Poking around the fridge and pantry the other day, I unearthed several ingredients from my boyfriend's heritage (Korean kimchi) and my own (Vietnamese noodles and rice paper wrappers) and I wondered, why not combine them into one dish? This is a little twist on the traditional Vietnamese gơi cuốn, or summer rolls, filled with fresh vegetables, golden tofu, and the spicy, tangy crunch of pickled cabbage. Plenty of sesame oil and a dipping sauce with chili powder provide a robust Korean kick. The verdict? We wished we had doubled the recipe! Note: If you are vegetarian or vegan and using store-bought kimchi, be sure to check the ingredients to ensure it does not contain seafood. To make your own, you could use Jenny Kwak's recipe for Napa Cabbage Kimchi on Epicurious.
Kimchi Tofu Summer Rolls
Makes 8 large or 12 small rolls
2 ounces dried rice sticks or vermicelli
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup cabbage kimchi
1 medium carrot
4 lettuce leaves
8-12 Korean perilla leaves (optional)
1 bunch chives
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons Korean chile powder (gochugaru) or another chile powder
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
8 (8-inch) or 12 (6-inch) round rice paper wrappers
For the noodles
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rice sticks. Stir and cook until noodles are white and tender but still firm, about 3-5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.
Place noodles in a bowl and use scissors to cut them into fourths. Toss with the sesame oil and red pepper flakes.
For the tofu
Cut tofu into strips and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid of excess water.
Heat sesame oil in a skillet and fry tofu, turning once, until golden. Drain excess oil.
For the vegetables
Julienne the carrots.
Using your hands, squeeze the liquid out of the kimchi into a small bowl. Add carrots and toss.
Remove the ribs from the lettuce and tear the leaves into 8-12 pieces.
Cut the chives in half.
For the sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside.
Fill a cake or pie pan with hot water. Submerge one wrapper for 30 seconds, then remove, letting excess water drip off. Lay it on your work surface.
Place a piece of lettuce (and a perilla leaf, if using) just below the center of the wrapper. Top with 1/8 or 1/12 (depending on number and size of wrappers) of the kimchi, noodles, tofu, and carrots, and a few sprigs of chives.
Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper up over the filling, then fold in the sides. Roll up to the top edge to close.
Place each finished roll seam-side down on a large plate or tray and cover with a lightly dampened towel until ready to serve.
(Images: Emily Ho)