Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)
Kimbap, also known as Gimbap, is a traditional Korean seaweed rice roll that consists of rice, vegetables, and seaweed. This recipe with step-by-step video tutorial provides an easy way to make the flavorful Korean rice dish, perfect for a quick meal-on-the-go or outdoor event.
Every time I visit a Korean store, I can’t help but grab some store-made kimbap (김밥) – those delightful Korean seaweed rice rolls – for a quick snack on my drive home. Yet, more often than not, I end up wishing I had made them myself.
The taste of homemade kimbap is incomparably better. While it does take a bit of time and effort to prepare them at home, the process isn’t as difficult as it might seem. And it’s fun to make.
I’m excited to share my personal kimbap recipe with you, a cherished family secret handed down from my mother. Her kimbap was famous in our small South Korean town, often winning the first prize for the kimbap taste contest at school picnics.
The secret to its deliciousness is something I’m eager to reveal in this post. I hope you’ll give it a try and find it as enjoyable as I have throughout the years.
What is Kimbap?
Kimbap, also spelled as gimbap, is a popular Korean dish that means “seaweed and rice.” These rice rolls are often enjoyed as a quick meal-on-the-go or snack that you see in many shops around bus or train station.
It involves rolling rice in a seaweed sheet and adding various fillings. The fillings can be almost anything you like, ranging from tuna, kimchi, chicken, shrimp, spicy pork, to bulgogi. Tuna kimbap and bulgogi kimbap are the popular variations.
You can stick to classic fillings like pickled radish, imitation crab, ham, braised burdock root, egg, carrot, fishcake, and cucumber. Or, get creative and use whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen for a modern twist.
While these seaweed rice rolls might look like it takes a lot of work because of the different ingredients you need to prepare, it’s actually not too hard to make. Plus, it’s an affordable, fulfilling dish that looks great, making it perfect for parties or as finger food.
Kimbap vs Sushi
While kimbap and sushi may appear similar at first glance, they have distinct differences. Kimbap, a traditional Korean dish, combines rice and seaweed with a variety of fillings such as vegetables, meat, or fish. The rice is seasoned with sesame oil and sometimes a bit of sugar, giving it a unique flavor.
Sushi, on the other hand, is a Japanese dish. It also uses rice and seaweed, but the rice is seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Sushi often includes raw fish, unlike kimbap which usually has cooked or pickled ingredients.
Dried Seaweed Sheets (Gim)
When you’re at a Korean grocery store, you’ll see different kinds of seaweed. You need to pick the right type: look for dark, dense, and roasted seaweed sheets, known as Gim (김) or nori sheet. These sheets are perfect for rolling Korean rice rolls.
When choosing seaweed sheets, avoid any that have red or purple spots. This color change means the seaweed is old and might not taste good anymore.
After you open a pack of seaweed, it’s a good idea to store any leftovers in the freezer. This helps keep the seaweed fresh for longer. Seaweed can spoil quickly if it’s left out in light or damp places.
When making Korean rice rolls, it’s best to use short or medium grain white rice. This type of rice is stickier than long grain rice, which helps it stick to the seaweed sheets better. For the perfect texture, cook the rice with a little less water than you normally would.
There are two popular ways to season the rice:
- Sesame Oil and Salt: This is a common choice. It gives the rice a nice flavor that goes well with the other ingredients.
- Korean plum extract (mashil chung, 매실청) and Salt: If you’re not keen on the strong smell of sesame oil, try using Korean plum extract. It adds a different but delicious taste.
Personally, my mother always used Korean plum extract for the rice seasoning, and everyone loved it.
Korean seaweed roll fillings offer a wide range of options to choose from. Here are some popular options for you to consider:
- For vegetables: spinach, carrot, cucumber, Asian chives, watercress, perilla leaves, lettuce
- For pickled vegetables: radish pickles, cucumber pickles, jalapeno pickles, burdock roots
- For proteins: egg, canned tuna, beef, ham, bacon, pork or pork belly, shrimp tempura, seasoned anchovies, spicy shredded squid
- Other fillings: fishcakes, imitation crab meats, and etc
- Depending on the ingredients you choose, you can make your seaweed rice rolls vegan or vegetarian-friendly.
My Best Tips
- Use Freshly Cooked Rice: It’s best to make kimbap with rice that’s just been cooked. Keep the rice a bit warm until you’re ready to roll.
- Season Each Filling Lightly: Be careful with the seasoning, especially with ingredients like pickled radish and burdock roots, as they are already salty.
- Prevent Rice from Sticking: Before spreading rice on the seaweed, dampen your fingers with water or sesame oil. This stops the rice from sticking to your hands.
- Keeping a small bowl of water or sesame oil nearby is really helpful.
- Cut with a Sharp Knife: Use a sharp knife to cut your rice rolls. Aim for a smooth, single motion for each slice.
- Apply a little oil to the blade of your knife using a brush before slicing the seaweed rolls to prevent it from sticking to the knife.
- For a Neat Look: To give a tidy and appealing look, use an extra half-sheet of seaweed over the rice before adding the filling.
- This creates a clear border between the filling and the rice, enhancing the appearance.
How to make Kimbap
This recipe uses classic filling ingredients like spinach, carrot, egg, imitation crab meat, fish cake sheets, braised burdock roots, and radish pickles.
