Home Made Kimbap! What is it and How To Make it!

In the west the most classic picnic food is the sandwich. However in South Korea the most popular and Classic picnic food is Kimbap. If you watch Korean TV series or you are accustomed to Korean colture you know what I am talking about. One of the latest K-Dramas we talked about, Record of Youth, features many scenes with Kimbap in it. If you’re not that familiar with Korean food and culture, let me explain. Also if you wish to skip directly to the recipe click here.

Kimbap in Record of Youth

What is Kimbap

Kimbap is a seaweed roll, filled with rice and at its center a filing. Differently from what is done in Japan no raw ingredients go into the preparation of Kimbap. And it doesn’t necessarily need to have fish in it. Which from my point of view makes it accessible to a larger number of people. For instance, Kimbap can have as a filling: carrot, cucumber, egg, radish (optional if not available) and a tuna-mayo paste. Alternatively it could have: carrot, cucumber, egg, radish and Korean stir fried beef.

Can You Make Kimbap?

Of course you can! No matter where you are in the world you will certainly find the ingredients you need to make at least the simplest of Kimbaps. I forgot to mention what the name means, it’s pretty easy. Kim (or 김 in Korean) means seaweed while bap (밥 in Korean) means rice, so put them together and you have 김밥 kimbap seaweed rice. So Just follow the recipe we use and I’m sure it’ll be a walk in the park for you to make your Kimbap too.

Our Recipe For Kimbap

The key to a successful kimbap starts from choosing the right rice. If you live in Europe, as we do, you might have come across the “Sushi-Daily” stands in various supermarkets. This rice is exactly like the typical Korean rice. Same flavour, same consistency, same stickyness. You’ll have to steam it, and once it’s cooked it will be sticky and ready for use.

Kimbap Rice we Buy in Italy
Kimbap Rice we Buy in Italy

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s step back to the ingredients used, and here they are:

  • Seaweed 4 layers
  • Steamed Rice 400g
  • Cucumber 1
  • Carrot 2-3 (depending on the size)
  • Eggs 3
  • Tuna 1 large can
  • Mayonnaise 2 table spoons
  • Sesame oil 1 or 2 table spoons (depending on your preference)
  • Salt 3 Tea spoons

Keep in mind we changed the recipe a little replacing some Korean ingredients which are difficult to come across in Italy. However this is a very simple yet delicious Kimbap recipe.


Step 1: Cutting The Vegetables

Cut the vegetables like in the image that follows. The carrot should be cut up into match size pieces. Because the cucumber contains a lot of water, if you cut it the same way as the carrot it might make it complicated to make the Kimbap. My wife came up with this solution. The cucumber is cut in slightly larger pieces so that it doesn’t lose all of its water while cutting it.

Chopped up Cucumber and Carrot for the roll
Chopped up Cucumber and Carrot for the roll

Step 2: Preparing The Rice

Of course the Kimbap will taste best with freshly steamed rice. We use, as many asian households a rice cooker, however if you don’t have one just steam the rice whichever way is most comfortable for you.

Once the rice is ready, then add the sesame oil to it with a teaspoon of salt. Mix it all up so that the flavour is well spread in the rice while it’s still warm.

Step 3: Cook The Carrots

Add some peanut oil (any frying oil will do) to a pan and add the carrots to cook them. Also add half a teaspoon of salt while they are cooking. Cook the carrots until they become softer but still are a little crunchy. They mustn’t become totally soft. When they’re ready place them in a plate on some kitchen paper towels, they will absorb any excess oil from the carrots. Let’s leave them aside for now and move onto the next step.

Cooking the carrot for a Kimbap dinner
Cooking the carrot for a Kimbap dinner

Step 4: Cook The Eggs

Using the same pan we used for the carrots let’s cook the eggs. Replenish the oil so that the egg won’t stick to the pan’s surface while cooking. Make sure you have added half a teaspoon of salt to the eggs while mixing them up. Place the egg mix in the pan a let cook. We’re aiming to make a round frittata shape as in the picture. Once it’s properly cooked on both sides, cut it in to strips 1 or 2 cm wide.

Step 5: Prepare the Tuna Paste

Use a fork to mash up the tuna while adding to it the two tablespoons of mayonnaise. Mix it all up until it becomes like a paste. Now all our ingredients are ready and we can get started rolling our Kimbap.

The tuna paste for Kimbap
The tuna paste for Kimbap

Rolling The Kimbap

If you have a bamboo rolling mat, it will definitely make the job easier. However do not dispare if you don’t just pay some extra caution while rolling the Kimbap by hand.

Step 6: Lay The Rice on The Seaweed

Get a layer of seaweed and lay it down on the rolling mat, or on a flat surface. Get a scoop of rice, more or less a baseball sized scoop, and lay it down on the seaweed. Now spread the rice across the surface of the seaweed as my wife did in the photo.

Laying down the rice in the Kimbap Preparation
Laying down the rice in the Kimbap Preparation

Step 7: Add The Filling Ingredients

It’s time to add the other ingredients. Just be careful with how much tuna paste you put in. If you put too much when you roll the kimbap it might overflow from the sides, causing a bit of a messy situation. Now this is when you can make the kimbap really look pretty. The way you lay down the ingredients will make the Kimbap look different when cutting it into rounds. Our advice, add enough carrot to give it some extra color.

Last Step of The Kimbap Preparation
Last Step of The Kimbap Preparation

Step 8: Roll The Kimbap

Start rolling the Kimbap from the closest to the farthest end from you. Once you have rolled all the filling ingredients give it a gentle squeeze to consolidate it all. Then continue rolling until you reach the end of the seaweed and you have a beautifully round roll. Repeat this for all the layers of seaweed. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time, it’s normal. Practice makes perfect Kimbap! 🙂

Step 9: Cutting The Kimbap

Now this is probably the trickiest part of the entire process. Make sure you have a very sharp knife or the kimbap will fall to pieces while cutting it. Get the rolls one by one, place them on a cutting board. Slice the rolls into 1.5 cm rounds. Make sure to cut with a clean slicing motion to avoid all your hard work falling to bits just before eating it!

Close up shot of the Sliced Kimbap
Close up shot of the Sliced Kimbap

Some Extra Information

We usually have the Kimbap with a side of Kimchi, when we are able to find it, or some pickles. Also sometimes we have it combined with some ramen (often Shin-ramen). If you do so, then try dipping the kimbap in the soup and then eat it up, it’ll taste surprisingly good. At least it surprised me.

Another tip, if you are in a hurry and don’t feel like preparing all the filling there is a simpler option. You could replace the vegetables and egg with just pickled gherkins. It’s not as pretty a kimbap to see but it’ll still be pretty tasty and ejoyable.

Sliced Kimbap in a Plate Ready for Dinner
Sliced Kimbap in a Plate Ready for Dinner