Seoul in a Roll: Master the Art of Bulgogi Beef Gimbab!

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Gimbab is a Korean dish made of rice wrapped around gim or dried seaweed sheets. Gimbab look like Japanese futomaki sushi rolls although it's important to say that gimbab is definitely not sushi. While sushi relies on vinegared rice, gimbab is seasoned with sesame oil and filled with cooked filling like seasoned, thinly sliced beef. If you love sushi, then you will LOVE gimbab! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader.

Gimbab is popular as a lunch food, picnic food or road trip food as it is delicious and portable. I love gimbab because of the ratio of fillings to rice and for once, Mr NQN are absolutely unanimous in our love for a food. He will devour two huge rolls for lunch or dinner along with a salad and feel entirely satisfied. While gimbab or kimbap is Korean the origins are not clear. Some say that it came from a time of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 while others say that it's a rice version of bossam (pork wrapped in cabbage). I have always purchased gimbab but one night I had the strongest craving for it. Mr NQN didn't want to drive to the city and we don't really live near any Korean suburbs so I decided that I was going to learn how to make it at home. Ever since I've made it at least once a week due to popular demand.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Tools and Ingredients To Make Gimbab

You will make perfectly round and delicious gimbab with these items:

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

1 - This vegetable grater is the GOAT (greatest of all time). It juliennes carrot and cucumber perfectly for gimbab or salad. Forget microplanes, this is the best grater for the job as you want long strands of carrot and cucumber. Plus it's also cheap and light and easy to use. It is very sharp though so take care with it.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

2 - Sushi Mat. These mats help you get your rolls perfectly round. If you make sushi rolls a lot you may not need these but it really helps.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

3 - A very sharp serrated knife like this (another GOAT product). This allows the gimbab to remain as round as possible. If you cut a sushi roll with a blunt knife it will flatten the pieces.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

4 - I used already thinly sliced beef. You can find these at Asian supermarkets in the frozen section. Otherwise you can use rib eye or sirloin. Make sure to freeze the beef for 30-45 minutes as this will make the beef firm but not entirely frozen and this way it is easier to slice thinly. You can also use beef or or pork mince!

5 - Pickled daikon or Danmuji, sold as long slices of yellow pickled radish.

6 - Sushi rice or short grain rice. I prefer sushi rice as it sticks together well. Arborio rice also works.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

I've been honing my gimbab for over a month now. Whenever we have a picnic I bring gimbab along because it's tasty but healthy and filling as well. I brought it to an Elliott family picnic at the beach and even my first attempts at it were pretty decent. I thought that my rolling would be wonky but I was surprised to see how well they turned out. I made a mixture of crab surimi kimbab and one with chicken in it. I was told that there would be two more meat eaters but as often happens, someone doesn't turn out. But I didn't have to worry because the kimbab was devoured. I made four large rolls or double this recipe and they were all gobbled up in no time.

After that I wanted to make my gimbab so that there was even less rice and then I got into a spiral of watching gimbab videos on Instagram. The key seemed to be having the inner layer of seaweed and this also gave the gimbab a nicer look too. I tried a lot of tools to get it to a stage that I was happy at even buying a sushi shaping kit which was honestly a bit of a waste of time and money. The instructions were all in Russian and it didn't seem to make an ounce of difference nor did the heart or triangular shape really keep its shape so I just stick to round gimbab. Sometimes I make crab stick and avocado, other times SPAM and omelette but most often I make this one. The bulgogi beef version is the most popular and whenever I bring it along, everyone raves about it. And now it's the thing that I bring to every picnic, road trip or bbq because I love to snack on something delicious and healthy!

So tell me Dear Reader, is there something that you always bring along to a picnic, road trip or bbq? Have you ever tried gimbab?

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap
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Beef Gimbab

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: 2 large gimbab rolls or 12 pieces

For filling

  • 180g/6ozs sushi or short grain rice
  • 270ml/9.5flozs boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 sheets nori or roasted seaweed sheets
  • Pickled daikon or yellow radish pickle
  • Lebanese cucumber
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds to sprinkle on top


  • 250g/8.8oz thinly sliced beef or beef mince
  • 2 tablespoons/30ml/1oz soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Step 1 - First start the rice as it will take around 20 minutes to cook. Rinse the rice once and then add the chicken stock powder and boiling water. Place the lid on and bring to a simmer on the smallest gas burner and then knock down to the lowest heat. You want this to steam at a low temperature for 15-20 minutes until all of the water has absorbed. Mix in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.

Step 2 -While the rice is cooking, let the beef marinate for a bit. Mix the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil. black pepper and garlic and then massage with the thinly sliced beef to distribute. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Step 3 -While the beef is marinating add oil to a frying pan and fry the shredded carrot for 4-5 minutes (not longer, you don't want it too soft). Season with salt and set aside in a bowl. Then in the same pan, fry the beef on medium heat until cooked through, around 6-7 minutes and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Then using a pair of scissors cut up the beef into shorter pieces (this will make the gimbab easier to cut up into pieces). Then grate cucumber and slice the daikon into a long square log. Have everything ready to roll up the gimbab.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Step 4 -Take a sushi mat and place 1 sheet of nori on top. Take half of the cooked rice (around 160g-180g or 5.6-6ozs) and spread over the nori pressing down firmly but gently and spreading it out to the sides leaving an inch border at the top. Then cut one sheet of nori in half and place a third of the way up from the base on top of the rice. Lay out the daikon, beef, carrot, mayonnaise, Sriracha and cucumber on top of the second sheet of nori and leave some carrot and cucumber trailing out the sides. Roll up using the sushi mat and brush the end with a little water. Cut into slices and place on a place. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm, lukewarm or cold.

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

Beef Gimbab  Kimbap

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