Kimbap is a Korean staple food consisting of steamed rice rolled up in a nori wrapper (dried seaweed), usually along with vegetables and/or some kind of protein. I learned about it during my travels to Korea several years ago, but only recently did I try to make it. Of course, it resembles what many of us refer to as sushi rolls, and they are very similar. My understanding is that traditional Japanese sushi involves dressing the rice with vinegar before rolling it, but kimbap does not have this characteristic.
Below: A completed plate of kimbap, with a roll ready to be sliced lying on a bamboo mat.
In Korean, “kim” is the word for the nori and “bap” is the word for rice. Hence, the term “kimbap” is the word for this dish. SImple!
Bibimbap is another increasingly popular Korean dish which uses the word “bap” because, you guessed it, it has rice in it (as many Korean dishes do).
Below: Kimbap with wasabi, a Japanese ingredient.
Koreans would not generally appreciate kimbap being compared to Japanese sushi, as the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Japanese in the early to mid 1900s, oppressing them economically and culturally during that time. Wikipedia even states that Japan sought to “erase the Korean culture and language.”
Wasabi is a plant, the root of which is ground up to form the green, spicy, mustardy, horseradishy heat that accompanies sushi and kimbap so well. Difficult to cultivate, it commands a high relative price, on a weight basis, so the wasabi we usually encounter outside of Japan is made of a horseradish and mustard blend, which yields a similar taste. Note to self – try and procure some genuine wasabi from a niche grocer in town.
For more info, check out this link showing real and fake wasabi images on Facebook.
Below: Mixing wasabi powder.
Below: This powder, sold by Eden Foods, is mostly horseradish and mustard, with only some real wasabi, most likely for color. Still, it tastes good to my virgin tongue!
The kim (nori) does have a good amount of vitamins packed into it, and especially if you use brown rice, you’re getting fiber, protein, and a number of vitamins and minerals there. If you begin to add fillings such as carrots, cucumbers, or herbs, you are enriching your kimbap even further. Kimbap is low in fat and lower in caloric density since it is minimally processed. I suggest eating with chopsticks and savoring each bite, which encourages slower eating and allows the fullness sensors in your stomach to register the presence of food, helping you eat fewer calories and minimizing overeating.
Below: The kim, or nori, begins to crinkle upon contact with the hot, steaming rice. The kim is so dry that the moisture immediately has an impact. Because of it’s susceptibility to moisture, Kim must be kept very dry in its packaging, which is why it is packed with those little “do not eat” silica gel packets which help absorb any moisture which may find it’s way into the kim package. As a filling, I’m using crispy and sweet farmer’s market carrots.
Below: The kim takes on a stretchy quality due to the moisture from the rice. It is no longer brittle – which is good, because it would have been very hard to roll in its dried-out packaged state, and harder to cut, as well.