When I was in elementary school one of my biggest shames was being Korean, or Asian in general, for that matter. I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday. That day in 3rd grade when I blatantly asked my mom to stop packing my school lunch, all because I was so tired of having to hide my food that had this distinct "sour smell". I really tried to hide it too! But unfortunately, I just could not stop the smell from permeating through the tupperware and onto my school supplies, causing all the kids to scowl in disgust. Yep, it was good ol' Korean packed lunches to blame for. Please tell me I'm not the only one who experienced that growing up!
I really don't mean this to sound like a poor-me post, but it's really not fun to hear remarks like "ewww that red cabbage stinks! (good ol' kimchi)" at any age, especially if you're the smallest student in your entire 3rd grade and you're straggling behind the big kids, when you could definitely use a boost of self esteem! Talk about mustering up confidence, right? Haha, well...thankfully that scenario hasn't been an issue for many years now, and as I mentioned before, I couldn't be any more proud to have my Korean roots still alive and well. Thank goodness too, because I don't know if I could ever survive without some scrumptious, albeit strong smelling Korean cuisine...but then strangely enough, I don't think I can go without Japanese food either. Both are equally good. Both are somewhat complimentary while being on complete opposite sides of the spice spectrum. Koreans love explosive must-torture-myself flavors, while Japanese folks prefer that subtle and delicate taste in their dishes. And that's how this cute little bento wannabe recipe came about! Aside from craving both styles of cuisine, there wasn't any particular reason as to why I chose to create this Korean-Japanese inspired recipe; I guess I simply wanted to play with my food (kids, don't try this at home) and taste the best of both worlds. :) The carrot patties/Jeon remind me of a snack my mom used to make me as a kid, and what better way to re-live good childhood memories?
What I love about these cute little bites is the slight crunch on the exterior of the carrot patties, and soft texture from the other ingredients. If you've ever tried eel sauce then you probably share my love for its sweet, smoky, and slightly "fishy" flavor without the wangy taste. Trust me! Eel sauce isn't as scary as the name suggests.
For the cute triangle shapes I used little molds (about 2.5 in. long on each side) for bento boxes, which you can easily get at places like Daiso, Mitsuwa, Marukai. I'm not sure how accessible Japanese markets are in your area, but to my knowledge Daiso (a Japanese $1 store) has been popping up left and right here in Southern California. You can probably just as easily order these online, though. Even though these carrot and rice triangles look tedious to make, they are actually extremely easy to put together. The best way to go about it is to grate the carrots ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. And the rice? Assuming you have a rice cooker, you will have the work done way ahead of time, so the hardest part is probably grating the carrots and making them into carrot jeon (전). Now onto the recipe!
Carrot Shrimp Jeon Bites with Homemade Eel Sauce
Makes 8 triangles
Ingredients for rice
- 1 C uncooked brown rice, rinsed
- 1 1/2 C water
Ingredients for carrot patties/Jeon
- 1 C finely grated carrots (not like pulp)
- 1/2 C diced shrimp (raw or cooked)
- 2 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
- pinch salt and pepper
- oil spray for cooking
Ingredients for eggs
- 2 eggs
- pinch salt and pepper
- oil spray for cooking
- seaweed paper (unsalted, and optional)
- sesame seeds (optional)
Ingredients for eel sauce // adapted from Nami's recipe
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP white cooking wine
- 1 TBSP honey
- 1 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
- 1/8 tsp Hondashi
First cook brown rice in a rice cooker if possible. If you don't have a cooker then cook in a pot over medium meat, stirring often. Set aside but it's okay to use even if it's still warm. Spray a large skillet with oil and heat up over medium heat. Grab a medium bowl and thoroughly mix all the carrot ingredients. Use the triangular bento mold (or cookie cutter of choice) to fill with carrots about 1/3 of the way up, leaving enough for 8 patties total. Carefully place triangle on skillet with a spatula, and cook about 2 minutes on each side. Set to cool.
Oil the skillet again. Scramble all the egg ingredients in a bowl and fill whole skillet with the mixture so the egg is thin. Cook about 1 minute on each side over low medium heat. Transfer to flat surface and use mold to cut 8 pieces and set aside.
Fill the bento mold with rice about 1/2 way up and then place on a plate. Layer with carrot patties and egg. For the eel (unagi) sauce, simply simmer in a small pot on low heat for about 3 minutes, while stirring a few times. You can double or quadruple for future use! The Hondashi is optional but it definitely gives the mixture a more authentic eel flavor. Lastly, drizzle sauce on top of the stack and garnish with seaweed and sesame seeds!
Have you tried bento/doshirak in Korean/Asian picnic food before? What did you think of them? Don't worry, I won't judge. ;)
Favorite Asian cuisine?