Some of the best things in life started out as a pipe dream for a kid who was told “No”. No you can’t do this. No you can’t be that. But what about those kids who heard that “no” and decided to make it their own personal “Yes”. I’ve always been inspired by those individuals who decide one day that they don’t want to be a shill to corporate america and take that leap into the great unknown to follow their dream and their passion. One of those individuals is Chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage Co. based out of Koreatown in Los Angeles, California.
I first learned about Seoul Sausage ala Netflix when I wandered across a show called The Great Food Race, hosted by Tyler Florence. Now anyone who knows me knows that me + food show = entertained for hours, not to mention that my husband was interested in watching it. We started with season 3 and the premise of the show was to compete in a cross country cooking challenge in the hopes of winning their own food truck plus a cash prize of $50,000.00. I had my contenders and people I wanted to be voted off. Two trucks which got me excited were Pop-A-Waffle and Seoul Sausage. Their exuberance and excitement made them clearly the #1 contenders in my book and I could not help but binge watch the entire season and become more enthralled with their team, their food, and their passion to change their stars. Ultimately Pop-A-Waffle was eliminated after making it to 3rd place; however Seoul Sausage took home the truck and the cash prize. Not to shabby for three guys that took a chance on their dream.
One of the items that earned them the victory was their firey kimchi fried cheesy balls. An homage to the Italian classic Arancini they put their own Korean twist on it and no joke I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. I’ve just never made them. Until now..And well….If I wasn’t a fan before? I’m a true fan now and it’s only spurned my love of cooking Korean style food and has made me want to learn more recipes or make up my own. The recipe is rather simple; however it’s not gospel to what Seoul Sausage has because I’ve not yet found a printed version of theirs so this is my interpretation of what is their OG classic. While the ingredients are modest the flavor it packs is utterly amazing and you will be amazed at how fast this recipe comes together.
****recipe adaptation of Seoul Sausage Co****
Ingredients: makes 16-20 contingent on size
- 1 ½ cup uncooked sticky rice
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup chopped kimchi (your option of spice level..i went with spicy!)
- 1 cup shredded cheese (their recipe calls for cheddar..use whatever you like!)
- 1 container of SPAM (yes..SPAM…no I’m not lying..seriously legit..SPAM) sliced into ½ inch slices and then quartered and chopped again
- 4 tablespoons browned butter
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno (they use habanero but I didn’t have any)
- 1 heaping tablespoons gochujang**
- 3 scallions finely chopped**
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced**
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes**
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 1 cup AP flour
- 2 eggs well beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- pinch salt
**Optionals: Keep in mind I don’t have their recipe so I wanted to have a little more flavor to mine and make them ultimate firey flaming balls**
In a medium sauce pan you’re going to add your 1 ½ sticky rice with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, place a lid on and reduce the heat to low and let simmer for around 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for an additional 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork to separate the grains of rice before transferring to a large nonreactive bowl to cool to room temp (I use glass)
Once cooled mix together the rest of your ingredients for the add-ins until combined. You can if you choose to keep this vegetarian omit the SPAM and if you choose to, you can even eat as is since all the components to this point are cooked…Not gonna lie..It is fucking tasty as hell in this form..I may have eaten a few prior to breading ^.^…WHAT? Its my kitchen don’t fucking judge me :P…
Once mixed you are then going to essentially form your rice balls ala meatball style, you can use a scoop if you have one or if you’re like me you can just use your hands because they are the best utensils we’ve got!. Scoop about 4 ounces or so out and form into a ball, placing them onto a cookie sheet until all balls are formed. I stopped at 12 but this batch probably would have been able to make around 16-20.
Prior to breading you need to make the ever vital decision on To fry or not to fry. It’s the eternal question that has plagued mankind for eons. Regardless of whatever cooking method you choose the end results are just as tasty. If choosing to deep fry you will need either a fryer with vegetable oil or in my case since I don’t own a deep fryer a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat your oil up to 350 degrees. If opting for the healthier option and you decide to bake your balls you will need to heat your oven up to 350 degrees; however you will need to chill our rice balls prior to frying to ensure they don’t dry out in the oven. Frying takes about eeeh 3-5 minutes whilst baking takes about 20 with a rotation middle of the cook cycle. Totally up to your preference, I won’t judge…a lot.
While your method of cooking heats up you’ll want to set up a three part breading station of flour, beaten eggs, panko bread crumbs. Why a three part? Simple, the flour acts as a barrier between the wet surface of your frying item and the liquid (egg) Without it, the liquid mixture (in this instance egg) has trouble adhering to the rice ball. If the egg can’t stick then the breading falls off when frying and you’re left with well not good eats. Keeping one hand clean for transferring the final product roll your rice ball around in the flour and pat off any extra. Transfer your floured rice ball to the egg wash and roll it around. The egg wash will cause the crumbs or meal to completely coat the ball and form a tight seal when it is cooked. Then roll around in your breading of choice shaking off any extra. You can either choose to cook these off later or allow them to sit in the fridge for around 30 minutes to ensure the breading sticks. Last thing we want is lovely rice balls getting all blech (cooking term legit yo) and not crunchy/crispy. If choosing to cook them off at a later date (ie the next date feel free to wrap them in cling film and leave in the fridge.
When frying make sure to not drop the balls into the oil. I find the best method is to use a pair of tongs because once these have set up in the fridge they are rather firm and can be handled a little roughly. Place around 3-4 in your pan until the oil covers the tops and allow to fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack while you let your oil come back up to temperature. You want to allow this to happen to help avoid getting a soggy crust. We didn’t have much down time between frying and transferring to wait for the oil to come back up to 350. Once complete serve with your favorite dipping sauce. We opted for a sriracha aioli and a wasabi cream and as a finishing sprinkled a little of my Death Dust (dried powdered Carolina reapers)
I do have to say that these are an amazing little appetizer and surprisingly filling. I recommend if you are reheating them you avoid putting them in the microwave to avoid them getting soggy and smooshy (another cooking term..legit yo). You can place them in a 400 degree oven on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 20-25 minutes (40-45 if frozen)