My baby sister Chelsea is turning 11 years old next week and I am, again, not there. I bought her some Adidas Originals clothing which is all the rage with kids these days but I wanted to do something more. What could be more meaningful than an Instagram story post? I was debating between writing her a letter with some wisdom that would make her cringe and cooking something up/developing a recipe in her honor. I went with the latter.
When I am home on Mercer Island, before I lay my head to rest at night, I always pack my sister's lunch. She has this huge, insulated lunch box from Costco so it's so much fun filling it up with everything from Hot Cheetos to gim (seaweed). (By the way, did you guys read my latest article on growing up Korean American and my childhood lunchboxes?)
I decided to create her a dosirak (Korean lunch box) that I would have made her if I was home for her big day! This lunch box which consists of RICE BALLS, Spam, and egg is not only super fun and easy to make but it's also extremely nutritious. Seaweed, according to Senior Food Scientist Jessica Gavin has, "The key nutritional components from various types of seaweed include carbohydrates from sugars and vegetable gums, small amounts of protein and fat, and rich essential trace elements like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, molybdenum and selenium, which varies depending on seaweed species. Seaweed also provides vitamins, notably Vitamin A, B2, B12 and vitamin C, especially excellent sources of Vitamin A and E."
I could go on forever about the health benefits of Korean cuisine but I won't right now (speaking of which, did you see my work in NPR?!). I just know this lunch box was one of my favorites growing up and it meant a lot to me that my mom would use her hands to make and pack me food with love.
Hand Rice Ball (jumeokbap), Spam, and Egg Dosirak!
NOTE: These ingredients are easily available at your local Korean grocery store (like H Mart) but if there is none nearby, AMAZON!
1. Pop in the Hetbahn in the microwave for 90 seconds.
2. In a bowl, put the cooked rice with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (feel free to use less if you want it to be less salty), and 5 tablespoons of the seaweed flakes. Using your hands in gloves, mix generously. These are called jumoekbap or "fist rice balls" in Korean so really put your hands into them. In Korean cuisine, we say things have the taste of being literally hand made. These will taste better because you made them with your hands!
3. After you mixed everything in, shape them into round balls the size of half your palm (you could even go smaller if you want to make them look cute!).
4. Dip the balls into a small bowl with sesame seeds and make them look pretty! Place them in your Tupperware.
5. Cut your spam into 4-6 slices depending on how much your child wants to eat! I prefer to cut them thinner but whatever you prefer.
6. Heat up a pan and place your Spam and cook until they are a bit crispy on both sides.
7. Remove the Spam and in the same pan, place a little vegetable oil of your choice and crack an egg.
8. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the yolk, when the egg is fried, flip and fry. We Koreans love a good fried egg.
9. Place the spam and fried eggs adjacent to each other in the Tupperware. If you are using a double layer bento set, separate the rice balls!
What was your favorite childhood homemade lunch? I'm super curious!
And before I forget: HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHELSEA! You inspire me every single day and you have made the world a better place just by being in it.