Kimbap – 김밥

Growing up, my mother would always make kimbap for road trips and picnics. Kimbap is ideal because it’s a meal in one bite that you can pop in your mouth. Colorful, easy-to-eat, and nutritious, kimbap is Korean sushi (most like a Futomaki roll) with vegetables, meat (if you choose), and rice wrapped in seaweed. This popular dish is a another great way to get people who might not normally be excited to eat vegetables to eat them.

김 = seaweed
밥 = cooked rice

There are many variations for the filling, but the consistent ingredients are carrots, spinach, pickled radish (danmuji), and egg. My mom’s version contained ground beef. However, I make a meatless version substituting beef for imitation crab meat. Each ingredient is cooked separately and then rolled together. For the meat version, my mom would cook lean ground beef in some soy sauce.

Makes 6 rolls for 4-6 people.*

2.5 cups of uncooked sushi rice (see healthier options below)
roasted seaweed (laver) – kim – 김
pickled daikon radish – danmuji – 단무지
imitation crabmeat sticks
1 package or bunch of spinach
2 large carrots
3 eggs

sesame oil
roasted sesame seeds
garlic, minced
salt and ground pepper
cooking oil (canola, etc)

Bamboo sushi roller (or sheet of aluminum foil)
Mandolin (optional)


Optional Ingredient:
Seasoned burdock root – This is common in other rolls and I’ve always liked it, but have yet to use this. I need to try it sometime.

Rice – 밥
Instead of sushi rice, you can either use a sushi rice with a black rice blend or short grain brown rice for healthier options.

My mom seasoned the rice with some sesame oil and sesame seeds. I think that the more traditional seasoning is with vinegar. The Japanese use sushi vinegar or powered sushi seasoning mix.

When cooking the rice, you do not want it to be too wet, or you’ll make rice cake.
When working with rice, do not press on the rice, or you’ll make rice cake. Instead cut through it to mix or spread with the rice scooper.

Spinach – 시금치
Sesame oil, minced garlic and salt
Prepare spinach using these directions.

Carrots –
Julienne carrots with a mandolin with a fine julienne insert or julienne (into matchstick shapes) carrots with a knife. My mom always cut this with a knife, however a mandolin makes this task so much faster.

Initially I had a Japanese one, but always cut myself, so I went back to cutting them by hand until I used an old Borner mandolin. I recently got a new Borner mandolin and prefer the older version better. There is a difference in the plastic which causes the newer one to get stained by the carrots. When using a mandolin, save your fingers and use the food safety holder!

Pickled Radish – 단무지
Cut into long strips.
My mom would then place the cut radish strips in some white vinegar mixed with a little sugar. I normally skip this step.

Imitation Crabmeat –
Defrost the crabmeat on a heated pan until warmed. The crabmeat will lightly brown. Another option is to nuke both sides in the microwave; being careful not to dry it out. Leave uncut or cut in half.


Salt, ground pepper, oil
Using the same pan, cook the eggs before the carrots to prevent staining them. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk. Preheat some oil in a 12″pan, roll and cook into an omelet about 2.5″ wide. Remove from pan and cut into 6 strips.

Oil, salt
Preheat oil in the same pan. When hot, place julienned carrots, salt, and cook over medium heat until softened.

Although a bamboo sushi roller is ideal, my mom used a sheet of aluminum foil if one was not available.

Place one sheet of seaweed with the wide-side positioned horizontally (many sushi seaweed sheets will have perforated dotted lines; they should be lined up vertically). Spread rice over seaweed. Do not press down on rice to spread. I tend to spread my rice thinly because I like my rolls to be spectacularly veggie-licious with a lower ratio of rice, but that’s just my preference.

Tips: I use the rice scooper to do a general spread and then use my finger in quick light movements to do the final spread. If necessary, have a small bowl of water to keep the rice from sticking too much to your fingers.

Place the ingredients along the bottom edge leaving some space for starting the roll. I like to put one of the firmer ingredients like the egg or crabmeat towards the top edge of the carrots to help keep the carrots together. When laying the carrots, place them so that the long cut of the carrots follows the shape of the roll.

It takes practice to get the right tension. You don’t want to squeeze too tightly, or you’ll make rice cake. Nor do you want it too loose, otherwise it will fall apart.

Tip: If you are new to rolling, make one and then cut the end off. See what it looks like to make adjustments before attempting the next roll: Do I need more or less of any of the ingredients? Do I need to place the ingredients differently? Do I need to adjust the tension of my rolling?
Repeat rolling and cutting until the rolls begin to look they way you want them to look.

Optional Step
I learned this step from my cousin. Place finished rolls into a warm pan and briefly roll. The seaweed will tighten around the roll and become smooth and slightly shiny.

My mom always kept a small dish of sesame oil and would occasionally slathered the knife with it. You can also use water instead. However, I use a serrated knife (our tomato knife) and it works well without any oil or water, especially if your rice isn’t too wet and sticky. Cut through rolls with a gentle back and forth motion.

Some people like to eat this with some dipping sauce (see below), but for us kimchi is even better!

Dipping Sauce
soy sauce
white vinegar
crushed red pepper (optional)

* I never measure anything, but I tried my best to come up with some guideline estimates. I will continue to tweak it if necessary. Also the amounts can vary depending the balances of the ingredients used. Generally, I find that about 1 1/2 rolls makes for a more than satisfying meal per person; one for smaller appetites.


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