Recipe: Yubu Chobab (Stuffed Tofu Pouches)

That's an odd description for this dish but it's the closest I can think of for yubu chobab (유부초밥). Some may have seen them in sushi stores where they're known as inarizushi or seen them in Korean/Japanese dramas, animation movies, etc.

In general, yubu chobab is frequently associated with kids and with picnic/outings. They're usually colorful, visually appealing, easy to eat and they're not spicy so anyone can enjoy them. I didn't grow up with yubu chobab however, so I didn't really like them until closer to adulthood. The wrinkly, browish-yellow pouches are simply deep fried tofu (yubu) which comes seasoned in a vinegary/sugary mixture. 'Chobab' simply refers to the vinegar rice (the ones used for sushi) so the full name basically means, 'deep fried tofu and sushi rice'.

These pre-made yubu packets can be found in any Korean mart and usually comes with the dry and wet seasoning mixes included for your rice. The easiest method is to simply mix the rice and seasonings, stuff into the pouches and eat. But if you add in just a little more effort, there's an endless variety of things you can add to increase taste, nutrition and texture. On their own (as in, without the addition of any meat or meat products) they are vegetarian so keep that in mind for your herbivore friends!

Autumn is now well under way in Korea and this marks a popular period for locals to go out on nice autumn days and admire the foliage and scenery. You may notice many of such folks carrying out some homemade yubu chobab as well. Don't be left out... try it out yourself!

Yubu Chobap (Stuffed Tofu Pouches)
Serves 3-4

You'll need:
- One packet of Yubu for 3-4 servings (with rice seasonings included inside)
- 3 cups of Rice, cooked (prepare the rice as you normally would but with just a little less water and only use short grain rice)
- 1/2 a Carrot
- 1 small Onion (or 1/2 a larger one)
- 1 small Bell Pepper
- 2 sheets of Gim, crumbled (roasted seaweed sheets, aka nori)
- 1 tbsp of Sesame Oil
- sprinkle of Salt
- 2 tbsp of Sesame Seeds (optional)

1. Finely dice all your vegetables. This time I used a carrot, peppers and an onion but you can add other diced veggies or even things like spam or kimchi

Peppers, cooked mushrooms, kimchi, ham, tuna, scrambled eggs, etc are all other additions you can add

2. Add some cooking oil to a pan on medium high heat and add your veggies with just a sprinkle of salt. Saute for just a few minutes to get the veggies slightly softened.

Saute only a few minutes just to bring out the sweeter flavors of the veggies.
You don't want it overcooked and mushy. 

3. Your package of pre-made yubu skins will contain not only the tofu skins but also a sweet/vinegary liquid mixture and a packet of dried seasonings. To make assembly easier, dump out the tofu skins into a bowl and have the liquid mixture and dried seasoning on hand for your rice.

4. Take your cooked rice and put it in a large bowl (note: doing this beforehand and letting the rice cool will help make the mixing easier and not so hot for your hands). Add the cooked veggies, the toasted gim sheet, and the contents of both the liquid mixture and the dried seasonings on top. Add in the tablespoon of sesame oil. Using your hands (using disposable gloves helps), mix all the seasoning up until everything is incorporated. Taste a little bit of your rice and feel free to adjust the seasoning to your preference. In addition to salt, you can add more vinegar or sugar to get the sour/sweet/salty flavors to your liking.

Rice before mixing

Rice after mixing

5. Now it's time to assemble! The tofu skins are very delicate so handle them with care. Peel one tofu skin off from the group and carefully open its closed slit. This can be tricky sometimes; if you use too much force the skin will tear.

Take just a spoonful of the rice mixture into your hand and gently squeeze and form into a rough oval ball. Packing the stuffing like this a bit together before encasing it will help everything stick together and not fall apart in the end. Take it from me, this is an important step I missed the first couple times I made these. Then carefully pack it into your tofu pockets and squeeze around to have it all stick together.

Lay the assembled yubu chobap with the rice stuffing side up on a plate or pack in a container if you're heading out with them and/or prefer to eat them later. Continue with the rest until you run out of pouches.

For garnish, you can sprinkle a bit of toasted sesame seeds on top. Black ones might be better for contrast but I only had regular sesame seeds on hand. Store leftovers in a fridge. These can be eaten cold and without the need to reheat.

The weather's quite a treat these days so take advantage of them with some friends and these scrumptious little guys.