Family and Friend Inspiration. My dear, High Powered Executive Friend, suggested Lettuce Wraps and Kimchi for Dinner Roulette. This healthy, flavortastic wrap is such a great suggestion for dinner, but I’d be lying if I told you the recipe’s punability didn’t have anything to do with me picking it for the first post.
Jump To Recipe– there’s a way to jump to the text of the recipe without pictures and other distractions, I just don’t know how to do that yet. Coming Soon!
- Course Lunch, Appetizer, Dinner
- Cuisine Korean, Southeast Asian
- Keyword asian, vegan, healthy, flavortastic (which is not really a word, let alone a keyword)
- Prep Time: Not Too Long unless you’re slow
- Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
- Servings 4
This recipe is best if you give the pickles and bean mash some time to soak in all the fun flavors, so if you have the time, mix everything up in the morning and keep it on stand by in the fridge until you’re ready for dinner later that day.
GET YOUR STUFF OUT.
Quick Pickled Asian Veggies:
- 1/2 cup carrot, julienned- a carrot or two
- 1/2 cup daikon, julienned- a small daikon or you can substitute a cucumber if you don’t know or care what daikon is
- 1/4 cup or more of rice vinegar, depending on how tart you like it
- kosher salt, to taste- start with a 1/4 teaspoon
- a bit of red pepper flakes, Gochugaru, Gochujang, spices or herbs to taste- optional, but this is where you make it your own.
Special Spicy Sauce:
- 1/2 cup Mayo, or better yet, Ranch Dressing, even Light Ranch will work! For the vegan- Vegan Mayo or Ranch- Hellman’s makes a surprisingly good vegan mayo!
- 1-2 teaspoons, at least, of Sriracha- add, stir and taste, bit by bit until you are happy and remember how much you added for next time. Honestly, you should be using Gochujang or Gochugaru, but more on that later.
- juice from 1/4 of a lime, if you have any leftover from your gin and tonics- I think the fact that alcohol is vegan helps a lot!
- 2- 15 ounce cans of white beans, with most of the liquid poured out and mashed, rustically, with a fork
- 2-3 scallion, minced
- a handful of cilantro, or to taste, I know there are strong feelings on cilantro out there- dearest Mother-In-Law hates it so I made her a portion of beanballs without it. Yes, I am a great son-in-law!
- 1″ ginger, piece minced or grated
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated on Microplane
- 1-2 lemongrass bulbs, smashed and finely minced (optional because this is more Vietnamese than Korean, but I like it)
- 1-2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast- or “Nooch”, as the kids say, or to taste
- 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, or too taste
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or too taste
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 -2 tablespoons of canola oil
- 1 head Butter, Bibb or your Favorite Lettuce
- 1 jalapeño, thinly, and I mean thinly, sliced for garnish
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
– tell Alexa to play Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” while you make this!
1. Quick Pickled Southeast Asian Veggies. Massage 1/2 cup of julienned carrots, 1/2 cup of julienned daikon, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon or so of of kosher salt and your mystery spice/herb, etc in a small bowl. FYI, I forgot daikon at the store, so I used a cucumber and standard issue supermarket radishes. Toss every once in a while, as you have time or spoon it into a ziplock sandwich bag, push out the air and set aside until ready. Keep these in the fridge- they’ll last at least a few days if you have leftovers.
2. Spicy Southeast Asian Special Sauce. Mix 1/2 cup of Mayo or Ranch (Vegan if you must), 1-2 tablespoons of Sriricha- add a bit, taste, stir and add some more until you are happy- and the juice from 1/4 of a lime in an even smaller bowl.
3. The Filling. Mix together: two 15 ounce cans of rustically, fork smashed white beans, 2-3 minced scallion, a handful of minced cilantro, or to taste, 1” piece of minced/grated, ginger, 2 minced/grated garlic cloves, 1-2 smashed and finely minced lemongrass bulbs, 1-2 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, or too taste in the biggest bowl. Once you have that all nice and mixed up, stir in half of the 1/3-1/2 cups of panko breadcrumbs, adding more, bit by bit and stirring, until you get a nice “hold it together” consistency for your beanballs (you do realize how difficult it is to resist a Dad Joke here?). Form your bean mash into small balls (30 grams per ball will get you around 20 beanballs if you were wondering). Remember- Too many crumbs will weigh the beanballs down, too little and your beanballs will fall apart and nobody wants that. Even with the perfect ratio, the balls will be very delicate, so proceed with caution to the next step.
