I know everyone is moving into holiday-mode and I get that the focus has shifted to the mashed potatoes of it all. But here I am, hanging out with my rice paper wraps trying to convince you you need them. It seems I have a nasty habit of breaking out the salad rolls when people are on the prowl for stuffing. But I think it stems from a holiday-related fear that I’m certain almost everyone shares: The fear of losing self-control around cheese plates, cookies and nog. Well, it’s not so much a “fear” as recognizing the inevitable.
When confronted with a future in which champagne headaches will be the new normal, it’s not strange to want to give an apple a last look. Or take one more turn with a head of romaine. Or even share a lingering glance with a pot of lentils. It’ll be January before this nutritious cast of characters joins us once more. And the reunion will be marred by the consequences of our delicious holiday actions. It’s a rich time of year, so I like to keep things a little clean before the deluge of holiday parties hits. Hence the sweet potato and green things in today’s Yakitori Rice Paper Wraps.
Now, I have a well-documented obsession with summer rolls. You can find them here, here, and here. But recently, I’ve been feeling rather ho-hum towards them. I, of course, still have eyes from the grilled chicken rolls from my local Vietnamese spot because they’re near perfection. But as far as making them for myself, well…I felt very “been there, done that” about it, which is fair because I have very much been there and yes, have done that. But then, the idea of a rice paper burrito flew into my head and, well, you can’t just think about something like that and NOT Google it.
I generally operate under the sometimes crushing belief that it’s all been done before. So when I Googled “rice paper burrito” and only found one lone restaurant serving them and a bazillion links to sushi burritos, I was shocked. Why isn’t anyone doing this? And when I made these Yakitori Rice Paper Wraps I thought, why isn’t everyone doing this?
People, myself included, will always be impressed by traditionally large things being small and small things being large. The summer roll in its most traditional form is small. Today’s Yakitori Rice Paper Wraps are not. I mean, they’re a total slam dunk. I was obsessed with them before I even bit into one.
So, you may be wondering, what makes these Rice Paper Wraps so beefy? What’s in there and how do they hold together? Well, these bad boys are stuffed with roast sweet potato, cucumber, avocado, enoki mushrooms, pickled ginger, and, of course, yakitori. They hold together because the fillings are bound in not one but two sheets of rice paper. It’s the rice paper innovation you didn’t know you were looking for.
Of the fillings, the yakitori is the most complex, so let’s take a moment to discuss it. Now, yakitori literally means “grilled chicken”. So, when people write “chicken yakitori” they’re being redundant. Yakitori is the chicken member of a larger family of skewered foods called kushiyaki. And as with most pillars of Japanese cuisine, kushiyaki is capable of being all kinds of complicated. Some people literally devote their lives to the craft of kushiyaki. But I’m not one of them so my yakitori is far from perfect and far from difficult. It is however delicious, or at least it is to my untrained palette.
I’ve made yakitori before but I’d never made my own tare before. Tare is a Japanese mother sauce most often comprised of soy sauce thickened with aid of sugar and a fair amount of simmering. Teriyaki is the most popular example of a tare. Tares are also often added to ramen and can come in a variety of flavors. I find it helpful to think of tares as flavor concentrates. In the case of yakitori, a tare is what you brush onto the chicken to flavor it as it cooks.
The tare recipe below is fairly straight forward. Nothing fancy to it. But think of it as a template and feel free to plug alternative alcohols, sources of umami, aromatics, and sweeteners into it. Tare is largely a blank slate once you understand the basic ratio behind it. And while it takes time to cook down tare, it takes less time than marinating your chicken. Plus, you get a cup of tare for your pains and as I said, you can use tare to flavor soups as well as other grilled proteins and vegetables.
Once the tare is done, simply skewer the chicken and grill, basting it with tare frequently. And once the yakitori is done, it’s simply a matter of stacking the toppings and wrapping. Whisk up the Tahini Miso Sauce and lunch, dinner, snack, or whatever is served!
Simple to make and not terrible for you, these Yakitori Rice Paper Wraps might be the last green thing you eat before the year 2020.
Yakitori Rice Paper Wraps
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-inch knob ginger peeled and sliced
- 2 shallots coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
- 6 scallions cut into quarters, divided
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup sake
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips
- 6 bamboo skewers soaked overnight
Miso Tahini Sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp white miso
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 1-2 tbsp water*
- 2 dashes sesame oil
Yakitori Fresh Rolls
- 1 sweet potato cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
- 12 rice paper sheets
- black sesame seeds for sprinkling
- 12 seaweed snack sheets
- 6 romaine lettuce leaves
- 1/4 cup pickled ginger
- 150g (5.2oz) enoki mushrooms
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- 1/3 cucumber cut into spears
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro torn, tightly packed
For the Yakitori
- Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Heat until shimmering. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallot. Sweat the shallots for 5 minutes or until just transparent. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and saute until fragrant. About 3 minutes more.
- Add the stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar to the skillet. Stir to combine. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to an active simmer and let the mixture cook down for 10-15 minutes or until one cup of liquid remains.
- Take the tare off of the heat and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a heat-proof jar. Discard the solids and let the tare cool to room temperature.
- Once the tare is cool, skewer a piece of the chicken on to one of the bamboo skewers. Add one or two scallion pieces before threading on another piece of chicken. Repeat until each bamboo skewer has three or four pieces of chicken.
- Heat a well-oiled cast iron grill over high heat until smoking. Brush each skewer on all sides with the tare and place it on the grill. Sear the chicken on both sides before reducing the heat to medium. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes more, turning frequently. Keep brushing the skewers with the tare.
- Once the chicken is cooked transfer the yakitori to a large platter and brush once more with the tare on all sides. Keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Miso Tahini Sauce
- Place the miso, tahini, honey and lime juice in a bowl and whisk to form a thick paste. Whisk in the water and serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
For the Wraps
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the sweet potato wedges in a bowl and add the oil and salt. Toss to coat.
- Transfer the wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, rotating once. Drizzle the wedges with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Set aside.
- Place a rice paper sheet in a pie plate filled with warm water. Soak the rice paper sheet until it becomes pliable but not floppy. Transfer the rice paper sheet to a counter covered with a damp tea towel. Repeat with another piece of rice paper and place it just below the previous sheet, so they overlap slightly.
- Sprinkle the rice paper sheets with black sesame seeds and place two seaweed snacks on top where the sheet overlap. Place a romaine leaf on top of the seaweed and create a line of pickled ginger beside the romaine.
- Take the yakitori off of its skewer and place it and the roasted sweet potatoes on top of the lettuce, seaweed, and ginger. Place a good amount of enoki mushrooms, two cucumber skewers, one avocado wedge and a sprig of cilantro on top.
- Fold the left-hand side of the two rice paper sheets up and over the fillings. Take the end closest to you and fold it away from yourself and over the fillings. Grab the fillings (the should be more or less enveloped in rice paper at this point) and roll them away from yourself until the wrap seals. Repeat with the remaining fillings and rice paper sheets.
- Transfer the wraps to a platter and serve immediately alongside the Miso Tahini Sauce for dipping.