This last Saturday was a kitchen explosion. When you’re making something that has 11+ ingredients that need to be kept separate before you roll them together, that happens.
Kimbap (say it like Kim is bopping you on the head- Kim bop) is one of my favorite foods. Sometimes spelled gimbap, it is Korea’s “California roll”. When I was in college, our dining service got a young, straight outta graduate school, extremely handsome and in-shape director, who was the brunt of many “he’s yummier than the food” jokes. But the jokes stopped when the food took a turn for the better. More vegetarian options- when you’re eating in the college dining room, that just screams healthy. More of what students liked- my favorite gyro became a weekly instead of a monthly. And my point of this whole story, the handsome director brought sushi to rural Iowa. Well, they called it sushi, but it was really just California roll. Basically avocado rolled up in rice and seaweed. But I’d never laid eyes on sushi or California rolls before then, so I ate it in order to encourage the food service to continue improving. They had a long way to go.
Thank God I’ve gotten myself some culture since then, and can tell you the difference between sushi, California rolls, and kimbap. Minus the fake one (I’m looking at you California) I eat the other two regularly.
In fact, the lady at my apartment complex’s Kimbap Heaven (김밥 천국, a local eat quick for cheap place), knows my usual. Actually, it’s a Kimbap Country but my first kimbap store was a Kimbap Heaven and now I call them all that. There must be as many Kimbap stores as fast food chains in the good old USA. My regular is one roll of tuna Kimbap and one roll of regular, for ₩4500, about $4.50. I used to stop by the 김밥 나라 every Friday, but now I’ve made it myself. With a little help. It wasn’t pretty, but it was surprisingly easy and pretty yummy.
It cost me about ₩9000 to make, but I bought enough ingredients to make about 4x what I usually buy. After running around in the grocery store for 15 minutes, my boyfriend stumbled upon a kimbap kit- and then we had to run around the store putting other stuff back. Next time we’ll know.
Here’s what we did:
First, cook rice. Then beat two eggs well, and fry them completely flat and as thin as you can. Use oil to help accomplish this. Then chop the egg, cucumber, carrot, imitation crab, and pressed ham in long, thin strips. About 8 inches long. Since we bought the kit, we had our daikon radish and burdock root already prepared for us. You’ll also need sesame leaves but don’t cut those. Fry the carrot a touch so it isn’t so crunchy. If you want my favorite tuna kimbap, premix the tuna with mayo.
By then, the rice should be done. You can stir in some sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt until it’s seasoned to your taste. I like sesame a lot, so I’d put enough oil in to just barely take the white color away from the rice. My boyfriend has a steadier hand so he did this step.
Then, lay a piece of seaweed wrap specially made for kimbap on a wooden rolling mat, and spread a thin layer of rice over half. Lay sesame leaves on top, and pile one piece of everything inside the leaves. I accidentally cut the leaves in my chopping frenzy, but I think this is technically the way to do it. Especially since you don’t want the mayo from the tuna mixing with the rice. Then just roll and squeeze, using the mat to help you. Try to get the rice to surround the goodies inside. As you can tell, we did a lousy job of that, but we ate it immediately so it didn’t matter too much. Next week for our picnic, we’ll have to be much better!
Here’s a few pictures from our experience!
You could also put some ground beef seasoned with garlic for sogogi kimbap, or some kimchi, some cheese, or hot peppers. Now that I know the basics, I’m going to experiment! But first, let me wash almost every dish in my house that we dirtied (how?) while cooking.
Also, Kimbap Heaven doesn’t need to worry. Kimbap is a convenience food and I won’t be spending 2 hours shopping for it and cooking it all the time when I could be buying it in 3 minutes.