Normally if a cookbook were to swap authentic spring roll or wonton wrappers for filo pastry, it would be so you didn’t have to go hunting for the right ingredients. Of course, as you’re very unlikely to find kimchi in your average UK corner shop, I can’t exactly use that argument to frame this recipe post. What using filo pastry does mean, is that I can cook these in the oven instead of deep-frying — you don’t get quite as a good a result, I’ll admit, but it makes them a little easier to prepare. They’d make a great appetiser or finger food (as you can put them in the oven, it means you aren’t bound to the stove while they cook either). The bright flavour is the real star.
Sharp and sour kimchi contrasts fantastically with rich and fatty pork — it’s a very traditional combination in Korean cooking, similar in principle to Britain’s own pork and apple but with the added extras of cabbage and the heat of chilli. Though kimchi is normally eaten cold with rice, it’s just as good as a seasoning: older, “ripe” kimchi is best for cooking thanks to it’s stronger and richer flavour, and you can even get so-called extra-mature kimchi (matured for a year or more!) specially formulated for using in stews, soups, stir-fries and, my personal favourite, kimchi fried rice. I find cooking kimchi, in any form, makes a good introduction to anyone who might be a bit frightened or intimidated by this fiery Asian pickle.
Feel free to play around with this recipe as much as you want. It started life as a quick stir-fry of pork belly, home-made kimchi and noodles that made for a quick and cheap one-pan dinner at university. You could turn it into a stir-fry yourself, or try filling the filo pastry with something else.
Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan and stir-fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the pork mince and continue to stir-fry until it has broken up and is starting to brown. Add the kimchi and it’s juice, the gochujang and soy sauce and cook on a medium heat until the mixture has lost its excess liquid and the kimchi and chilli paste are evenly distributed. Stir through the spring onion and set aside to cool.
Once the filling has cooled, the spring rolls are ready to shape: if my instructions aren’t up to scratch, there are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube to help (but as they won’t be using filo, the details of sealing might be slightly different). Start with the filo pastry square with one corner facing towards you. Place a dessert-spoonful of the filling in a short line slightly to the right of the centre of the square. Fold the right-hand corner of the square over the top of the mixture. Brush all of the exposed surfaces of the pastry lightly with vegetable oil to help them stick together, then fold the top and bottom corners over the filling and towards the square. Finally, roll it up tightly over the rest of the pastry, and repeat. As these won’t be fried, it’s no big deal if the pastry splits or you have little holes — it just makes them look homemade — and as filo pastry is a little more delicate that traditional wrappers, you’ll probably find that it does. If you find working with a single layer too tricky, just use two squares of pastry, one on top of the other with a little oil to stick them together. Once formed, the rolls can be kept covered in the fridge on a baking tray until you’re ready to bake.
To cook, preheat the oven to 180C and bake on a tray for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crisp. Serve straight away with the dipping sauce of your choice (I’d suggest a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and rice vinegar). Makes 12-16.