Monday, April 25, 2011

Bulgur Peanut Kimchee Spring Rolls

Not only did I need to make dinner for the love of my life, but also snacks for the poker game, and like an idiot I mentioned spring rolls in the group email to the poker crowd. I was on the hook for spring rolls, but I didn't really have anything prepared for spring rolls other than the rice paper wrappers.

We had a little reticulated cabbage head, an onion, some carrots, ginger and jalapenos, so I cored the cabbage and made a julienne of the vegetables and ginger, building a slaw I could quickly pickle into a mock-kimchee. I used Jacques Pepin's method of making julienne of carrots: using a vegetable peeler, cut long strips of carrot, then stack them, roll them lengthwise and slice into thin ribbons. This gives a much longer, nicer looking julienne than using a grater. I also sliced the cabbage core thinly for more substantial texture. The pickling liquid for the slaw was some chopped garlic, Siracha, white vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest and sea salt. It was tasty but quite astringent, so I needed something else to constitute the body of the spring rolls. I could have used plain rice, but lately I've been using bulgur as a malty, nutty substitute for rice and decided the additional flavor would probably help tame the slaw.

I cooked the bulgur as a farrotto (grain cooked in the manner of risotto, by adding stock a little at a time so the grains develop a binding starchy component without deteriorating into gruel) using white wine and vegetable soup stock with saffron and bay leaf. I tried a little spoonful of the farrotto and it was fine, but when I ate it with the slaw the pungent slaw annihilated it. I needed something else to moderate the strong flavor, something rich and fatty like bacon or avocado, but we had nothing like that in the house. After pondering for a while, it occurred to me that I could use peanut butter, which is fatty and has a protein mouth feel. I grabbed a jar of Jif off the shelf and compounded a lump of peanut butter with some toasted sesame oil and tamari soy sauce. The peanut sauce worked marvelously to mediate the extremes of the granular, starchy bulgur and the crunchy, acidic slaw.

I built the rolls by laying down a bed of the bulgur, then spooning in the peanut sauce, adding the kimchee and topping it off with a broad basil leaf before rolling the whole package up. I ran out of bulgur after making a half-dozen rolls, but that wasn't nearly enough, so I made a second batch, this time adding a load of chopped parsley and basil for color, and so I didn't have to fiddle with the loose basil leaves while rolling them.

I made a dipping sauce of honey, mustard, soy sauce and sesame oil, and it had the effect of making the outside of the rolls taste interesting, which complimented the flavors on the inside.

The poker crowd were thrilled, but most of them live on a diet of Hot Pockets and Gatorade and don't possess critical palates. Heather ate her share, but said "they taste like something you made up." I can't really fault her observation. (v)


  1. i have just discovered your blog about cooking - have been a listeren of ytuff you recorded for ages and it is a nice surprise. we have a website about culture and such here in prague and would love to interview you about both, do you think you could find time for that? our email is thanks, good luck, jana

  2. it's interesting how you go from jacques pepin to jif in one recipe. i like the peanut butter over the bacon idea. but jif is pretty low brow. almond butter would have been good. esp if you can get the kind at the coop where they have the machine that grinds it on demand. so it's super fresh. they have one at the coop here. but only at one of them. it's funny how you take a classic recipe and throw a wrench in somewhere. like jalepeno and ginger? and mustard with sesame oil? WTF?

  3. I am definitely trying this. Thanks man.


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