Why It Works
- Salting the cucumber draws out excess moisture.
- Sautéing some of the ingredients softens them just enough to make the rolls easier to form and eat.
Gimbap (also sometimes spelled "kimbap") is the perfect meal on-the-go, a common sight at bus stations and a must-have at school picnics. The only limit for kimbap fillings is your imagination: You can find tuna, avocado, chicken, shrimp, and bulgogi kimbap. Basically, you can feel free to add whatever you want to the roll. But for this recipe, I'm introducing the most common ingredients for a classic Korean kimbap roll, including imitation crab stick, ham, pickled radish, braised burdock root, egg, carrot, fishcake, and cucumber.
One of the biggest challenges for the first-time kimbap maker is finding all of the ingredients. The pickled daikon (danmuji in Korean) can come as a whole pickled radish that needs to be cut into strips or as pre-cut sticks ready for kimbap. Either works here, but if you do cut your own, you'll want to make the sticks about 1/4 inch thick or smaller, and about as long as the seaweed sheets themselves. Don't worry about the color of the pickled daikon radish: yellow, white, beige all work.
The braised burdock is often sold in packages by itself, but you may be able to find combo packs of pickled daikon and braised burdock, which are especially convenient.
For those looking for fishcake (often called odeng or eomuk), the photo below may help you track it down.
Ultimately, whatever you use, the key is to prepare it all so that it will work in the roll. That means cutting everything into thin strips that are preferably long enough to run through the roll from end to end, or as close to it as possible.
- 1 large (12-ounce; 340g) cucumber
- Sea or kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- Vegetable oil, for greasing the pan
- 6 long strips ham for kimbap (each about 1/4 inch or less thick)
- 1 medium (8-ounce; 240g) carrot, julienned
- 3 sheets flat odeng fishcake, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) grain syrup or oligosaccharide syrup (sold as “oligodang” at the Korean markets)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
- 1 whole danmuji (pickled radish) or 6 pre-cut long danmuji sticks for kimbap
- 6 long pieces Korean braised burdock root for kimbap
- 3 long strips of artificial crab meat (surimi in Japanese), cut in half lengthwise for a total of 6
- 3 cups cooked short-grain (sushi) rice, hot (see note)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22ml) sesame oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed roasted sesame seeds
- 6 square sheets gim (sold as nori in Japanese) for gimbap or sushi
Trim cucumber ends and cut it in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds from each half. Cut each half lengthwise into three long strips to make 6 strips total. Place cucumber strips on a plate, sprinkle all over with salt, and toss well to coat. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of salt. Lightly grease a 10-inch nonstick skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat until warmed but not sizzling hot. Add half the egg, swirling to cover entire bottom of pan and cook until egg has just set on top. Using a rubber spatula, carefully free the egg round and transfer to a work surface to cool. Lightly re-grease pan if needed and repeat with remaining egg. Wipe out skillet.
Slice egg lengthwise into thin strips. Set aside.
Rinse cucumber under cold running water, then pat dry with towels, squeezing gently to remove excess moisture. Using the same skillet, wipe it lightly with more vegetable oil and set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add cucumber and cook until just slightly softened, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
Add ham strips and cook, gently stirring and tossing, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Add the carrot to the skillet with a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring and tossing, until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes; if you need to add a little more oil to the pan, you can do so at any point. Set aside to cool.
Lower heat to medium. Add fishcake strips to skillet along with oligosaccharide syrup and soy sauce and cook, tossing and stirring, until fishcake has softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix rice with sesame oil, crushed sesame seeds, and 1 teaspoon salt. Divide rice into 6 even portions.
Set a kimbap/sushi rolling mat on a work surface. Set a sheet of nori on top of it. Wearing plastic gloves, place a portion of rice on the seaweed sheet and use both hands to spread it evenly all over, leaving about one or two inches of the sheet exposed at the top edge. Dot a few rice grains along the top edge (they will help it stick together later).
Arrange your fillings across the center of the rice: 1 cucumber stick, some egg strips, 1 ham strip, one-sixth of the carrot, some of the fishcake strips, 1 danmuji strip, 1 burdock strip, and 1 crab stick strip.
Roll the bamboo mat up and away from you, curling the seaweed sheet and rice around the fillings; use the fingers of both your hands to hold the filling in place as you roll with your thumbs. Secure the roll with the exposed flap of seaweed sheet. Once the roll is sealed, gently squeeze, pressing gently on the top and sides, to compress the roll slightly and seal the edge; if it doesn't seal well, you can also wet the seaweed at the seam to help it adhere.
Repeat with remaining seaweed sheets, rice, and fillings.
Lightly brush rolls with sesame oil and lightly rub a sharp knife blade with it as well. Set 2 rolls next to each other, then slice them both into 1/2 inch thick pieces (it's easier to cut through 2 rolls at once than it is to do one at a time).
Bamboo kimbap/sushi rolling mat, 10-inch nonstick skillet
Use a little less water than you’d use for regular mealtime rice. While my standard ratio is usually 1.2 parts water to 1 part rice by volume, I reduce the water to 1.1 parts per 1 part rice, or even a 1 part water to 1 part rice if the rice is more humid (often true of fresh rice). If you are using a pressure cooker or pressure rice cooker, go with a 1:1 ratio.
During the summer months, kimbap can go bad quickly, so I recommend replacing the rice seasoning above with a vinegar marinade which can be made with 1 part water, 1 part rice vinegar, 1 part of sugar, and 1/2 part of salt.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The kimbap are best eaten shortly after making them.