Cooking Korean Sushi


sushi_cWhen a young friend offered to show me how to make Korean Vegetable Sushi, I was delighted at the prospect of something different to serve vegetarian friends.But in addition to cucumber and carrot, there's egg, crab meat (or more likely, imitation crab meat), and a type of sausage not readily found outside specialty stores.

Mary Ryder

But in addition to cucumber and carrot, there's egg, crab meat (or more likely, imitation crab meat), and a type of sausage not readily found outside specialty stores. For this last, not being a slave to the ideal of authenticity, I cheerfully substitute ham. (Or you could use Spam.). There's also pickled radish, but again, letting personal taste outweigh authenticity, I usually dismiss this ingredient as "optional".

With minor variations, Vegetable Sushi pops up in ChoHee's native country of South Korea at family meals, in restaurants and cafes, at refreshment stands, and even in box lunches sold on passenger trains.

Traditional Korean sushi consists basically of a flat sheet of dried seaweed topped by a layer of rice, rolled up around a core of stuffings, and sliced. "Sushi" is a Japanese term, from the word for vinegar, which is used in Japanese recipes. The Korean word is "kimbap." "Kim" means seaweed, while "bap" is Korean for rice. (And there's no vinegar used in the Korean method, at least, not as I was taught.)

In recent years, sushi in various forms has become an established item in Central Florida supermarkets, which offer both trays of the ready-made stuff, and ingredients and equipment for the do-it-yourself sushi fanciers.

Korean-style sushi rolls require minimal equipment and fairly standard ingredients. They're great finger-food for cocktail parties or picnics, since even people who tend to be suspicious of "strange food" seem to like them. And sushi rolls are a neat project to get kids or grandkids into the kitchen.

You needn't splurge on one of the "complete sushi kits" offered in kitchen shops and supermarkets. Just get out the cutting board, a good, sharp knife, and your favorite skillet. A small mat, made of matchstick-sized strips of bamboo, is handy for forming the rolls, but not absolutely necessary.

The sushi section, adjacent to the seafood and meat counters of some local supermarkets, may have most of your basic ingredients. Look for Nori seaweed in small packages of rectangular sheets, about 7 by 8 inches.

Supermarkets also carry rice specifically labeled for sushi (which tends to be expensive). You need a sticky rice, so the instant long grains won't do. If you normally cook short or medium-grain rice, and the grains stick together, it should work nicely. I find a heaping half-cupful of rice about right for each sushi roll.)

You'll need a bit of sesame oil, and sesame seed (best lightly toasted). Pickled radish, found at Asian groceries, comes in both mild and hot varieties. You want the mild type, or feel free to consider it optional.

While the rice cooks, get everything else ready. The cucumber should be peeled, cut into thin strips, and soaked in salt water (about half a teaspoon of salt to a pint of water) for about 30 minutes. Carrots are also cut into long, thin strips. The sausage or ham should be fried. The egg is lightly beaten, swirled in the skillet to make a thin layer, turned once, and, when cool, cut into long, narrow strips.

When ready to assemble the sushi rolls, lay a piece of seaweed on the bamboo mat, long sides parallel to the edge of the counter. Spread rice over it, not too thickly, leaving a margin about an inch wide at each of the narrow ends, and sprinkle lightly with toasted sesame seeds.

Stack one strip of each stuffing item on left end of rice layer. Brush right margin of seaweed wrapper with sesame oil. Turn left margin over stacked strips, and using the bamboo mat to help keep everything in place, roll it up as you would cinnamon rolls. Wrap bamboo mat closely around sushi roll, and press firmly.

Remove bamboo mat, lay sushi roll on cutting board, "seam" side down, and slice into rounds.

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