Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kimchi Spring Roll - FAIL!

Yes, this was a fail.  So why am I still blogging about it?  Because the flavors were all there... sesame oil, kimchi, chili paste, fish sauce, etc... there was just a massive execution mishap.  I will tell you exactly how I made these in the hopes that you can learn from my mistake and never make spring rolls this way, ever.  I'll also tell you how I would do it next time, so hopefully there is still a salvageable recipe buried in here somewhere.

To be honest, these might have turned out okay if I had changed just one little ingredient: the wrapper.  I sent Scott off to the Asian market today to pick up supplies, and I even provided him with a shopping list.  My error was that I did not make a detailed enough list for him.  When I asked for spring roll wrappers, I meant for him to get the kind that are flour-based, square, and either refrigerated or frozen.  I can't possibly blame him, because what he brought home was clearly marked "Spring Roll Wrappers", only they were Vietnamese-style rice paper wrappers.

Totally different.  I figured I could either run down to the grocery store (the Asian market is too far away for a last minute trip) and pick up some phyllo dough, or I could just see what happens with the rice paper.  I hate, hate, hate phyllo dough (to cook with, not to eat... that stuff is delicious), so we decided we would just figure out how to work with the rice paper.

Sort of see-through... weeeird!

From there, I just made everything as normal.  I browned some ground pork in a skillet with some sesame oil, minced ginger, and julienned carrots (I use the terms "minced" and "julienned" loosely, as my knife skills are sorely lacking) marinated in a blend of soy sauce, mirin, fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili-garlic paste.

 A word on fish sauce, for those who have never cooked with it before: the flavor is essential to most Asian dishes, so you really can't substitute.  It's typically made from anchovies, water, and sometimes some salt and sugar.  It tastes delicious.  I promise.  Here's the thing, though... when you open up the bottle and take a whiff, it straight up smells like sweaty underwear.  It is a most pungent, unpleasant, and gag-inducing aroma, but please don't let that deter you.  Something magical happens when you cook with it, and it makes all Asian food taste like manna from heaven.  Strange but true.

My first time working with actual ginger. True story.

Meanwhile, I chopped up some kimchi that Scott also picked up from the Asian market.  By the way, this kimchi was made fresh just for us... all the store had were giant, restaurant-sized jars of kimchi, so when Scott asked if they had anything smaller, the shopkeeper told him, "Fifteen minute!  You shop!", and before Scott had gathered everything from my list, the guy presented him with a half-gallon sized jar of freshly-made kimchi.  Nice!

A hot mess of chopped kimchi.

Now to deal with these rice paper wrappers... I filled a bowl with some hot water and wrapped a cutting board with a wet kitchen towel.  I had all my fillers at the ready, and I had my oven pre-heating to 425 degrees.  I also had a small bowl with equal amounts of sesame and canola oil to brush over the spring rolls, to prevent them from getting too crunchy in the oven.

Sesame oil is one of my favorite smells

One at a time, I dipped a sheet of rice paper in the hot water for about 5 seconds, then laid it out on my cutting board.  I placed a tablespoon of the pork mixture and a tablespoon of kimchi in the center of each one, then rolled them up like a taco.  It was fast and easy work, and in about 5 minutes, I had made 8 of them and was ready to be done.  I had originally planned to made a whole bunch of spring rolls for freezing, but I didn't think these would turn out well, so I stopped at a dinner-for-two sized amount.

You can only barely see the wrapper in this shot

After brushing them lightly with oil, I baked them for about 10-15 minutes, until they were getting brown on top and the fillings were starting to think about oozing out, and let them cool until they were almost at room temperature.  (Trust me, I tried digging in when they were cool to the touch, and the steam that came out of the spring roll nearly burned off my face)  I served them with the Pioneer Woman's sesame noodles, topped the whole thing with some spring onions, and grumbled through my whole meal.

Okay, next time, I would do things exactly the same way, except that I would use flour-based wrappers instead of rice paper.  Don't get me wrong, the rice paper is good, but it's meant to make summer rolls, chilled or room-temperature rolls filled with vegetables.  It just didn't work for this kind of filling.  I do have a lot of pork and kimchi left over, so I will be making fried rice sometime in the near future.  All in all, dinner wasn't terrible, and Scott even said it was good, but it's not something I would ever serve to guests.

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