What would someone who is interested in Korean culture do with a free weekend and a whole bunch of Korean ingredients? Make some delicious food of course!
But where to start with so many dishes to choose from? Having had a craving for kimbap for a while, I decided this would be as good a dish as any. Plus, I have made it before so know can make it fumble my way through the process.
If you want to make kimbap, read this and learn from my mistakes! This isn’t really a recipe, more of a general guide and hopefully you can pick up a few helpful tips and ideas.
I ended up with about 7 rolls from my ingredients, which were…
2 cups of rice
7 sticks of danmuji
About 4 grated carrots
6 vege sausages
2 pieces of odeng
Pack of kim
Sesame oil, salt/pepper
First off, make sure you have a lot of time. Making kimbap isn’t necessarily hard, you just need a lot of preparation time. I would also advise not to have hungry family members around pestering you about when it will be ready – this makes you skip corners and produce rice that’s not very good.
I’ve never been good at cooking rice anyway, and probably should have done some googling on he subject. Instead I just read the packet instructions. However, I think I must have not washed the rice for long enough, or added too much water when cooking, as it turned out too mushy and smelt quite a lot like rice pudding, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but not what I need for kimbap. If anyone has tips for how to cook rice for kimbap, please say!
My other rice mistake was not waiting until it was totally cooled before rolling the kimbap, I just didn’t have the time. I also think I didn’t season it enough with sesame oil. In general, my rice was pretty rubbish.
Won Bin, you must teach me how to make good rice with your lovely rice cooker! I can come to your house, or you can come over to mine, whatever’s best for you.
While my rice was cooling, I started preparing the fillings. Odeng, or fish cakes, are basically pureed white fish like pollack, which are then shaped. You’ll see these in tteokbokki and many other Korean dishes. I got these from Centre Point food store in London. I can’t remember exactly, but they were around £2.50, and there are about 5 slices in each pack. I fried two of them until cooked, which doesn’t take too long as they’re quite thin. After that, I sliced them length ways.
Along with the odeng, I fried 4 eggs, folded them, let them cool and then sliced them. Koreans often add spam into kimbap. I don’t know where this Spam love originates from, but in the UK when Spam is mentioned, I just think of food rationing and the 1940s. However, it’s tastier than you might think or remember. I didn’t use Spam as my family’s not a fan, so used vege sausages instead (I know, poor substitution).
Any kimbap aficionado will tell you that no kimbap is complete until there is danmuji in it! Danmuji is yellow pickled radish. It’s slightly sweet, and had a great crunchy texture. I bought the ready sliced (lazy) option from Centre Point foods. The whole pickled radish is more expensive and really big. This size is good if you think you’ll have too much left over from a whole radish and have no idea what to do with it.
For the other vegetable components, I steamed spinach (a 400g bag), and fried grated carrots. These were then seasoned with sesame oil. Be sure you squeeze all the water out of the spinach. I don’t think I managed to drain all the water out of the spinach and season it well enough as something in my kimbap was a bit soggy (could have been the rice that was a bit too ‘wet’ too).
After getting the fillings ready, it was time for assembling! This was the kim (otherwise known as laver/nori/seaweed sheet) I used. It was very thin and when I rolled it, it split quite easily so I had to be very gentle. The time before when I made kimbap, I used Clearspring brand kim which was much stronger and I could be more heavy handed with it. A handy technique when putting your rice on the kim is to place the rice on the kim dotted about, and then to press the rice down.
Pile your fillings near the the bottom, and then you’re ready to roll! (Ba dum tiss) When you begin rolling, make sure to roll the kim over the fillings and give it a bit of a squeeze to sort of secure everything together. Continuing rolling and squeezing to make sure everything sticks together and is a suitable size.
When you get to the end of rolling, wrap up your rolling mat too, and squeeze it one last time.
When you’re ready to cut your kimbap, make sure your knife is sharp, VERY sharp. I didn’t bother to check mine before I started cutting and ended up butchering about half a roll of kimbap because the knife wasn’t cutting through the kim and ended up mushing and tearing the roll.
Something went wrong with the rice. Not disastrously so, it was just a bit soggy maybe, and I don’t think I seasoned it well enough. The spinach was a still a bit too wet too, and this coupled with the rice made the kimbap taste a little bland. I think on my first few rolls, my rice to filling ratio was off and I had too much rice. I would definitely advise making extra filling than you think you’ll need. Especially if you have people in the area when making this, you will find that your fillings suspiciously keep disappearing whenever you turn your back. Last time, I used a tuna mayo filling too, and wish I’d used that this time. I did enjoy them, and they were eaten pretty quickly, and I know now what I need to change for the next time. Looking at the pictures as I make this post, I want to eat kimbap again, time for round three?
I give myself….