The Korean Wave (Hallyu) or Korean fever refers to the sudden increase in global popularity of South Korean culture around the world in the last ten years. This is largely because of the Korean entertainment industry, and the popularity of K-drama and K-pop. I have been a great fan of many Korean dramas and variety shows. The world of K-dramas often features mouthwatering food dishes. It’s hard to watch drama and get craving for ramyun. There is nothing better than trying out a new food or recipe, I can list a lot of number Korean foods I want to try and one of them is kimbap.
Kimbap vs Sushi
Kim or gim meas dried sheets of laver seaweed in Korean. Bap or bop means rice. Therefore, Kimbap or Gimbap (김밥) is a Korean dish made from cooked rice and other ingredients that are rolled in gim and served in bite-sized slices. Korean kimbap are rice rolls that look a lot like sushi. However kimbap‘s appearance usually more colorful and healthier because it uses many vegetables inside. It is also often sold and wraped in aluminium foil. It is usually eaten at picnics and outdoor events because of its convenience and portability. Traditional fillings for kimbap include seasoned vegetables, egg, meat, but these days anything goes.
Varieties of Kimbap
Kimbap has a lot of variety, and below are the most common variation:
- Chamci Kimbap (참치김밥) is filled with tuna and other vegetables
- Kimchi Kimbap features kimchi as the main filling
- Chungmu Kimbap (충무김밥) is made with only rice as the filler ingredient
- Mayak Kimbap (마약김밥) is vegetarian style seaweed rice roll. People say it’s so yummy that you get badly addicted to it. Hence, it’s named “Drug Seaweed Rice Rolls”
- Samgak Kimbap (삼각김밥) is a triangle-shaped kimbap sold in many convenience stores in South Korea.
Kimbap’s Key Ingredients
Danmuji is the essential ingredient in making good kimbap. It is basically a pickled yellow radish, and it tastes tangy, sweet, and refreshing. I have to say that danmuji gives off exploding flavor in kimbap and I cannot find another good alternative for it. I found danmuji at local Korean grocery store in transparent plastic packaging. Some is sold in whole yellow radish block or slices. For kimbap, we need the one in strips. I used the one in packaging like picture below, it is sold altogether with gosari. Gosari is young stem of Fernbrake or Bracken and it is commonly known as wild edible greens in Korea. I use gosari in my recipe, but it can be omitted.
There are limited Korean restaurants in my neighborhood that sell authentic kimbap. This recipe features the classic and original kimbap in Korea. Look at those colors. I just love how people in Korea always pay attention to the nutrition combination and food preparation on their everyday table. The most importantly, they are both pretty and healthy with lots of vegetables inside. I don’t feel guilty for eating too much kimbap after making this recipe.
Illustration by @the.amanita
- 5 sheets nori
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 1/2 pound bulgogi or ground beef (225 gr)
- 1 large carrot julienned matchsticks
- 5 strips danmuji
- 5 strips gosari (optional)
- 1 small bunch spinach blanched, rinsed in cold water, and strained
- 3 eggs
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 tsp sesame oil
- vegetable oil
- sesame oil for serving
Place freshly made rice in a large bowl. Gently mix in 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp sesame oil over top with a rice scoop. Let it cool down enough so it's no longer steaming. Cover and set aside.
Combine the blanched spinach, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tsp sesame oil in a bowl.
Combine the carrot matchsticks with 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well and let it sweat for 5-10 minutes. Heat a pan and add a few drop of vegetable oil. Squeeze out excess water from the carrot, then saute for about 1 minutes. Put it on the platter next to the spinach.
Marinate the beef with 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, and 2 tsp sesame oil.
Beat eggs and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. Drizzle oil on a heated 10-12 inch non-stick pan. Wipe off the excess with paper towel. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with low heat. Spread it into a large circle so it fills the pan. When the bottom of the egg is cooked, flip it over with spatula. Remove from the heat and let it cook slowly on the hot pan for about 5 minutes. Cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips. Put it next to the spinach on the platter.
Heat up a pan over medium high heat and cook the marinated beef until well cooked. Set aside.
Place a sheet of nori on a bamboo mat with the shiny side down. Spread evenly about 3/4 cup cooked rice over top it, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on top of the nori. Place beef, carrot, danmuji, gosari, a few egg strips, and spinach in the center of the rice
Use both hands to roll the mat over the fillings. Remove the roll from the mat. Repeat 4 more times with the remaining ingredients.
Put sesame oil on the finished rolls and sprinkle some sesame seeds over the top. Cut each roll into 1/4 inch bite size pieces with sharp knife, occasionally wiping it with a wet paper towel or cloth to clean the starch off and to ease cutting. Put it on a plate and serve immediately or pack it in a lunchbox.