4. Cook It. You really need to use a large non-stick pan to gently fry up these beauties, so place a large non stick saucepan over medium heat and coat it with a tablespoon of canola oil before you gently add your beanballs- don’t over crowd, cook in batches, adding oil as needed, to allow for best browning. Get a nice golden brown on the top and bottom of the beanballs and on the sides if you’re looking for extra credit. Give them some time on each side, adjusting the heat and adding more oil as necessary, to give them a chance to brown. Handle carefully when turning, but once you have a nice brown on as many sides as you like and the center is 165 degrees, you are done with the batch.
5. Making the SSammich. Place your beanball on the lettuce of your choice (if you haven’t realized it yet, I am Pro Choice!) and garnish with pickles, jalapeños and sauce- make it look good!
The Dad Joke. Most Dad Jokes are painfully obvious, but this may not completely be that case with these Seoul Food Ssammiches. Certainly, Seoul Food refers to Seoul, South Korea and the Korean flavors in the recipe but the Ssammich reference is a bit more complex, assuming Dad Jokes can even be complex. It is not a typo of sammich, the beloved slang for a sandwich, but a play on ssam, the Korean word for wrap. Now aren’t you glad you read this? On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed sammiches, ever since I learned about them back in the day from my best friend who worked for the power company. He was my Urban Dictionary before there ever was an Urban Dictionary. He told me who Bebe’s kids were and why they don’t die; what the Hawk was doing out at night; and just how hot fish grease is. So when he started calling the sandwiches he packed for work, “sammiches” I was hooked.
The Essence of The Lettuce Wrap. Lettuce, Protein, Pickled Veg and Sauce. Lettuce wraps have been around for centuries in Asia, long before the low carb craze hit the US shores just before the turn of the century, so you know they have some staying power. Not only that, look how much better the Seoul Food Ssammich looks compared to your everyday ssammich-
Best of all, you can pretty much stuff them with whatever leftover you may have- mushrooms, cauliflower, tofu or any of that fake meat stuff, and once you top them with the pickles and sauce you are transformed! Now, what about the lettuce. I used Butter Lettuce for this post and, if lettuce can be sexy, then Butter Lettuce is just that! It’s soft, supple and caresses your taste buds with each bite. Its leaves can be on the smaller side, but if you overlap a few of the small ones, like a flower, you’ll get a good sized wrap. Bibb, Romaine and even Iceberg (the only lettuce I knew existed into my 20s) will all work.
Special Equipment. The term “julienne” is one that’s always challenged me, both from an execution standpoint (my worst knife cut was julienning carrots as a prep cook), as well as a spelling one- I’ve had to use spell check each time I’ve attempted to spell it in this post. Fortunately, there is such a thing as a julienne peeler. You can also cheap out with your standard vegetable peeler and stack the peels to cut into thinner strips or you can go Michelin Star and use a chef’s knife or mandolin slicer. Oxo brand, is usually a safe and quality bet for most kitchen gadgets, and it makes a julienne peeler that should work well for you. I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond for $7.99. BTW- this is well worth the investment because colorful strips of food make your dish look amazing! Some people will even think it tastes better if it looks good- how shallow!
