Brown Rice Kimchijeon (+ Brown Rice Flour!)

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One of the first dishes I tried in Korea was jeon—a savoury stuffed pancake dish native to the peninsula. Though deemed “pancake” by Western eyes, jeon often focuses more on the filling than its glutinous vehicle, with its tasty innards often spilling out the sides. Usually served as banchan, or “side dish”, jeon comes in many forms and flavors—as pajeon, or green onion pancake, saengseonjeon, a variety stuffed with seafood, bindaetteok, made with mung beans and veggies, and many more—but according to my tastebuds (and fervor for anything kimchi), the ace of cakes here is clearly kimchijeon (김치전)—which is, of course, kimchi pancake. Tinted with that familiar crimson hue so pleasantly ubiquitous in Korean cuisine, kimchijeon takes both the flavor and texture from Korea’s favorite fermented cabbage dish, mellowing its spicy and sour tones with wheat flour and salty dipping sauce.

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Personally, I like to work wheat-free as often as possible, so it’s only natural I took this traditional recipe and gave it a more tummy-friendly take. In keeping with the Korean theme, this recipe uses homemade brown rice flour (which is faster to make at home than pick up from the shelf at the store, though its easy to find in-store or online) instead of wheat flour, and word from my wonderful taste testers’ mouths is that the gluten was not missed. I added some chopped green onion for a little extra kick and also for that familiar pajeon flavour (does anyone else live off of Chinese green onion cakes during Heritage Days?).

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Rice and kimchi are the ultimate Korean staple—and here, they are reimagined as a tasty break from routine. And this recipe ummm, really takes the cake.

To make the rice flour, you need a food processor or high speed blender (or flour mill, if you have one!). Make sure your equipment is bone-dry. Measure out your rice (do it in small-ish batches, no more than 2 cups at a time) and grind it in your food processor, switching between the “high” and “pulse” setting until you have a very fine grain. According to the very reliable internet, in most food processors or high speed blenders this should take about five minutes, in my crazy jet-engine food processor it took about one. Huzzah!

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If you don’t use it immediately, store the flour in a tightly-sealed container and keep refrigerated.

And now for the main event:

Brown Rice Kimchijeon (gluten-free, vegetarian or can be made vegan, soy-free, nut-free)

Makes about 12 3-inch wide pancakes

Adapted from Girl Cooks World

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

1/2 cup potato starch

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs (or equivalent egg alternative for binding)

1 cup water

1 small head of cabbage’s worth of kimchi cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces, plus the kimchi “juice” from the container

10 green onions, cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces

1-2 tbsp Korean red pepper powder (optional, to taste)

Coconut oil for frying (or oil of choice)


Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, starch, and salt. Beat in the eggs and water until combined (note: the batter should be quite thick). Mix in the chopped kimchi, kimchi “juice”, green onions, and red pepper powder, if desired.

In a frying pan over medium heat, heat up the coconut oil. Use a ladle to make round, 3-inch wide pancakes. Flip when golden brown.

Serve immediately, with the following dipping sauce:

Two parts soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos

Two parts water

One part vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar)

Chopped green onions and/or sesame seeds, for garnish

**Note: Most Korean restaurants will serve a giant, full frying-pan size jeon with scissors for the table to cut and share. If your frying and flipping skills are apt for that, go for it. Otherwise scissors, a pizza cutter, or a plain old kitchen knife will help you cut the jeon into easily-servable strips.

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Rice Milk: Riches from (Dish) Rags

It’s been a banner Lunar New Year so far.

Luke got food poisoning. I got head lice. (Who gets head lice?!) We had a nice run-in with some soju swaggin’ Koreans and some near-nasty repercussions. Our school closed down. Our school closed down! I guess it is, as they say, the Year of the Snake. We’ll be taking a pay cut for the next little while, but things could always be worse.

We still have jobs for the duration of our original contract here in Korea. We can keep our little, cozy apartment. Nobody got arrested or deported. I don’t have any little pests crawling through my hair, and Luke’s internal organs are in the clear. Also, I learned how to make rice milk.

Taking a temporary pay cut wasn’t in our original plans, but it looks now it’s part of the challenge to keep saving for our upcoming trip. We’ve been looking for ways to cut back, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to make do with what you have (right, dad?).

For example, we have rice. And lots of it.

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I do love my hyun-me bap and it’s sure a nutritionally sound alternative to the usual choice grain here, it’s bleached-out brother (see: my earlier post on its bountiful benefits), but man—nor woman—can live on rice alone. Faced with a barrel of the brown stuff, I decided to transform my grains into something a little more practical: rice milk.

