Kabocha Quinoa Kimbap

 

As I’ve posted before, kimbap is a surefire staple of Korean convenience food. And in Korea, convenience food often seems to be a foremost fare. It’s the “bali bali” lifestyle here—not as in the relaxed, easygoings of Indonesia’s most chilled-out hood—as in, “hurry! hurry!”

Here, restaurants are up and running in two days. Here, you run in the hallways, whether you’re a student or seon-saeng-nim (teacha!), because walking is wasting time. Everywhere has high-speed internet. Buses might as well have full-body, roller-coaster-style seatbelts and overhead bars to counteract their breakneck pace (this about sums it up). Co-pee and kimbap comes ready-made at GS25, 24/7. Everything should have been done by yesterday, but that probably wouldn’t be fast enough anyways.

Anyways. For me here, there’s yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and unnecessarily (or maybe just really necessary) long pee breaks. And trying to engrain in my students’ brains that it’s okay(!!) to take a little time to relax and unwind. I’ve got my own version of kimbap too—it’s loaded with good stuff to keep your belly happy for a long time, but thankfully its prep is just as palli palli as you might need.

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So what exactly qualifies as kimbap? That one’s pretty easy. In Korean, “kim” is the seaweed paper used to wrap things up, while “bap” simply means rice. Hence, “kimbap.” As for the filler, Kabocha squash is common to Korea and always well-stocked at the grocery store, making it a no-brainer for my beta-carotene-packed rolls. And you already know how I feel about the best little protein powerhouse pseudograin quinoa. Combine that with some tahini for extra stomach staying power and you have a magical trifecta, a fare for fuel at all hours, and rightfully so—kimbap here serves as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an easy snack.

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While I’ve yet to see this variety served up at a little local “orange shop” (our foreigner name for standard Korean kimbap shops), I sure hope it pops up soon!
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Kabocha Quinoa Kimbap (vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, nut-free)

Makes 2-3 rolls

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Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

1/2 kabocha squash

swiss chard leaves (or any sturdy green), washed and patted dry

tahini

coconut aminos, soy sauce, or tamari for dipping, if desired

Directions:

Deseed your kabocha squash and cut it into chunks (if you can get them into strips all the more power to you, mine turned out more like cubes with my dull knives here) and roast in the oven with coconut oil, salt, and pepper, checking halfway through to flip. While the squash is roasting, cook the quinoa on your stovetop. Allow the quinoa to cool, but not too much—I find these stick together better with the heat from the grains, it almost seems to steam the roll shut.

To make the roll, layer in this order: greens, quinoa, squash, drizzle of tahini. Roll your veggies up, using water to seal the roll. Slice thinly and enjoy immediately, or do it Korean-style: wrap tightly in aluminum foil, grab a pair of chopsticks, and take it for the road!

 

잘먹겠습니다!

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Cozy Kabocha Cake

There’s definitely some things I miss about home.

Steamy, luxurious baths not shared with dozens of other naked bodies. Warm, or just not ice-cold water in bathroom taps. Having an oven.

But one nice thing about living abroad is that you can really join with a community wherever you are—and here in Korea, we’re lucky to share our experience with plenty of other foreign teachers, including a considerable clan of friendly Canucks. And some are even kind enough to let you come over and play with their oven.

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Earlier this week, I posted a photo on Facebook of a “mystery” Korean ingredient I’d been playing around with in the kitchen (and have continued to do so all week!). The best guess was butternut squash… and it was quite close!

This stuff, my friends, is actually pure Kabocha flour—dried, ground kabocha squash, full of beautiful beta-carotenes and vibrant colour. Kabocha squash tastes kinda like a sweet potato-butternut squash-pumpkin smash-up. The sweet and starchy squash is quite popular over here—it’s a common topping for pizza, often found in tempura, or served as a mashed veggie side. In the fall the grocery stores sell them in bulk, and in restaurants they’re usually served with skins intact, something I found quite strange at first until I realized the skin is edible, too. Hello, bonus nutrients!

The flour, which I picked up in the baking section of HomePlus was the special, nay, magical, ingredient in this sunshine-shaded cake.

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And oh, the joys, oh, the solace, of an incredible—albeit out-of-season—baked treat, a taste of comfort served alongside a steaming cup of coffee. I think if I close my eyes and click my heels a few times I really might be home…

IMG_4372Chocolate-Chunk Kabocha Cake (vegan)

Adapted from Alien’s Day Out (also available to order in muffin form from her amazing vegan bakeshop!)

Makes one standard loaf or two small-sized loaves

Dry ingredients:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup kabocha flour (or pumpkin powder)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

Wet ingredients:

7/8 cup water

2/3 cup sugar (I used cane sugar)

1/4 cup grape seed oil

1 tbsp brown rice vinegar

Add-Ins

dark chocolate bar chopped coarsely

1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F or 175C and grease your bread pan with coconut oil.

Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold until combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks and walnuts (or whatever other add-ins you prefer).

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick or fork comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on a cooling rack.

Proceed to gobble the entire loaf (among friends…) in two days and don’t feel sorry.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Mmmm, kabocha, my sweet, sweet little vegetable. (Not to be confused with kombucha.)

Kabocha goes by the alias of buttercup squash. I’d call it a cross between a sweet potato and pumpkin, but it probably wants its own identity, too. (The only place I’ve had it before buying one of my own was doused in tempura batter at sushi restaurants—you know, that unidentifiable orangeish tempura vegetable with the green rind?)

I’m only a week into this new way of eating, and mid-essay yesterday I had a big-time hankering for something sweet, and though piles of Mini Eggs and cute little Chocolate Lindt bunnies beckoned from afar, I wasn’t gonna crack.

So I cracked myself open a little organic kabocha squash.

I scooped out the guts, drizzled this orange beauty with some olive oil, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, flipped ‘er over and popped it in the oven.

Kabocha’s great because it’s high in iron (which is crucial if you don’t eat much red meat!), the bioavailable beta-carotene you need to produce vitamin a for your eyes, vitamin c (duh), and potassium (great to help your body recover from tough workouts and prevent muscle crampage).

Thinking I’d get creative for you guys and use up some leftovers threatening to rot in the fridge, I tossed it in with some garlic, onions, a few spices, some vegetable broth, some lentils, and some kale.

Sure looks pretty, don’t it!

I poured myself a hearty mug and took a sip.

BLECH! Tasteless. *Damn you cleanse food, you win again!!* The soup totally diluted the sweet flavours or the kabocha I was looking for, and clearly I got a little too impatient (read: hangry) while caramelizing the onions. Fail.

…..So then, I just scooped it out with a spoon and ate it as is. It was perfect. The end.

**Note. For good-tasting kabocha in meal form, you can do as I’ve done in the past and just cube ‘er up, and toss it in a little salad. Mine tend to always involve quinoa and kale. Any suggestions? Perhaps a soup that is based on the kabocha squash itself?