Step 1. Season the rice
- Drizzle Korean plum extract and a few pinches of salt over freshly cooked rice. Mix it well.
- Cover the rice with a kitchen towel and let it cool down slightly.
Step 2. Prep the fillings
- For convenience, use store-bought radish pickles and burdock roots, available at Korean grocery stores. Drain them well before use.
- Unwrap the imitation crab meat and keep it ready.
- Egg: Roll up the cooked egg and cut into thin slices.
- Carrot: Cook shredded carrot with a bit of oil and salt until crisp yet tender.
- Fishcake: Cut the fishcake sheets into thin slices and stir-fry in a soy sauce, sugar, rice wine mixture.
- Spinach: Season blanched spinach with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
How to Roll Kimbap
Rolling kimbap might seem tricky at first, especially if you’re new to it. But with a bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Beginners should use a bamboo mat for easier rolling, though experts can do it without one.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started. Also, my recipe video below will help visualize the process:
Step 1: Set up your filling station
- Get all your ingredients ready and organized in one place.
- Cut three seaweed sheets in half and keep them ready.
Step 2. Spread rice and arrange the fillings
- Place a full seaweed sheet with the shiny side down (rough side up) and the longer side facing you on a bamboo mat.
- Evenly spread about 1 cup of rice on the seaweed, leaving an inch free at the far end.
- In the middle of the rice, place a half sheet of seaweed. Arrange your fillings on this half sheet, creating a nice color contrast.
Step 3. Roll with bamboo mat
- Lift the edge of the bamboo mat closest to you, rolling it over the fillings. Use your fingers to keep the fillings in place.
- Apply firm pressure as you roll, gradually unrolling the mat until the roll is complete.
Step 4. Slice the roll
- Your roll should be even in thickness.
- Place the roll seam-side down on a plate while you make more.
- Slice the roll into 1/2 inch thick pieces using a sharp knife.
Kimbap tastes best when eaten fresh, ideally on the same day it’s made. You can keep it at room temperature for a few hours, but it’s not a good idea to store it in the fridge for too long. The taste can change and it might not be as nice to eat.
If you need to store leftover kimbap for a longer time, freezing is a better option. Here’s how to do it:
- Cut the roll into individual slices.
- Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil – one roll per wrap, similar to how frozen kimbap is sold at stores like Trader Joe’s.
- Put the wrapped rolls in a freezer-safe bag or container.
- To eat the frozen seaweed rice rolls, let it thaw at room temperature for up to an hour.
Just remember, the texture of the rice and some fillings might be a bit different after freezing and thawing. The seaweed might not be as crisp either. But it’s still a great way to enjoy later on!
Watch full Recipe Video
More Rice Dishes
Turn your boring leftover rice to make a delicious main dish. Try these favorite Korean rice recipes that people love.
- Bibimbap (Korean Rice Bowl with Beef and Vegetable)
- Rice balls (Leftover Rice Recipe)
- Egg fried rice
- Kimchi Fried Rice with Bacon
Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)
For the rice
- 2 cups (480 ml, about 450 g) uncooked short grain white rice
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water
- 2 tbsp Korean plum extract (maeshil cheong)
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling ingredients
- 6 strips pickled radish (danmuji), 1/2 inch thick, drained
- 6-12 strips braised burdock root (Oeong), drained
- 6 strips imitation crab meat
- 2 tbsp oil, divided
- 10 oz (283 g) package shredded carrot
- 2 tbsp water
- 4 eggs, beaten
For the fishcake
- For the rice: Rinse rice several times and drain. Soak rice in 2 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Cook rice until soft. Put hot rice in a large mixing bowl, add plum extract and salt; toss well. Cover rice with a kitchen towel and set aside to cool.
- For the egg: Beat eggs and cook in a skillet in 3 batches. Roll them up and slice thinly
- For the carrot: cook shredded carrot in a little oil over medium high heat with some salt. Add 2 tbsp of water to create a steam and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes until crisp but tender.
- For the fishcake: slice fishcake sheets thinly and stir-fry in a little oil for 1 minute over medium high heat. Mix together soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine in a bowl, and add the mixture to the fishcake. Continue to stir-fry for another minute.
- For the spinach: blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water with some salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the excess water. Place the spianch in a mixing bowl and season with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Toss well.
To assemble Kimbap
- Cut 3 sheets of seaweed in half and set aside.
- Place a full sheet of seaweed, shiny side down, longer side toward you, on a bamboo rolling mat. Spread about 1 cup of rice (1/6 amount) evenly on the seaweed leaving 1 inch of space at the end. Lay a half seaweed sheet in the middle of rice.
- Put filling ingredients on top of the half seaweed sheet in a contrasting color pattern.
- Lift the entire end of mat from your side with both hands, roll over to cover the fillings, tucking in the filling with your fingers. Put firm pressure on the roll and continue to roll again as you roll away the mat until it reaches to the end.
- Place the finished kimbap on a platter, seam side down, while you are making another. Cut kimbap into 1/2 inch thick slices with a sharp knife.
- If you want to season rice with sesame oil, toss rice with 1 tbsp sesame oil and 1/2 tsp salt.
- If you want to season rice with vinegar mixture; whisk together 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 salt in a small mixing bowl. Microwave for 1 minute until sugar dissolves. Pour into rice and toss well.