Almonds aren’t cheap on this continent and I generally try and steer clear of soy, so my non-dairy milk options here are pretty limited. Thankfully, rice is everywhere, cheap, and organic is pretty easy to find. Perhaps if you head up to your local Koreatown or Chinatown you’ll find the same? If you’re on a tight budget of your own, maybe this trick will benefit you like it has me and my belly 🙂

Here’s the how-to:

1. Soak 2 cups of rice overnight and rinse well.

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2. In your food processor or blender, blend the rice with 4 cups of filtered water (If you want more or less, just stick with a 1:2 ratio and you’ll be fine).
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3. Use a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or, in a pinch, a clean dishcloth or fine mesh strainer to separate the pulp from the liquid. (See my tutorial on almond milk for technique and photos.)

4. (OptionalRinse out your blender or food processor, pour the liquid back in and blend any combination of: 1 tsp. vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt, a pitted date or some agave, or even cacao powder to make chocolate rice milk.
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5. (Also optional, but highly recommended!) Save your rice “grits” to make porridge–cover one cup of the rice pulp with water in a pot, stir in your favorite oatmeal ingredients (I like cinnamon, vanilla, and chopped medjool dates), bring to a boil and simmer, covered, till the water is absorbed. Add in a splash of your fresh rice milk and bask in your incredible utilitarianism.
IMG_3801I’ve been freezing batches of my rice grits in single-serving portions to cook up for quick breakfasts—one benefit of only having a hot plate to cook on is that I can get my grits boiling in under a minute… a benefit, so long as I can avoid burning said grits immediately after 😉 Maybe you’ve better luck than I? Feel free to share your experiences below!

Until then, enjoy and annyeong ka-sey-oh!

easy korean kimbap triangles tutorial

The first food I ate in Korea was kimbap.

It was long after midnight and the only thing open near our hotel was a 7-11. We hadn’t eaten since the plane ride hours ago, and I was desperately in need of something to munch. (Have I mentioned the dude’s new nickname for me is “Snacks”? I think it’s well-deserved..)

Enter my golden little triangle.

 These little rice triangles are quick and even cute to eat, the store-bought versions with 1-2-3 easy unwrap instructions, and fillings like spicy kimchi or creamy tuna, all wrapped up in a ball of rice. Think of them as the Korean equivalent of a quick-grab pizza slice… minus the gluten and dairy. For the first week in Korea, I subsided mostly on kimbap triangles… at least until I found kimbap rolls, and started eating those for breakfast. And lunch. Ah, my Korean comfort food.

Unfortunately neither white rice nor purchasing food at convenience stores really appeals to me, so it was off to my midget-sized kitchen for a lesson in assembly failure and, subsequently, patience!

But finally, success…. And now I’m considering renaming this blog Kimbap and Kass. What do you think?

Kimbap Triangles (vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

Ingredients: (You’ll have to guesstimate—if you want exact amounts, check out this tutorial)

Seaweed (nori) sheets

Cooked brown rice

Vinegar (preferably sushi vinegar)

Salt

Sesame seeds

Filling(s) of your choice (I used avocado)

Directions:

1. In a bowl, mix ~1 cup of cooked rice with 1 tbsp of vinegar, 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of sesame seeds, and the filling of your choice. I used half a cubed avocado, but other common fillings would be tuna and avocado, kimchi or other pickled vegetables, or beef. Set bowl aside.

2. Slice a nori sheet in half lengthwise. Try and actually do it in the middle. (Durr)

3. Take half of the rice mixture from your bowl and, with your hands, form it into the shape of a triangle, flattening the top and bottom. Place at the top of one of the nori sheet halves and press down to make sure all the sides are flat.

4. Fold the bottom half of the nori sheet up and over the rice mixture. It should come just to the top of the rice, if not, shorten the nori sheet as needed. Press the sides of the nori sheet against the rice mixture until it sticks. A little water can help the nori sheets stick together.

5. Flip the triangle over and tuck the sides of the nori sheets on top of the rice like you’re wrapping a present. No scotch tape, please. Now do the same for the other side. Press the triangle together, making sure it is secure. Again, moisture really helps the seaweed stick.

And voila! You have a kimbap triangle! These would go great with some tofu soup or seaweed salad to make a meal. Or you can saran wrap them and carry as snacks, they transport surprisingly well. Apparently you can also buy kits to wrap them in the same cutesy way the convenience stores do, but this works just fine for me.

I’d love to see what you put in your kimbap, so please post on Facebook or Twitter if you try these out! Your packed-lunch-rut will thank you.

Oh! And to my friends at home, happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Hope you enjoy lots of candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes and … I’ll stop now. Yum.