Kimbap!

20131016-005014.jpg Now that I live so far away from home, I find myself intensely craving my mother's cooking. Though the Asian markets and Korean restaurants are aplenty in Houston, nothing comes close to mom's. My Korean cooking is pretty good - my mom's cooking is stellar. No comparison. The other day, I found myself craving one of my favorite comfort foods: kimbap. My mom used to make these for road trips - it was and will always be our travel food. She'd pack a cooler full of these sweet and savory rolls at 6AM, just so they'd be ready for our annual trip to Cape May. I have great memories associated with kimbap, and I'm so glad to feature it as my first food-related post! I suppose you could call it the Korean version of sushi. It originated from the Japanese futomaki roll during the Japanese occupation of South Korea. Japanese sushi rice contains rice vinegar, giving it that delicious slight sour taste. Kimbap rice is made with a little bit of salt, and a generous drizzle of sesame oil.

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Ingredients: 4-6 sheets packaged seaweed laver 1 cup white rice 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp honey 1/2 cup sesame oil 1/3 cup sesame seeds 1 package pickled daikon radishes 1 package imitation crab meat 2 cups carrots (julienned/matchsticks) 12 oz. spinach 1/2-3/4 lbs. ground beef 3-4 eggs

*Note: It might be challenging to find the daikon, imitation crab meat, and/or seaweed at your local grocery store. Most Asian (specifically Korean/Japanese) markets will carry these items.

Prepare rice by rinsing. Place rice in bowl and cover with an inch of water. Use your hands to mix the rice around (you will see the starch in the water). Drain the water. Repeat 2-3 times. Put rice in saucepan or rice cooker with 1.25 cups water. Bring to a boil and allow rice to fully cook. Once cooked, transfer to a mixing bowl, and use a spatula/spoon to fold the rice around, releasing as much heat and steam from the rice as possible. Once cooled, add a pinch of salt, drizzling of sesame oil, and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Warning: the rice is delicious, may be hard to move past this point.

Heat nonstick pan or well-seasoned skillet over medium heat. Beat eggs well. Give the pan a glug of sesame oil. Drop eggs in pan, and basically cook as a frittata. Let one side cook until you can flip and finish the other side. Remove from pan and set aside. Turn pan to medium-high. Carrots into pan; sauté until softened. When done, set aside. Spinach into pan; wilt (add another bit of sesame oil if needed). When done, set aside. Beef, honey, and soy sauce into pan; sauté until well-browned. When done, drain off fat and liquid and set aside. Allow all ingredients to cool to room temp before assembling the kimbap.

Cut egg pancake into long strips, about 1/2 inch wide. If needed, cut other ingredients (pickled radish, crab meat) into strips as well.

Assembly Place one sheet of seaweed on top of a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Spread rice evenly onto bottom half of the seaweed sheet. Lay ingredients toward the bottom of the rice.

20131016-024112.jpg Once you've arranged all of your ingredients, use to the sushi mat to start rolling from the side nearest you. Press firmly (but keep in mind that the seaweed is still fragile) as you roll up. This should feel like you're rolling a towel tightly. Once you've rolled your way up to the top of the seaweed sheet, use a few spare grains of rice (on what will be the inside of the seam) to seal the roll up. Brush evenly with sesame oil, and give it one more firm press to seal the deal.

Slice into 3/4 inch pieces, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy!

Yields: 4-6 Rolls

If you're a fan of spice, you can add some traditional Korean kimchi (sliced to match other ingredients) to your roll! Feel free to mix up the ingredients inside. Let me know what you end up doing!

Miran