Saturday, March 24, 2007


We are going to a church potluck this afternoon, and for some reason I decided to make 김밥/"kimbap". Kimbap is very similar to Japanese sushi, or to California rolls, but to the connoisseur (aka JunkMale... lol) kimbap is entirely different. The picture above is my completed kimbap, ready for the potluck. I will have you know that I only packed the pretty ones. :-)

I have eaten kimbap before at a local Korean foods market, H-Mart, and decided that I like tuna kimbap (참치김밥) the best. Apparently this is not the most normal way to make kimbap, but *I* like it, and that probably means that other Americans would also like it, so it seemed like a good choice for our very American church friends.

One VERY important part of kimbap is the yellow pickled daikon radish. Unfortunately, we had none, and no local Asian market -- the closest is about thirty minutes away. But I did read that you could substitute American pickles if you needed to... so that is what I did. Below is my modified/Americanized kimbap recipe, for those who would like to try making it:

참치김밥/Tuna Kimbap:

1 carrot, cut into 1/8" julienne
1 handful (so precise, I know :P) of sandwich-sliced pickles, cut into thick (1/4"ish) julienne
2 cups short-grain rice, washed (and soaked for at least 2 hours if using brown, as we did)
2 1/4 cups water
3 or 4 eggs, scrambled and cooked as you would an omlette "crust", cut into 1/3" strips
1 Tbs Asian sesame oil (the kind that smells good)
1/2 to 1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp soy sauce
1 can tuna, drained
1 package (10-ish sheets) seaweed for sushi/kimbap -- usually there is a picture of kimbap on the front
ground red hot pepper, to taste (optional)
garlic powder, to taste (optional)
mayonnaise/mustard/etc (optional)

1. Place rice and water into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to sit without uncovering for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then stir in sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar.

2. While the rice is resting off the heat, stir fry the carrots in a little bit of oil until they are slightly underdone.

3. Mix as much brown sugar, soy sauce, red pepper, and garlic powder into the tuna as you think it needs to be flavorful. Or, I have seen tuna kimbap made with tuna salad-style tuna. So you could make your favorite tuna salad recipe and use that instead.

4. Lay out the seaweed, shiny side down. Spread a THIN layer of rice over most of the seaweed, being sure to leave 3/4 to 1" empty at one end. The empty end will be used to seal the kimbap when we've rolled it.

5. Lay out the seaweed in this way: the strip of empty seaweed should be North, with the other three rice-covered sides being East, South, and West. Add the "toppings" in whatever order you'd like, side by side. I put 1 or 2 pieces of pickle, next to a very small handful of carrots, then a strip of egg, and finally a scoop of tuna. Start at the South end of the seaweed, and lay your toppings across the rice, from East to West. When you have finished laying them out, the toppings shouldn't cover more than half of the seaweed (South to North).

6. Now comes the fun part -- rolling it up! It would be very helpful if you had a bamboo sushi mat, but if you don't it's ok. Try using a kitchen towel folded in half, or you could try it by hand. Roll up the kimbap from South to North. Roll it very tightly. The fillings will move, and spread themselves out over the length of the rice. This is perfectly normal (I think... if not, I'm doing something wrong). If you had all your ingredients prepared when your rice finished cooking, you can just keep rolling tightly until you have a completed kimbap roll. The heat from the rice will help the empty end stick to the rest of the roll. If your rice has cooled down too much, or if you filled your roll too full (not the I would *ever* do something like that.......), the empty end will not stick very well. You could try wetting the end with a bit of water and trying to get it to stick, but I haven't had much luck with that. Don't worry if your first few don't turn out very well. They still taste the same, even if they're not pretty. When in doubt, use less rice.

7. After all the seaweed has been topped and rolled, use a very sharp knife to cut it into coin shapes, about 1" in depth.

Hopefully I have not confused anyone with my directions... but just in case, here are two more kimbap recipes, with in-progress pictures. There are a whole lot of variations to kimbap. JM's mom used to use Spam instead of tuna. Many Koreans use beef, or 오댕/"oh-daeng" (basically fish cakes), or crab meat. Kimbap usually has cooked spinach in it, seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce. Sometimes Koreans put a strip of hot pepper paste for a kick. As you can see, the recipe is pretty much what you want to make of it.

If you want a dip to eat with it, here are two ideas: 1) soy sauce mixed with wasabi, for a more Japanese flair; 2) soy sauce mixed with hot pepper powder, garlic, sesame oil, and green onions. If you feel like it (which I NEVER do) you can add some vinegar as well.

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5 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Birdie

    Looks yummy!

  • Tammy L

    Looks different... and good! :)

    I always wonder about mercury levels in fish (tuna is one of the worst, unfortunately!) though... and Joshua doesn't like for me to prepare much tuna... what would be a good substitute? :)

  • JunkMale


    If you wanted to try to make kimbap, you could even try vegetarian. That is not unheard of in the world of kimbap. You can substitute ham, or actually any sort of fish or meat (must be cooked, we are not Japanese!). Maybe tofu too, although you'd need firm tofu so it wouldn't fall apart. And you'd probably want to season it, since tofu is bland by itself.

    I might also confirm that either the pickled daikon or pickles are a rather important ingredient. Without it, the taste is rather bland, for all the other ingredients are somewhat passive. The pickle adds a much needed salty sort of sweet taste.

    Another thing that is usually in kimbap is boiled spinach. For example, in the picture below, you see a little green bit, and that is the spinach.

    In that particular picture, it looks like they might have used both crab meat and ham.

    Anyways, I'll make sure Harmony sees your comment and add anything if I've missed it.

  • Harmony

    I've seen kimbap four basic ways: vegetarian, beef, seafood, and ham. Usually the seafood is crab or tuna, although I would imagine that you could use something like salmon as well.

    For the beef: marinate in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar before cooking. You don't have to use much marinade... the beef shouldn't be too wet when you put it in the kimbap. For the vegetarian version, try putting in shiitake mushrooms, seasoned similarly to the beef.

    Or, if you want to do something really different, you could use chicken, I guess. Maybe instead of the whole tuna-fish-salad deal you could do a chicken salad. JunkMale is quite in shock of me suggesting chicken salad, but if you aren't too interested in authenticity, I don't see why it wouldn't work.

  • Tammy L

    Okay, this sounds complicated!! ;) I will file all this info away in my brain for a rainy day. ;)

    Or, better yet, Harmony can be a guest chef on my website and teach us all just how to do it. :)

    Thanks for all the great info, though! I've never cooked tofu... but I could try the beef. I'm not afraid of tofu, but I don't think my husband likes it! :)