Bulgogi Kimbap (Korean Rice Rolls)

Bulgogi Kimbap (Korean Rice Rolls)
Bulgogi kimbap, served with slices of danmuji, Korean yellow pickled daikon radish. (Judy Joo)

Bulgogi Kimbap (Korean Rice Rolls)

My mom used to make me these bite sized Korean seaweed rice rolls for my lunchbox.  They’re the perfect snack for on the go, and easy to eat on picnics and on road trips. Use any kind of protein that you like: seafood, pork, chicken, tofu, cheese, etc.

Makes 4 rolls

For the Rice
  • 2 cups uncooked short-grain Korean or Japanese rice
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Filling
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 large carrots, julienned
  • 15 ounces spinach
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water and a generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 large cucumbers, seeded and julienned
  • 6 ounces sweet yellow pickled radish (danmuji), julienned (or buy the pre-cut strips)
  • 6 ounces braised burdock, julienned (or buy the pre-cut strips)
  • 1 pound cooked beef bulgogi, sauce drained (reserve for another use—you can simply drizzle it over rice and eat with kimchi!)
To Assemble
  • 4 sheets dried seaweed (kim/nori)
For the Rice 

Cook the rice according to the package instructions. While still warm, mix in the sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt. Set aside.

For the Filling

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mirin, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and salt to taste. Set dressing aside.

Sauté the carrots: Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and drizzle with oil. Lightly sauté the carrots until just softened, adding a little water if necessary; do not brown them. Remove from heat, drain, and toss with half of the dressing.

Blanch the spinach: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and prepare an ice water bath. Salt the boiling water, then blanch the spinach until just wilted. Immediately transfer to the ice water bath, then drain well and squeeze out any excess water. Toss with the remaining half of the dressing.

Cook the egg: Drizzle a non-stick skillet with oil and heat over low heat. Tip in the beaten eggs and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is set. Flip, keeping the egg pancake intact. Do not brown the egg. Once cooked, transfer to a cutting board and cut into long strips, about 1/2-inch thick.

To Assemble

To roll the kimbap, prepare a bamboo rolling mat and a small bowl of water. Have your rice and all your fillings nearby.

Place a sheet of seaweed (shiny side down, and longer side across) on the bamboo mat and wet your fingertips in the water. Scoop about 3/4 cup of rice onto the seaweed and use your fingers to spread it out in an even layer, all the way to the edges of the seaweed.

Lay the spinach, carrots, cucumber, pickled radish, burdock, egg strips, and bulgogi across the rice layer, starting at about an inch from the bottom (the edge closest to you), in long horizontal stripes. Each ingredient stripe should be roughly 1/4-inch thick (but you can put more of the bulgogi). Pile them on top of each other in a loose pyramid shape, and try to place contrasting colors next to each other. Keep each ingredient together while rolling.

Using both hands, grab the bottom of the bamboo mat and use it to lift the bottom edge of the roll. Roll it up and away from you, tucking in the ingredients tightly with your fingers. Use the bamboo mat to apply firm, even pressure, and keep rolling upwards until the end. Press firmly across the finished roll to seal.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 4 rolls in total.

Brush toasted sesame oil on top of each roll and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Carefully oil a long, sharp knife (to prevent it from sticking to the rice) and cut the rolls into 1/2-inch pieces.

Serve immediately, alongside a sliced danmuji (pickled radish), or pack in an airtight container for a picnic.

If not eating immediately, do not cut the rolls. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Kimbap can be made a day in advance. Allow to come to room temperature before slicing and eating.

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