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This post was created in partnership with the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation. Okay so I’ve got a super fun take on another traditional Korean dish for you today which, like my Spicy (Tinned) Sushi Rolls is great if you want to experiment with making your own Asian-style rice rolls at home, but you don’t want to be messing around with raw fish: Vegetarian Kimbap.
Kimbap is Korea’s answer to the classic sushi roll. Made in very much the same way with a whole host of different fillings, my kimbap recipe is what you want to bookmark for your next kitchen project (they’re also great to make for packed lunches at the weekend to enjoy once you’re back in the office!)
Best of all, while sushi is an art that can take years to master, kimbap is classic Korean home cooking where there are very few wrong answers once you’ve mastered the basic roll.
What is the difference between kimbap and sushi?
The main difference between kimbap and sushi is that kimbap very rarely includes raw fish, it is instead usually a mix of cooked meats, veggies, egg and pickles. Most Korean families will have their own version, but it is also a delicious way to use up leftovers. Obviously because this is a recipe for vegetarian kimbap, it just contains veggies, kimchee and egg.
Another big difference is the rice is flavoured not with rice wine vinegar, but with toasted sesame oil instead. The sesame flavour is a very important element of kimbap – while you could use Japanese nori seaweed sheets which are darker and more even, I urge you to seek out gim, aka Korean nori which has a more prominent flavour, is a lighter green in colour, and is seasoned with sesame. Sometimes you’ll find kimbap recipes called ‘gimbap’: ‘gim’ means seaweed, and ‘bap’ is Korean for rice.
You can buy Korean seaweed sheets on Amazon, but they’re actually better value if you go to a specialist store. If you don’t have an Asian grocery store near you, I’m a massive Sous Chef fan and they sell them, as well as sushi mats to roll your kimbap (though I explain how to roll sushi which is the same science using a piece of greaseproof paper and a clean tea towel here). You can also order the sheets from OrientalMart.
What sort of rice do I need to make kimbap?
Traditional kimbap recipes are made with Korean short grain white rice, but for rice roll beginners Japanese-style sushi rice is easier to work with. To create a texture more like you’d find in traditional kimbap made in Korean homes I use a 50/50 mix of sushi rice and jasmine rice, but you can use just sushi rice if you’d prefer.
Can I try different fillings in my vegetarian kimbap?
Yes, you totally can get creative with your kimbap fillings. As well as the fillings I’ve included typically you’ll also find Korean pickled radish, cooked spinach (find my recipe for it over at BBC Food), sometimes some imitation crab meat, and often cooked meat, either marinated beef, or Korean luncheon meat or spam. If you have any leftovers from making my Slow Cooker Korean Chicken, that would taste delicious in a kimbap roll too! Pretty much anything that might appear as banchan – those little plates of pickles and veg you get in a Korean restaurant and are pretty essential to any good Korean meal – is game to be turned into kimbap! What is important is you have some sort of veggie element, multiple fillings, and something with a pickled element to cut through the richness of the sesame oil: either pickles or kimchee I find are the best options, but sushi ginger would also work in a pinch!
While I love egg ribbons too much to leave them out, you can just use veggies and make sure you’re using a vegan kimchee (some versions include fish) to make your kimbap vegan.
Sprinkling toasted sesame seeds inside the kimbap rolls is my own little twist to boost the sesame flavour. Any toasted sesame seed will do, just use whatever you’ve got to hand!
These easy vegetarian kimbap rolls are Korea’s answer to sushi, filled with your choice of vegetables, egg ribbons, kimchee and flavoured with sesame. Kimbap is perfect for filling lunchboxes or for taking on picnics!
For the Kimbap
125g (4.5 oz) sushi rice
125g (4.5 oz) jasmine rice
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil, plus extra for assembly
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 sheets Korean nori seaweed sheets
For the Fillings
1 large carrot
6 thin asparagus spears
1/4 English cucumber
3 tbsp kimchee
toasted sesame seeds
Measure the rice into a small lidded saucepan with 350ml (1 1/3 cups) cold water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Clap on the lid and leave to simmer on the heat for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, making sure to keep the lid on. Leave to steam with the lid on for 15 minutes.
Using a metal spoon, fold the salt and toasted sesame oil into the rice and set aside, lid off, to cool.
Next, make the fillings. Beat the egg with a little salt. Heat a small non-stick frying pan with a splash of oil over a medium high heat. Cook the egg in a single layer for 2-3 minutes on each side before sliding out of the pan to cool. Slice into thin ribbons.
Meanwhile, peel and slice the carrot into very thin battons, and snap the woody ends off of the asparagus.
Add a little more oil to the pan and add the carrot, turning the heat up to high. Cook for a few minutes until the carrot is soft but still has a little bite, and is slightly charred. Set aside, then repeat with the asparagus. Slice the cucumber into batons; don’t worry about peeling it!
To assemble the kimbap, lay a seaweed sheet shiny side down on a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Using a bamboo sushi paddle or wet fingers press 1/3 of the rice into the sheet leaving about 2cm clear at the edge furthest from you.
Lay 1/3 of each of the fillings down the middle of the rice, and sprinkle with a generous amount of sesame seeds.
Starting at the edge of the kimbap nearest you and using the sushi mat to guide you tightly roll the kimbap away from you, making sure not to roll the mat into the roll. Allow the kimbap to fall out of the mat and leave it to rest, seam side down until you have repeated the steps with the other two seaweed sheets and the rest of the filling.
Transfer the kimbap rolls to a cutting board. Brush a very sharp knife with a little more toasted sesame oil before slicing, adding a little more to the knife between each roll.
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One Pan Pescatarian: 100 Delicious Dinners – Veggie, Vegan, Fish
My second cookbook contains 100 delicious dinner recipes, all of which are either vegetarian, vegan or which celebrate fish and seafood - all cooked in either one pot or one pan.*