Kimchi Kimbap and Easy Pickled Cucumber Banchan
For Paula’s birthday earlier this month, she requested Bulgogi Chicken.
I was happy to oblige her, but we make Bulgogi Chicken so often around here (one of us tends to request it about once a week…), that I felt like it wasn’t quite fancy enough for a birthday feast.
I decided to go all out and make some Kimchi Kimbap (sushi). If there are two things I’m grateful that Paula loves (almost) as much as I do, they’re cilantro and kimchi. Thank goodness we agree on such controversial edibles, I don’t even want to think about how complicated our meals would become if we didn’t.
Kimbap is a Korean dish featuring rice (bap) and other ingredients rolled up in seaweed (kim). You might recognize it as maki-zushi. I love kimchi, but it had never occurred to me before to put it INSIDE kimbap until the last time I was in Seoul and a friend and I ordered “Korean junk food” (think deep-fried street food) for delivery, and there it was… (You can see pictures of our street food take-out near the end of my Travel Photo post: Markets and Street Food in Seoul.)
I also made homemade Cucumber Banchan, because no Korean meal is complete without banchan (side dishes), and these slightly spicy cucumber pickles are about the easiest banchan you can whip up while you’re also in the midst of preparing several other dishes.
And no Korean kimbap would be complete without danmuji, pickled daikon radish. The bright yellow tangy pickles add a refreshing crunch to the kimbap roll. I’ve included a mini recipe below for how to pickle your own daikon radish into danmuji (based on the recipe from the blog ShinShine, which suggests using turmeric– instead of yellow gardenia flowers– to give danmuji its distinctive color).
The danmuji recipe takes about five minutes of active time, but then the daikon needs to sit in its pickling liquid overnight. If you can’t find daikon radish at a local Asian market, you can always skip the pickling, and just pair fresh strips of cucumber with the kimchi instead!
The Easy Pickled Cucumber Banchan, on the other hand, needs only 15-20 minutes minimum of pickling time, and even without a Korean feast to be accompanied by the pickles, they are so worth it as a tasty snack.
I suppose the Kimchi Kimbap could also be a side dish of sorts– or an appetizer– if you’re planning to serve a heartier main dish like bulgogi or jap chae, but even kimbap on its own is pretty filling, and could easily be a whole meal. This kimbap in particular is quite visually stunning: the red kimchi and yellow danmuji stand out together against the speckled black and white sesame seeds and rice.
Based on this lavish birthday dinner, you might be thinking that Paula is lucky to have me… but I am lucky to have her, too: earlier this week she made me baked falafel chickpea patties, homemade hummus, and freshly baked pita bread. (I just made tzatziki.) And it wasn’t even my birthday!
Easy Pickled Cucumber Banchan
~ 1 large cucumber (or 2 small Japanese cucumbers)
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
~ 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
~ ½ tsp. kochugaru (Korean chili powder)
~ sprinkle of sesame seeds
How to make it:
1. Thinly slice the cucumber, then place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and place in the sink (or over a bowl to catch the excess liquid). Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
2. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid. (Taste and optionally rinse off a bit of the salt if it seems far too salty.)
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic, sesame oil, and kochugaru, then add the cucumber slices and stir to coat the cucumber evenly in the seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving. (These pickles will stay crunchy and flavorful if kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.)
Homemade Danmuji (For the Kimchi Kimbap; called takuan in Japanese)
(Adapted from the blog ShinShine, here. )
~ ½ a large daikon radish (about 1 cup)
~ 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
~ ¼ cup water
~ 1½ tsp. sugar
~ ½ tsp. turmeric
~ ⅛ tsp. salt
~ several black peppercorns
How to make it:
1. Cut daikon into long, thin strips (you can also slice into half moons, if not using for kimbap). Arrange in a wide, shallow heatproof dish.
2. In a small saucepan, combine rice vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, salt, and peppercorns, and slowly bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the daikon strips, then allow to cool to room temperature before covering with a lid (or plastic wrap), and let the daikon sit in the liquid overnight (it will pickle faster on the counter, rather than in the fridge).
3. Then remove from the pickling liquid and store the danmuji in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or two.
(Makes 6-8 rolls, serves 4-6 as a side dish)
~ 1¼ cups sushi rice
~ a little less than 1½ cups water
~ dash of cooking oil (optional)
~ 1½ Tbsp. rice vinegar
~ 1 tsp. sugar
~ pinch of salt
~ 6-8 sheets of nori seaweed for making kimbap/sushi
~ sprinkle of black sesame seeds
~ ½-¾ cup of kimchi, roughly chopped
~ several strips of danmuji pickled daikon (or substitute cucumber)
~ kkaennip or shiso (perilla) leaves, to wrap around the kimchi and danmuji, inside the kimbap
~ 6-8 chives or scallions, one to perk up each kimbap roll
~ sprinkle of kochukaru (Korean chili powder) inside the rolls to spice things up even more
Special equipment needed:
~ sushi rolling mat
How to make it:
1. Combine sushi rice and water, bring to a boil, then cover, turn the heat down to its lowest setting, and cook for 15 minutes. Then remove from the heat but keep covered for an additional 5 minutes to allow the rice to steam and become fluffy. (See recipe for Japanese sticky rice for more detailed instructions.) While the rice is still hot, mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, then pour this over the rice, and mix it well. Next allow the rice to cool down nearly all the way before rolling the kimbap.
2. Arrange a sheet of seaweed, shiny side down, on the sushi rolling mat (line up the bottom of the seaweed with the bottom of the mat). Scoop up a small amount of rice (about 1/3 cup), and spread it evenly out across the seaweed, leaving a 1″ margin free of rice at the top. Sprinkle the rice with black sesame seeds, then arrange a long strip of danmuji, and a long narrow row of chopped kimchi horizontally across the seaweed, about an inch from the bottom.
3. Use the rolling mat to lift the bottom of the seaweed up and over the toppings, and give it a gentle but firm squeeze. Then unroll the mat, pull the kimbap roll back toward the bottom edge of the mat, and once again use the mat to roll the kimbap away from you until only the last 1″ margin of seaweed is exposed.
Dip your fingers in a bit of water and run them lightly across this margin of seaweed to help seal it closed, then once again pull the kimbap closer to the bottom of the mat, and use the mat to roll the kimbap forward until it’s completely sealed, squeezing it gently but firmly (and rolling it forward a bit, then squeezing again if necessary).
4. Wait until all of the kimbap is rolled before slicing. Then use a very sharp knife with a slightly wet blade (dip it in a tall glass of water) to gently slice the rolls into 6-8 pieces. (The two pieces at each end might be too loose or sloppy to use– they’ll still taste good, though!– or they might still look nice arranged together with the other slices on a platter.) Serve immediately; with or without soy sauce.
Print these recipes (Kimchi Kimbap and Danmuji) only. (PDF)
Print all recipes! (Cucumber Banchan, Danmuji, and Kimchi Kimbap.) (PDF)