Kimbap – Korean Rice Roll

My childhood memories are very tied to food, especially traditional Korean food.  I have such distinct memories of certain dishes, who made the meal and on what occasion.

Koreans have our own version of “sushi” except that it isn’t called sushi.  Its called Kimbap.  It literally means seaweed rice.  We don’t have a million varieties with cute names like California Roll, Spider Roll, Crazy Monkey, Rock and Roll.  No, ours is just called Kimbap. 

The ingredients are pretty standard, blanched carrot, marinated blanched spinach (sigeumshi namul), fried tofu, pickled daikon (pickled radish), and fried egg. 

I was trolling through the internet to see what other people wrote about Kimbap.  I saw some recipes with meat (bulgogi), imitation crab meat and even kimchi.  We never put meat or kimchi.  I think that’s kind of weird, but I guess bulgoi and kimchi is actually pretty common.  Kimbap is a very popular  dish, in Korea, to take on picnics or to bring to lunch.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to worry about meat and kimchi getting all spoiled and stinky in the lunch box! 

Kim bap isn’t as fancy as Japanese Sushi, but it is definitely up there in taste.  Plus, I think its pretty with all the mixture of colors.  While I love eating Japanese Sushi, sometimes I want what I grew up eating. 

I decided that it was time for me to learn.  I’ve helped my mom make them, but I’ve never made them from scratch.  Plus, I thought Soso would get a kick out of it learning as well.

Soso was getting quite good at spreading the rice.

And adding the fillings.

The finished rolls.  My Dad was taking the pictures and he didn’t take any other “action” shots. Nor any pictures of my Mom!

Sliced and ready to eat.

We serve Kimbap with Miso Soup as well.

Soso insisted on a picture with her as well.

It was so much fun making Kimbap with my mom and my daughter.  Three generations of Korean women working together to make a very traditional Korean meal.  It took me back to when I was a child, helping my mom and my grandmother or my aunts making one dish or another.

Making Korean Kimbap isn’t very hard.  Just a little time-consuming.  From start to finish, I think it took us three hours.  I think you could do it in 2 or less, especially if you prepare the ingredients ahead of time.  Or buy them from a Korean mart already made.

Obviously this can been totally modified to be Vegan, just leave out the egg!  You could also replace the spinach with cucumbers or zucchini and still keep the color combination.  Or add red pepper for another color.  Anyway, the following recipe is what I grew up eating my whole life.

Kimbap

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Time: 2 -3 hours

Serves: 4 – 5

Ingredients

5 1/2 – 6 cups of Japanese or Korean rice
1 cup rice vinegar (or you can use sushi vinegar and skip the sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs
3 or 4 carrots sliced 1/4 inch strips
1 pound spinach prepared namul style
1 whole pickled daikon sliced 1/4 inch strips
1 can fried tofu (Inarisushi) sliced 1/4 inch  strips
1 package of 10 roasted laver ( kim, sushi nori)
1 (or 2 if you have a helper) bamboo sushi mat
sesame oil

Directions

Make the rice as you would normally make Korean rice.  If you don’t know how to make Korean rice, check this site, My Korean Kitchen.  It is how I make mine, except I let the water go only halfway to my middle knuckle.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the vinegar mixture by combining the vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Heat gently in a small pot until the sugar and salt has dissolved and set aside.

Mix 3 eggs with 2 tablespoon of water, lightly beat and fry in two batches.  When cool, slice in strips.

Blanch carrots strips in salted boiling water until tender, drain and set aside to cool.

When the rice is ready, scoop out all the rice into a large glass or wooden bowl.  Mix in the vinegar gently with a large spatula and spread out to cool.

While the rice is cooling, assemble all the ingredients including the sliced pickled radish, sigeumchi namul, carrots, fried tofu and egg on a plate.

Get a small bowl of cold water and put in a couple of drops of sesame oil.  This will be used to dip your fingers as you spread the rice in order to avoid the rice sticking to your fingers.

Now you are ready!  Place one sheet of kim on the bamboo mat.  Take a scoop of rice and spread evenly and thinly on the kim.  Dip your fingers in the water/sesame oil bowl and press down gently on the rice… I didn’t see anyone else doing this, but this is what my mom does.  Leave 1/2 inch to an inch on top free of rice.

Place the ingredients in thin rows, about one piece each, towards the bottom closest to you chest like the picture.  Make sure the fillings are placed close together so that when you start rolling, they wind up in the middle.

Roll the kim over the ingredients in a relatively tight roll and press down gently.  Bring the sheet to the edge of the mat and roll until  the whole kim/rice is rolled inside the mat. Then squeeze gently to compact the roll together.  If the edge is loose, either use a few grains of rice or the sesame oil/water  mixture to seal.

You should have enough rice and ingredient to make 10 rolls.  Slice the rolls with sharp knife when ready to serve.  If you are not going to eat them all right away, leave them as rolls to preserve freshness.  Serve with a bowl of Miso Soup.

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