ingredients into strips. Place a sheet of seaweed onto your sushi mat and pat rice on top. Lay all of the ingredients in rows on top of the rice and roll. Pretty simple, right? However, don’t underestimate how long it’ll actually take you. It took me about an hour to make the kimbap. The rolling was the hardest part since all the ingredients start flying out as you roll.

The best tip I found for making kimbap was coating the knife in sesame oil before cutting the roll into slices. This step made it so much easier to cleanly cut through the seaweed and rice.

Another cute snack food to pack on picnics is egg roll ups. They’re basically an egg pancake with chopped vegetables (usually carrots and green onions) that’s been rolled up. The recipe I used is based off this one. It’s so simple!

Whisk together eggs (one or two) and chopped carrots and green onions. Then pour mixture into a pan and swirl to get a circle with even thickness. Flip the pancake once the eggs have set and cook for another minute or two. Slide the pancake onto a plate and quickly roll the pancake up. Let cool for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

The egg roll ups are much easier to make than kimbap since they only have a few ingredients. But like kimbap, rolling is the hardest part. To get the shape to stay, you have to quickly roll the egg pancake while it’s still hot and let it cool as a roll before cutting into it.

Since both kimbap and egg roll ups are eaten cold, they’re the perfect snack to take on a hike or picnic. One Saturday, my friends and I planned to go to a local chalk art festival held in Berkeley. Since it was such a beautiful day, I figured it’d be fun to have a picnic in the park where the festival was being held and decided to pack up kimbap and egg roll ups.¬†My friends loved them and were so impressed! If you want to try a new picnic dish that’s simple and easy while still being impressive, definitely make kimbap and egg roll ups. Everyone, from kids to adults, will love these rolls of deliciousness!

Wandering and Stumbling

One of my favorite things to do is to just wander around my city and discover new places. I love stumbling upon local events going on that day or night, from summer festivals to monthly art walks in various neighborhoods. Luckily, there’s always something going on in the Bay Area, so there’s no such thing as an ordinary day or night.

In early March, my friend and I went to Souley Vegan in Oakland to use up an expiring groupon. After dinner, we walked along Broadway into the uptown area, and stumbled upon an event in which boutiques and art galleries stay open later. For the Austinites out there, it’s like First Thursdays but much smaller. After window shopping at some cute boutiques, we walked into a crowded store hosting a free concert. Although the music didn’t suit my taste, just the energy and environment made it worth staying.

I met up with my friend again last week to use up another groupon, this time to Parada 22, a Puerto-Rican restaurant on Haight St. Our dinner of mofongo and bistec were delicious, but the real highlight of the evening was stumbling upon a retro soda fountain/ice cream parlor called The Ice Cream Bar.

It was like stepping back in time to the ’50s. Lined all along the back wall were tinctures and extracts of every kind of flavor and herb, from cilantro to cinnamon to hellfire, for concocting archaic drinks such as acid phosphates and lactarts.¬†Although the drinks sounded so appetizing and exotic, we refrained from ordering them and settled on sharing a scoop of banana pudding ice cream. As we enjoyed our ice cream, we asked the soda jerk about all of those exotic drinks and got quite an education about old-school sodas, from egg-creams to phosphates and lactarts. All of the drinks on the menu looked delicious, but the most eye-catching ones were the “World’s Best Milkshake,” a pistachio milkshake made from Sicilian pistachios that are only harvested one day out of the year, and a lactart containing chai and tobacco (as a spray). If you are ever in the Cole Valley district of San Francisco, definitely check out this place! Going on little adventures like these, discovering new places and new people, is so satisfying, just like the perfect scoop of ice cream.