By far the most popular picnic menu item in Korea is kimbap, rice seasoned with nutty sesame oil then wrapped in laver (김 - gim/kim) with assorted ingredients that usually include danmuji (단무지 - Sweet Radish Pickle), carrots, and egg, but in the end, only limited by your imagination.
Even without an excuse of a picnic, kimbap of all sizes and kinds are everywhere in Korea, it so gives off the air of deceivingly simple dish. Simple in eating for sure, but, like the illusive simplicity of making bibimbap, making kimbap from scratch is not a task to be taken on at the last minute.
For those who want to try a simpler-to-make (within reason) and cuter-in-looks (yes, definitely) version of this Korean picnic favorite, I suggest this kiddie kimbap called ggoma gimbap (꼬마김밥) that has a nickname of mayak gimbap (마약 김밥). Mayak means drugs in Korean, implying that it's so addictive that you can't stop reaching for it. You can easily find this skinny kimbap sold in street carts and markets such as Gwangjang Market (광장 시장) in Korea, but lacking that option, you can also make it at home. They are so cute and small, you won't even realize how much you're eating until it's all gone.
To make about 24 rolls (2~3 portions) of kiddie kimbap -
2 C boiled short grain rice a.k.a. sushi rice*
2 C mix of boiled short grain rice and black rice*
4 T toasted sesame oil
4 T rice vinegar
4 T sesame seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 t salt
5 stems scallions, cut to 2 inch length and julienned
1 C shredded carrots (2~3 thin carrots)
24 thin sticks of danmuji, available at Korean grocery stores or make your own (see below for link)
vegetable oil, salt and pepper to sauté vegetables
6 sheets of laver (김 - gim/kim), cut to 4 equal squares available as sushi nori in grocery stores
For dipping sauce, mix together 2 T Dijon mustard and 1 T honey
*Cooking short-grain rice on a stovetop
This deserves a separate post, but here is a quick rundown if anyone wants to start from scratch. Soak 1/4C black rice in cold water (2x the volume of rice) for an hour or longer. Soak 1 3/4C white short grain rice (2x the volume of rice) in cold water for 30 minutes to an hour, until rice grains turn opaque.
Grease two pots, each with a size that can hold about 2.5C of rice, by drizzling a few drops of vegetable oil and wiping with papertowel. Although not necessary, greasing the pots will help you with easier cleaning after you take out the cooked rice. Mix 3/4C of white rice with black rice along with soaked water and add to a pot. Leave water only about to 1/4 inch above the surface of rice and discard the rest of water. Put the rest of white rice (1C) in a separate pot, again with water only up to 1/4 inch above the surface of the rice.
Cook for 30 minutes over low heat, covered. Turn off the heat, let them rest for 10 minutes, covered. Transfer to two separate, big mixing bowls and fluff up the rice with a rice paddle or a wet wooden spoon.
No black rice? No problem. Just start with 2C of short grain rice and one bigger pot to cook.
Or cook in rice cooker as directed. Or find prepackaged, microwaveable rice from Korean grocery stores. Don't get the fluffy-kind that lacks the necessary sticky starch to make kimbap.
If you have cooked rice ready to go, let's start from here.
Put white rice and black rice in separate mixing bowls. Mix each rice with 2T toasted sesame oil, 2T rice vinegar, 2T sesame seeds and 1/2t salt. Let it rest and cool to room temperature. If the rice is still hot, you need to let the steam out, so there is no need to cover. If it's about lukewarm, cover with plastic so rice won't dry out.
Sauté julienned scallions on a hot pan drizzled with a few drops of vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt and blackpepper. Remove from heat.
Repeat sautéing, now with shredded carrots.
Have all the ingredients lined up like below and start rolling kiddie kimbap!
When they are all rolled up, serve with honey-mustard sauce (Dijon mustard and honey mixed together).
These will come in handy and work for these mini rolls as well as regular-sized kimbap rolls.
* Have a small bowl of water ready, so that you can dip your fingers as necessary. Sesame oil in rice helps, but your fingers will get sticky quite quickly. Wetting your fingers along the way make the job so much easier. Just make sure you have family and friends who don't mind your bare, clean hands making these treats.
* If you want to enjoy the full potential of sesame seeds, toast then coarsely pound them to help release their nuttly oil right before use. You can use mortar and pestle, or put the toasted, cooled sesame seeds in a pastic bag and press with a rolling pin.
* Once you roll kimbap, let them rest with the flap side down for a few minutes. Without glueing the laver flap with water or extra rice, these rolls will gel as the moisture from rice reaches all corners of laver.
* These are two-bite rolls (one-bite for some) that do not require cutting. If you decide to cut, use a sharp knife and wet it as necessary along the way.
* The basic ingredients for kiddie kimbap are carrot and radish pickle, with hams and/or sautéed spinach added in fancier version. Feel free to adjust ingredients based on your preference and what's in your refrigerator, but I suggest that you work with only 2 or 3 ingredients that are cut very thin and flat except danmuji sticks that should be cut to the length of laver.
* This recipe will yield the amount specified. However, I suggest you make more to get leftover rice and leftover ingredients, easily stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. What to do? Come back later this week for what else you can make with the leftover kimbap ingredients...^_^
손 (son) hand
발 (bal) foot