This month for the Daring Cooks challenge, the sky was the limit. Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers. She provided lovely ideas and recipes (a pumpkin bowl filled with creamy shrimp, or a fried noodle bowl), but we could also use our creativity and come up with our own idea, as long as our containers were edible and had suitable content for it.
For me, this was exciting. Rather than having to modify a challenge recipe to fit my dietary needs, I could come up with something completely from scratch! How exciting! But then I started brainstorming, and couldn’t come up with much. I had a few ideas – dips inside of avocado halves, a twist on deviled eggs, or some sort of roll-up thing…but nothing ground-breaking. So I enlisted my sister to help. (She is the artist in our family) I sent her a text message, asking her to think of some sort of edible container, and that the sky was the limit. She sent a message back: what about making nori sheets into some sort of paper mache thing?
Wow. I was inspired. Immediately, I dismissed my other ideas and focused on this one. I wasn’t sure how I’d get it to work, but I knew I had to. It sounded like fun. I had a few days before I would have time to actually make the bowls, so I instead spent time working out the issue in my head. What I loved about this challenge is that unlike some others, I actually didn’t do any research. This was all going to be playing around and going with my gut.
It wouldn’t exactly be paper mache, I thought. Paper mache involves some paste-like substance, and when I think of edible paste, I think of corn starch and water. That didn’t sound appetizing in the least. But I needed something sticky. Brown rice syrup. I purchased some to make Amy’s Slow Cooker Ketchup, and I loved the thick, neutral, not-too-sweet stuff. (Side note: there’s still time to enter into my giveaway for a copy of her cookbook! Check it out here!) I knew I was going to use it – it seemed like the perfect solution. I also knew I’d have to use some sort of mold in order to make and keep a bowl shape until it dried. I already planned on using my dehydrator to speed up that drying process, but as for the minute details? Those would have to wait until I was in the throes of making the bowls.
As it turns out, all that advance mental preparation helped. Making these bowls was a snap. Okay, well, not exactly a snap, as a snap implies speed (at least, in my mind it does) and they did take a while to dry, but they were easy to put together. Just a little brushing of my sticky brown rice and tamari solution, some time in my “molds”, and some time in the dehydrator, and I had a cute little bowl, perfect for filling.
Filling with what? Well, honestly, I did not spend much time brainstorming about that part. But as I surveyed my pantry and refrigerator, I quickly realized that I had the ingredients for a version of jap chae, and those flavors would go perfectly with the nori. I whipped it together (which really is a snap – jap chae only takes a few minutes to make), and I had a perfectly delicious, vegan meal in a cute nori bowl.
This was an exciting challenge, and my hat goes off to Renata.
2 nori sheets per bowl
2 T brown rice syrup
1 T gluten-free soy sauce
1 recipe Jap Chae
Using kitchen shears, cut slits into the nori sheet, making sure you make them only about halfway to the center of the sheet, leaving room for the bottom of the bowl. (I cut the first one with slits as shown here, but then realized I should cut only 4 slits, one on each corner, for the second sheet. Sorry, no pic on that one, but you get the idea.)
Cut the second sheet of nori with slits and lay over the first sheet, offsetting the slits slightly so that the whole area is covered with nori. Lightly brush the bowl with oil on the outside, and place the nori sheets on top.
In a small, separate bowl, whisk together the brown rice syrup and soy sauce. Brush mixture along the cut edges, and press together firmly, against the bowl, until all of the nori is “sealed” with the syrup mixture. Brush oil on the inside of your second molding bowl, and place on top of your nori. Press together.
Using your kitchen shears, cut around the edges of your mold to remove excess nori. Repeat with additional nori sheets and bowls as desired. Let the molds sit for about an hour.
Remove the interior molding bowl, and place in dehydrator, right side up. Allow to dehydrate for an additional hour at about 130 degrees. Once the nori starts to feel less “wet”, carefully remove the second molding bowl and place the nori bowl back into the dehydrator. Continue to dehydrate for another hour or two, or until the nori is hard and no longer the least bit tacky to the touch. Trim the edges with kitchen shears as needed to clean up the look of your bowl.
It is now ready to fill! Prepare your jap chae according to recipe (or make another filling for your bowl) and serve. You’ll find that after a while, when the filling has had a chance to sit in the bowl, it will soften a bit, and you might be able to fold the sides and eat your jap chae-filled nori bowl rolled up, burrito style.