Hungry How-to’s: The Kimbap Roll

Maybe it’s because the stress levels are lower, or maybe it’s because the sun is always out, but summer mealtimes are full of laughs, memories, and adventures. Throw in some nostalgia and culinary exploration, and you’ve got yourself a *perfect* summer meal. Gajamos! 😉

Every Korean girl remembers those times growing up, when our mom’s would sit at the kitchen table with a colorful spread of ingredients, that oh-so-delicate seaweed paper, and a bamboo mat. Like magic, a fluttering of hands, a good whiff of sesame oil, and some rhythmic chopping would conjure up a mouth-watering plate of cute kimbap pieces.



Passing by the familiar bamboo mat in H-Mart one day, I couldn’t help but to give it a try. After a phone call to my mom, a few extra things on my grocery list, and some hungry helpers, this summer how-to was born!

Step 1: Buy the ingredients & tools.

I consider kimbap one of those “cleanup” meals (meals you make so you can {deliciously} clean out those miscellaneous leftovers in your fridge). You can really put anything you want in these rolls as long as you have a few key basics down.

The essentials:

1. Rice, rice, and more rice: Kimbap is great to make when you have lots of rice leftover, but the seasoning of the rice is arguably one of the most important aspects. In a large mixing bowl, throw in your rice, vinegar (~1 tbsp per 1-2 bowls of rice), and salt (~ a pinch per 1-2 bowls of rice; start small and add to taste). With a spatula or your hands if the rice isn’t too hot, fold the vinegar and salt into the rice evenly. Taste the rice to make sure you have the perfect hint of salty and sour without overwhelming the taste buds. You want the rice seasoning to complement the main ingredients, not overpower them!

2. Seaweed paper (Kim): It doesn’t matter really what brand you buy–just make sure it’s roasted and unsalted. Sushi-grade Japanese brands are a bit thicker and thus easier to roll but harder to chop into pretty, even pieces. It’s a matter of personal preference but I tend to prefer using the thicker Japanese papers for a richer flavor and texture. If you’re using this kind of paper, just remember  to use a sharp blade and to brush the blade generously with sesame oil before chopping.

3. Sesame oil: This deliciously thick and savory oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats and a healthy dose of korean nostalgia. After rolling the kimbap, remember to use a brush (or your fingertips if you don’t mind getting a little messy) to spread a thin layer of this oil on the kimbap itself and the blade of the knife. This makes cutting the kimbap a lot easier by keeping the rice from sticking to the sides of the knife (not to mention it garnishes the kimbap perfectly). If cutting gets difficult mid roll, stop and reapply a thin layer of this magical oil.

4. Bamboo Roller Mat: This is the easiest way (and maybe only?) way to roll kimbap. Get it here and keep reading for instructions on how to use!

The non-essentials (but still important!): I think every family has a different set of ingredients they put in their kimbap rolls. I’ll share with you my family secret but feel free to swap and experiment depending on your likes/dislikes. I like to put in sauteed fish cakes, SPAM (I have to admit, it’s one of my unhealthiest guilty pleasures..), daikon, and eggs. Many people like to add sauteed spinach and fresh sesame leaves but I like to keep this recipe more simple and kid-friendly (kimbap tends to bring out my inner spinach-hating five-year-old self).

Step 2: Prepare the ingredients

1. Sauteed fish cakes: These can be found at any Hmart. There are so many brands but I like to use the simplest brand of flat fried fish cake sheets. Cut the sheets vertically into 3/4 inch thick strips and sauté them with soy sauce and sesame oil. Make sure the fishcakes are completely thawed so that you can sauté them relatively quickly; sesame oil tends to burn and char easily.

2. SPAM: I like to cut the SPAM blocks into rectangular prisms about 1/2 in by 1/2 in thick and 3-4 in long. I pan-fry them lightly on high heat (even the the SPAM Lite doesn’t need any extra oil; the heat will bring out the oil from the meat to make them the perfect amount of crispy).

3. Daikon (yellow pickled radish): Simple, just pick ’em up at the store! I like to use the daikon that’s been pre-cut for use in making kimbap.

4. Eggs: Probably the hardest ingredient to cook, the key here is to make the eggs like pancakes. I like to put in about a tablespoon of flour for every 3-4 eggs to make folding a bit easier. In a bowl, whisk together about 5-6 eggs, a pinch of salt, and flour. Preheat the frying pan and spray with non-stick spray or coat with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Pour enough egg batter in to just cover the bottom of the pan and let it sit until the eggs are just about cooked. Fold the sides of the circular sheet of egg in toward to the middle to make a trifold “pancake.” Remove from the pan and let it cool; cut into 1/2 inch thick strips.

Arrange your ingredients for hassle-free rolling

Arrange your ingredients for hassle-free rolling

Step 3: Roll the Kimbap

This is the fun stuff! Set up all the ingredients on a table or counter top and maybe even an assembly line of rollers and choppers. Don’t forget to indulge a little and snack on the ingredients; they’re so tasty even by themselves!

Eating faster than we were making

Eating faster than we were making!

1. On a sheet of seaweed paper, spread about one generous scoop of rice, as an even, horizontal strip across the seaweed. Leave about 2 inches of room, top and bottom. Line up two sticks of spam, one strip of egg, one strip of daikon, and two strips of fishcakes along the strip of flattened rice.

2. With the bamboo mat, fold the bare bottom half of the seaweed paper onto the top portion of bare rice and squeeze. Slowly roll the rest of the kimbap tightly and evenly. Use a couple grains of rice at the edges of the seaweed paper to make sure the kimbap roll doesn’t unravel.


3. Coat the completed roll with a thin layer of sesame oil and chop into even 1/2 in thick pieces.

4. Arrange and enjoy!

Stacked pyramid of kimbap

Stacked pyramid of kimbap

Step 4: Leftovers

Try not to chop up any extra rolls since this tends to dry them up more quickly. Instead, wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and leave out (not in the fridge!) in a cool, air-conditioned area for up to 24 hours. Chop before they are ready to enjoy!

Lunch ideas: Chop up a roll in the morning and tuck into a tupperware or gladware container and take it to school/work/picnic/beach! Kimbap goes great with light & fruity sodas or ginger ale!

xoxo Jenny & Elise


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