January 13, 2012

Gimbap (김밥)

Once in a long while, among the dozens of sweet treats and savory concoctions that I chat about on this blog, there comes a dish that I feel extra-super-duper excited to talk about.

Gimbap is one of those dishes.

The quickest and easiest way to explain Gimbap (pronounced “gheem-bahp”) to the uninitiated is to call it the Korean version of sushi. Note that I say that's the quickest and easiest explanation--Gimbap is another dish entirely. Dried seaweed, topped with steamed, short-grain rice, and plenty of yummy fillings are all wrapped up into a tight roll. Following these basic guidelines, you can tailor Gimbap into whatever sort of dish you want. Typically, Gimbap is filled with julienned carrot, sautéed spinach, and pickled daikon radish. After these basic cornerstones, anything goes! Add meats, cheeses, other veggies, kimchi—whatever sounds good. Gimbap falls into that glorious realm of recipes that allow you to completely clean out your fridge as well as experiment with a lot creativity.

What follows is my personal version of Gimbap, so I encourage you to use it as merely an example and a guideline as you find you own way down this yellow brick road of deliciousness.

First, seaweed on plastic wrap on a sushi mat.
Plastic wrap alone will definitely suffice if you don’t have a sushi mat.

Sticky, yummy sushi rice.

Thin slices of Pepper Jack cheese, for a tiny bit of jalapeño spice.

Thin strips of Spam.

Yes, Spam.

Do not fear the Spam.

It's delicious.

Thin strips of a simple, slightly sweet omelet.

Julienned carrots.

Also known as matchsticks, but I’m snooty so I say “julienne.”

Super flavorful spinach sautéed with a bit of garlic and sesame oil.

Enter the Kewpie mayonnaise!

This mayonnaise from Japan makes everything just a little more fun. 

kewpie mayonnaise
But Kewpie mayonnaise comes in a squirt bottle, which in my eyes makes it infintely superior to the jarred stuff. Not to mention that it's super yummy.

Dot the filling with Sriracha sauce (substitute whatever favorite sauces and spicy things you like).

Moving from the side closest to you, begin to roll the mat and seaweed away from you…

gimbap roll
…adjusting the placement of the mat as you go until all the filling has been rolled up.

gimbap roll 2
gimbap roll 3
Dip a knife blade in water and use a gentle sawing motion to cut the Gimbap, so as to not tear the seaweed.

gimbap cut
Line it up for a photo of the fillings before nomming away.

gimbap 2
And enjoy!!

gimbap 3

Gimbap (김밥)
Recipe adapted from The Kimchi Chronicles and Serious Eats
Printable Recipe

4 sheets dried seaweed (gim or nori)
2 cups warm cooked short-grain rice (sometimes labeled as “sushi rice”)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 thin egg omelets (see instructions below)
1/2 cup sautéed spinach (see instructions below)
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
4 thin slices Pepper Jack cheese (or any other deli cheese you prefer)
4 slices Spam, cut into thin strips
Kewpie mayonnaise (can substitute regular mayonnaise or Miracle Whip), to taste
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste

Thin Egg Omelet
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sautéed Spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups baby spinach, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt

To prepare Thin Egg Omelet: In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Whisk the eggs with the salt and sugar until well combined. Once the skillet is hot, add half of the egg mixture to pan, quickly swirling the egg to coat the bottom of the pan, much like a crepe. Once the egg is opaque, flip once and allow to cook for another minute or so. Repeat with the rest of the egg mixture. Once cooled, cut omelets into thin slices. Set aside.

To prepare Sautéed Spinach: In a medium pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute, until fragrant but not browned. Add the spinach, sesame oil, and salt, stirring well to combine. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until the spinach is wilted and tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare Gimbap: Lay one piece of seaweed on a piece of plastic wrap and place on a sushi mat (you can also do this without a sushi mat). Mix the warm rice with the salt, sugar, and vinegar, stirring well to combine. Spread one fourth of that mixture on the piece of seaweed, leaving a 1/2-inch border of seaweed on all sides. About one third down the seaweed, arrange one fourth of the cheese, Spam, omelet, sautéed spinach, and carrot in an overlapping line across the width of the seaweed. Squirt a thin line of Kewpie mayonnaise across the width of the line of fillings or spread with regular mayonnaise, to taste. Dot the top of the filling with Sriracha sauce, again according to taste.

Slowly start rolling the seaweed from the side closest to you, using the sushi mat to help pack the fillings into a tight roll. Remove the Gimbap from the sushi mat and unwrap from the plastic wrap. Repeat this whole process with the remaining three pieces of seaweed and remaining ingredients.

Using a sharp knife, dip the blade in water so the Gimbap won’t stick. Gently slice each roll into 1/2-inch rounds, moving the knife in a slight sawing motion so as to not shift the seaweed, continuing to dip the knife blade in water occasionally to prevent sticking.

Gimbap can be served any way that you would enjoy sushi, with any number of condiments, from dipping in soy sauce to topping with kimchi, to anything else that sounds good to you.

Serves 4.


  1. I never would have called Kewpie mayo a mix of regular mayo and Miracle Whip but there is some serious magic in that stuff that makes is verry different from regular mayo!

    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Wow, this looks incredible!
    I love all the flavors...especially the egg. How fun! I have always wanted to make sushi but maybe I'll make this as my first attempt.

  3. @Anon: Really? That's so interesting. I guess for me what brought that combination to mind was the thicker, mayo texture of Kewpie, as well as the fact that it's got a lot more flavor than regular mayonnaise. Maybe I'll just have to do some more taste testing? :D

    @Kristen: Thanks! I'd definitely recommend giving this a try. Those thin omelets are seriously addictive!

  4. Mmmm sushi. I have yet to try this style with the eggs and spam. I should, seeing as it's a lot easier than dealing with raw fish.

    Glad to see someone else not scared of spam. It's not that bad when used right.

    And your nails look lovely :)

  5. I am impressed! This looks like professional sushi... I bet it's delicious, too!

  6. Beautiful! Have never really had spam before but trust your judgement.

    I LOVE that mayonnaise :)

  7. What kind of nail polish is that? I love it!

  8. @Amanda: Thank you! And yes, there are definitely times when spam is the way to go. :D

    @danasfoodforthought: Thanks!

    @hungryandfrozen: Definitely go for the spam. It can be yummy stuff!

    @Anon: Thanks! It's called "Turquoise and Caicos" by Essie. You can find it at Target. :)

  9. 1. OMG, I love Spam. Maybe it's b/c I'm filipina, but seriously. You give me a can and I am a happy camper. ;)

    2. Kewpie. WANT. WANT. WANT.

    3. I need to try your Gimbap. I think I would really like it.

    4. I love your nail polish. What brand and color is it? (If you don't mind my asking...)

  10. Ran across your blog through Kimchi Chronicles. I read a bit about how you wanted to eat kimchi and kimbap at the same time. Oh yes you can my friend. This is a snack my mom would make me. Saute kimchi and wrap it up like kimbop. Don't even bother cutting it. Just take a bite off the whole roll!


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