In Korean, “Kim/gim” = seaweed, and”Bap” = rice.
You may know kimbap (or gimbap) as “Korean sushi rolls”. However, they are not in fact sushi at all, but do resemble sushi rolls. Instead of as fancy food like sushi in Japan, kimbap is eaten as a snack or finger food. It is almost like the Korean version of a sandwich. The fillings can vary but traditional fillings tend to include seasoned vegetables, egg, fish cake, beef, and or imitation crab.
Making kimbap takes some time and effort as you have to individually assemble each rice roll and it’s one of my favorite things to make for my personal kitchen therapy.
Here’s what I rolled up into my rice rolls!
Kimbap (Korean seaweed rice rolls)
- short grain rice, cooked
- sesame oil
- garlic, minced
- nori (seaweed sheets)
- cucumbers, julienned
- carrots, julienned
- Korean pickled radish, cut into long strips
- thinly sliced lean beef or lean ground beef
- bulgogi marinade, homemade or store-bought
- bamboo sushi mat
Take your beef and put it in a gallon sized freezer ziploc bag or a large bowl. Add your marinade and mix and massage it into the meat. Zip your ziploc bag or cover your bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours.
In the mean time cook your rice and prepare your vegetables with all the necessary slicing and dicing!
Once your rice is cooked, mix in enough sesame oil to lightly coat the rice. Set it aside and let it cool.
Julienne your cucumber, pickled radish, and carrots.
Heat a nonstick frying pan to medium/high heat.
Saute your garlic in enough sesame oil to coat the garlic.
Blanch (or saute in water) a bag of spinach until wilted. The spinach shrinks a lot so be generous! Drain spinach and allow to cool. Using a cheesecloth or your clean hands, squeeze out enough water so that the spinach no longer releases water.
Combine your garlic, salt, and spinach and add sesame oil as necessary so that the spinach is fragrant of sesame. The sesame flavor is important!
Set your spinach mixture aside.
Add your carrots to the pan. Add a bit of water and steam your carrots until cooked through. The water should have cooked off. If not, drain the water. Salt your carrots. This should help with flavor and also keep the carrots dry.
Set carrots aside.
Beat 2 or 3 eggs in a bowl with a dash of sugar and salt. Add to hot pan on medium heat. Cover pan and allow egg to cook through so that you get a nice flat pancake shaped omelette.
Note: It’s beneficial if you have a rectangular or square pan – you can get nice even strips.
Once your eggs are set, carefully flip the entire thing. Remove from pan once cooked through. You shouldn’t have to wait very long for the other side to cook.
Allow to cool. Cut your egg into thin strips.
When you are ready and your beef has been marinating long enough, add your bulgogi beef to a hot pan on medium/high heat. Flip the meat once it has browned. Remove from pan when cooked through. Make sure nothing is pink!
You are now ready to roll some rice.
Lay out your bamboo sushi mat on a flat surface and have your ingredients at reach. If you don’t have one of these, you can still make your kimbap! You’ll just have to be nifty and roll your rice rolls with your hands!
Place a piece of gim (seaweed sheet) onto your mat. Make sure the bottom edge of your seaweed sheet is lined up with the edge of the bamboo mat.
Scoop about half a cup of your rice. Spread the rice into a thin layer on your seaweed. You should be able to see through the rice just a bit. Leave about two inches of uncovered seaweed at the top.
Add a small row of each of the ingredients at the bottom of your seaweed (opposite to the side where you left the seaweed free of rice.) Be careful not to over crowd this part. As you keep rolling rice, you’ll get the hang of about how much of your ingredients to add. See my photos for reference.
I actually think I could have fit more ingredients into mine but didn’t want to ruin a roll by accidentally overshooting it.
Once you have your ingredients in place, again, make sure the edge of your seaweed sheet is lined up with the edge of the bamboo mat. Carefully start rolling from the bottom. You basically want to roll over the bottom edge of the seaweed and rice layer so that it contacts the part of the seaweed and rice layer just past the mass of ingredients so that you trap the ingredients with the seaweed and rice layer. (That was a mouthful).
Once you have that part rolled over, you’re almost good to go. This part is important to the integrity of your roll, as you want it to be as tight as you can get it to be so that the ingredients stay in the roll.
Once you have completed the initial fold over, press down with the bamboo mat so that it is tight (as seen in the above picture). Maintaining tightness, continue to roll and press with the bamboo mat until you reach the end of the seaweed piece.
Seal the edge with a light coating of water. You simply need to dab your fingers in some water and rub the edge down so that it holds.
Congratulations! You now have successfully created your first kimbap roll!
I just keep rolling until I get too hungry and want to take a break to eat some or until I run out of ingredients!
Once you have made your rolls and are ready to eat them, place on a cutting board. Take a long and sharp knife and wet the knife. This is a trick so that the knife does not stick so much to the ingredients, particularly the rice, and cuts through more smoothly.
Hold down your rolls and using long slicing motions that incorporate almost the entire length of the blade, slice your kimbap into ~1/2 inch pieces. I have found that each roll cuts into about 12-14 pieces.
Note: Using long slicing motions yields a nice smooth cut and prevents the knife from squishing the roll and causing it to break apart.
Share, eat, and enjoy! These are meant to be eaten with your hands. Eat them on their own or serve with a side of some extra pickled radishes, kimchi, more beef, or whatever you want really.