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!

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Curryin’ it up – Easy Red Curry

I’ve recently realized just how easy it is to make curry. Why have I been so ignorant? Curry is basically a stir fry using whatever vegetables and meat you want with red, green, or yellow curry. Excited to try my hand at curry, I bought a small can of red curry paste from our local Asian grocery (about $1.50) and a can of coconut milk from Trader Joes (only $0.99!).

Curry is a great way to use up leftover veggies you have in your fridge. That night, I had  some mushrooms, an orange bell pepper, and bean sprouts on hand. I also added some canned baby corn and water chestnuts for a nice crunch as well as tofu, frozen peas, and broccoli.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really like to follow recipes, especially when it comes to cooking. I like to read a couple of recipes for the dish I want to make, follow the basic guidelines, and then add my own touches. I almost never have exactly all the ingredients the recipe calls for, and I’m often too lazy to go out and buy what’s missing. So I end up improvising – either leaving something out or replacing it with something else. This is one of the reasons why I love this curry dish. You can use whatever you have on hand and you won’t ever feel bad that you were missing an ingredient.

I’m also not a firm believer in accurate measurements when it comes to cooking. For baking, yes, you do need to measure ingredients or else you might end up with too dense or dry of a cake or too chewy or crispy a cookie. Cooking, on the other hand, depends only on your tastes. So I usually never measure out things when I’m cooking for myself since it’s only my tastes that I have to worry about. However, when I’m cooking for other people, I try to follow recipes, but oftentimes that doesn’t work out. Guess I’m just a rebel at heart. 😛

 

For these reasons, I’m not really posting a recipe… because I don’t really have one. Making this dish is really really simple and takes about 5 steps:

1) Cut up some of your favorite meat (or tofu) and veggies or whatever you have in your fridge that day.
2) Heat up a pan with some oil and fry some curry paste. (I’m kinda a wimp when it comes to spicy food, so I used about a spoonful).
3) Add some coconut milk, about half a can. Or you can add the whole can if you’d like.
4) Throw in the meat (or tofu) and veggies and wait until they’re cooked. You can stir them occasionally to coat the veggies in the curry sauce.
5) Cook some rice or noodles and place your curry on top. Or if you’re too lazy to do that, just enjoy the curry by itself (which is what I did and it was delicious!). Don’t forget to garnish with cilantro (unless you hate it, of course)!

So I guess that was a recipe, but a pretty vague one. Sorry to those of you who like specific instructions. If you’d like a real recipe for curry, here’s a few from 101 Cookbooks,  allrecipes, and Epicurious.

As I cook more and more, I’m realizing that cooking is a lot like life. Sometimes, you won’t always have what you want or need in a certain situation. But you gotta roll with the punches and make the best with what you have. Like they always say, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Or in this case, when you’ve got a can of curry paste, make whatever kind of curry you want.