Kimbap is a Korean recipe inspired by Japanese sushi. Like sushi, you can stuff kimbap with a great many things. Korean chefs tend to favor pickled and preserved fillings. Unlike sushi, which traditionally uses only white rice, kimbap can use either brown or white rice. Treat the rice with sesame oil and a sweetener for its signature Korean taste.
Gather your ingredients!
This step is optional. If you like your rice on the fluffier side, rinse it under cold water in a strainer for a few passes. Stir the rice with your hand to rinse evenly.
Short grain rice is best for kimbap, because its surface area and starch balance make it the stickiest!
One cup of rice makes about 4 rolls of kimbap.
You will need twice as much liquid as dry rice.
To cook 1 cup of dry rice, add 4 tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar to 1 and 3/4 cups of water. Pour one cup of uncooked rice into the liquid, cover securely, and raise to a fast boil. Set the heat to low as soon as it reaches a fast boil, and let it simmer until all the moisture is absorbed by the rice grains. Stir a few times during this process, but mostly leave it alone. The rice is done when it is soft and there is no more standing water in the pot.
Transfer the cooked rice to a mixing bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil per 2 cups of cooked rice. Stir it roughly with a rice paddle, almost mashing it. Add more rice vinegar to taste–the more you add, the stickier the rice will become, which makes it easier to pack into a roll or rice ball. While Japanese sushi is often made with unseasoned rice vinegar, kimbap is made with oil and seasoned rice vinegar, which usually contains sugar.
Before handling the sushi rice, splash your hands with salt water to prevent the rice from sticking to you.
Set up a nori sheet on top of a gimbal (김발), a flexible mat made of bamboo and cotton string. The perforations on the nori sheet should be perpendicular to the strips of the gimbal.
Spoon a thin layer of sushi rice onto 1/3 of the nori roll, patting with salted fingers to make a small indent along the middle into which you can lay the filling.
Lay thin strips of seasoned tofu in a line along the indent. Top with a generous layer of fragrant kimchi.
Kimchi is the quintessential Korean ingredient. It’s rare to eat a meal without it!
Starting on the side with the rice and filling, bend the mat around the kimbap, forming it into a tube.
Squeeze the mat and kimbap with both hands tightly and evenly–otherwise, it will fall apart when you try to cut it. Finally, dab a line of salt water on the nori-end of the tube to help it adhere.
Before cutting the kimbap, it is important to coat your knife in salt water. I do this between each cut! This prevents the sticky rice from clinging to the knife, allowing it to pass through cleanly.
Cut the roll into discs about one inch long, exposing the beautiful interior.
To make a rice ball (samgak-gimbap), use very sticky rice. If yours isn’t terribly sticky, add more vinegar and mash it until it easily holds its shape.
Take a bit of sticky rice about the size of your palm, and press it into a bowl shape in a 4″ bowl or smaller. Splash your hands with salt water so the rice doesn’t stick to you!
Next, spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling into the hollow.
Add a second palm-sized layer of sticky rice on top, and press the sides down firmly with salted fingers.
Release the samgak-gimbap from the bowl by digging around all edges with a salted, wide spoon. Then, turn it upside down into your palm.
Shape the samgak-gimbap into a triangle with your fingers.
Using a square sheet of nori, fold two corners onto the triangle, like you are pinning a cloak around someone’s shoulders.
Fold the loose corners inwards, similar to wrapping paper.
Fold the last flap onto the rice ball. Moisten the nori with salt water to fasten it tightly. The samgak-gimbap is done!
The samgak-gimbap is eaten by hand, and makes a great meal-on-the-go.
Garnish the kimbap with sriracha (optional.) Serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger, to be eaten between each bite as a palate cleanser (not on top of the kimbap pieces.)