Ingredients of Note. Daikon. Crisp is the first thing I think of with this Asian Radish, that has more of a tingle than a bite. It’s not much for looks- a bit like an albino carrot on steroids- but it’s what’s inside that counts- right girls? It’s commonly used as a pickle in Asian dishes. Turns out I forgot this when I was shopping, so sorry to get your hopes up. Rice Vinegar. A mild vinegar- therefore, a great starter vinegar for pickles. Experiment with other vinegars as you like. Nutritional Yeast “Nooch”. There are a variety of powerhouse flavors available to non flesh eaters and Nooch is right up there when you’re looking to add umami to your dish (Dad Joke Warning! Umami so fat, that when she cuts her finger… gravy comes out! Oh no he didn’t!). Lemongrass. This looks like a rough and tumble scallion that offers a pleasant note of lemon without the bitterness. It’s very fibrous so you use only the light colored bulb end- peeling off the outer layers to get to the pale greenish yellow layers before smashing and chopping it up finely. You’ll be throwing most of this away, like an artichoke, so get over it! Sriracha. Sriracha used to be noteworthy but now it’s not- sorry Sriracha. Still, I have it in the recipe because this sauce is a bit of an addiction in our house. To be more authentic in your cultural appropriation, you should really use Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste) or Gochugaru (Korean Chili Flakes).
Quick Pickled Veggies vs Kimchi. Quick pickled anything (cucumbers, carrots, beets, etc.) is such a good recipe to have in your back pocket to brighten up any dish- it’s basically thinly sliced veggies, or dare we say fruit, of any kind, doused in a vinegar of your choice. You can add some spices, if you’re feeling spicy, and some water and/or sugar if you want to tone down the sour. The salty-sour brine is typically boiled and poured over the veggies to speed up the pickling process, but the veggies in this recipe are sliced so thinly you don’t have to worry about that- plus the veggies stay crisper without the heat. I would suggest “massaging” the salt and any spice herb into the veggie strips, and then massaging everything again once you’ve added the vinegar. Kimchi, on the other hand, is traditionally fermented (which takes time, offering up a funkalicious flavor in return), but it’s anything but quick and not traditionally vegetarian/vegan. Of course, you could make a vegan kimchi and eat it without waiting for the microbes to funkify it, but you won’t find a recipe for that here at this point. You could also swap out the quick pickles in this recipe with some kimchi from a food store- Mother In Law’s Kimchi, available in finer supermarkets, has a vegan option- if you were so inclined. Not A Pro Tip. You do realize that you can save the leftover pickle juice from your favorite jar of pickles and use this to brine veggies? I usually have an arsenal of leftover pickle juice in my fridge and have almost come to blows when they’ve been mistakenly thrown out in the interest of a cleaner refrigerator- dill pickle, pickled jalapeños, banana peppers, kimchi, the list goes on. Not to mention, using it in Picklebacks, Vinaigrettes, Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, BBQ Sauce- the list goes on…..
Special Spicy Sauce. When I was a kid, the most intriguing part of the Big Mac was the “special sauce”. So I figured I could take a page from this savvy corporate marketing technique that made something like 1000 Island Dressing sound so cool and use it to my benefit. This mayo or Ranch, hot sauce combo is such a big pay off for so little work and endlessly versatile; working with pretty much any hot sauce you like. It’s so good, I’ve always used Light Ranch without missing a beat. I will admit, I got a little cheffy with the sauce for the recipe and put it in a squeeze bottle, because darn it, squeeze bottles are fun!
The Filling. So you veg folks didn’t get jealous because I tested three versions of the related meat recipe, you should know I also tested three versions of the beanballs. One with no binder, one with a flax seed vegan “egg” binder and one with bread crumbs as a binder. The bread crumb version was the only one that did not literally fall flat. Obviously, there are many benefits to a non meat diet, but one you may have overlooked is the ability to taste your raw food for seasoning before you cook it. So when you are mixing up those beanballs, take a taste and if you think it needs more salt, more Nooch or more anything, mix it in and taste it again- you certainly can’t do this with meat. I also stumbled upon an amazing discovery, not on the level of penicillin, but still pretty impressive. Once the beanballs are cool enough to touch after you cook them, you can actually shape them back into perfect orbs by gently rolling each in your hands back into a ball- something you could never do with a meatball, which flatten a bit and set once you cook them. Just as we learned when we were younger, beans are truly the magical fruit!
Old School. If you’re interested in even more knowledge from more informed sources, here are some cookbooks I looked at for this recipe: Koreatown by Hong and Rodbard (2016), Momofuku by Chang and Meehan (2009), Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen (2006), Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang (2003) and Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Alford and Duguid (2000).
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