What is Kimbap?
Gimbap or Kimbap is a Korean fast food or snack that is popular among Koreans. It literally means ’seaweed (cooked) rice’. It’s made from steamed rice (bap) and various ingredients wrapped and rolled in a sheet of seaweed (gim or kim). It’s served in bite-size slices, usually with Kimchi or pickled radish (danmuji). Among non-Koreans, it’s also known as Korean Sushi.
What are the basic ingredients?
Rice(bap): It should be sticky rice. Usually gimbap is made from white rice because it tastes better and looks prettier. But to make it healthy, I mix white rice and brown rice, 1:1.
Picked radish(danmuji) or cucumber: Danmuji can be replaced with cucumber. Many people buy danmuji from stores for convenience rather than make it themselves. Most danmuji from stores has chemicals for taste and coloring to some level. It can be made at home, but it’s additional work. Cucumber can be a good replacement for danmuji to make it healthy and save time.
- Danmuji that you can buy from Korean grocery stores
Spinach: This can be replaced with other green vegetables.
SPAM: To make it healthy, you can replace this with soy sausage or vegetable sausage. I get mine from Trader Joe’s.
Korean fish cake or crab meat: You can buy these from Korean groceries.
- My husband calls this “fake” crab meat. It’s $3 to $5 from Korean groceries.
How to make kimbap?
1. Get ingredients ready: Kimbap is usually considered as fast food or a snack, but it can take an hour or more, especially for a beginner, to have all ingredients ready. But once you get used to it, it will be easier and faster as in other cookings.
(1) Start to cook rice. It takes 30 to 50 minutes depending on what kind of rice you cook or what kind of method you use.
(2) Crack 3 or 4 eggs into a bowl. Add salt and mix it well. Pan-fry and cut it lengthwise with a little over a quarter inch width.
(3) Boil 4 or 5 cups of water to cook spinach. When water boils, boil spinach less than 10 seconds. If it’s too long, all good vitamins of spinach could be lost and its color changes. Rinse spinach with cold water and squeeze all the water out. Add sesame oil, salt and some sesame seeds if you have.
(4) Slice carrots in 2 inch length and stir-fry. Add some salt.
(5) If you have danmuji, cut it lengthwise in a quarter inch width. If you have cucumber, peel it and cut in lengthwise about a little less than a half inch. Add some salt and leave it for about 10 minutes. Rinse it with water and squeeze the water out.
(6) If you have Korean fish cake or crab meat, cut it lengthwise about a quarter inch width. Fish cake and crab meat from grocery stores are not the healthiest food, but if we have it once it a while, it should be okay.
(7) Beef: Especially when you have SPAM, fish cake or crab meat, you can easily pass this. If you want to add beef, slice it into small pieces and stir-fry with some seasonings.
- Carrots, Spinach and soy sausage
- Eggs, crab meat and cucumber
(8) Finally rice again: When the rice is fully cook, add some salt, sesame oil, sesame seeds and mix them well.
2. Let’s roll!
If you have a bamboo mat, rolling will be so much easier. It’s about $1 or $2 from many Korean groceries, but I’m pretty sure it’s easy to buy from other stores, too.
Place a sheet of kim (dry seaweed) on the bamboo mat. Put about a cup of rice on the center of the seaweed and using a spoon, spread it evenly over the 2/3 or less of the seaweed from the bottom.
Place a little bit of each ingredient on a single line and start to roll it up. Roll it slowly and gently. Every time you roll, pause and squeeze the roll a little bit to tighten the ingredients together.
At the end, place some rice at the end edge of the seaweed to seal the roll, if necessary - sticky rice is a good glue.
Remove the bamboo mat and slice up the gimbap roll. Every so often, wipe your knife with some sesame oil. Otherwise, the knife will be too sticky because of small rice pieces taken while cutting kimbap.
In Korea, it’s a tradition that kids bring kimbap for seasonal excursions or special events. When I was an elementary school student, an excursion was a special fun thing because it only happened a couple of times a year. On top of that, it was so exciting to see mom busy cooking special dishes including kimbap. I especially liked kimbap because it was very colorful and looked very difficult to make.
I make my first kimbap only a few weeks ago. It didn’t taste magical as my mom’s was at excursions. But it was still healthy and tasteful, and it definitely soothed my longing for Korea.
I was busy making and eating gimbap, and I forgot to take a photo of nice-looking gimbap slices. These are the ones that are left. =)