This Is Not Chicken Feet

Korean kimbap rolls and bad karaoke with our kid in South Korea.

As parents, we love introducing our children to new things. And as our children get older, it is perhaps even more delightful when they begin sharing new things with us.

Our youngest son spent part of his senior year of high school studying abroad in Daegu, South Korea. We visited him while he was there, meeting his host family and allowing him to share his favorite local discoveries with us. (South Korea also happened to be Mr. Mike Ballard’s 100th country!)

Food, of course, was very high on Ben’s list. We sampled gopchang (곱창), which are grilled pig intestines served with fresh perilla leaves. We tried dakbal (닭발), the spicy chicken feet that are to Korea what hot chicken is to Nashville. We also had more than our share of soju (소주), the rice alcohol that’s often made into a boilermaker-style cocktail called somek when it’s added to beer.

(This is also why we wound up singing very bad karaoke with Ben’s hosts. They enjoy renting private karaoke rooms, which is a very popular thing to do in Korea, and singing not-quite-right versions of American songs and heartfelt renditions of Korean hits. It is simultaneously hugely entertaining and quite horrifying.)

But aside from the varieties of offal, Ben was most excited to introduce us to kimbap (김밥). While the rolls resemble Japanese sushi in that they are rolled in sheets of seaweed and contain rice, kimbap’s other fillings can vary widely. Rather than raw seafood, you’ll find everything from ham and cheese to egg and pickles. Ben’s favorite version contained bulgogi (불고기), or sweet and savory Korean BBQ beef.

The fun thing about making kimbap at home is that it’s more assembly than cooking. All of the components are prepared in advance, and it’s a great way to practice your mise en place. It’s also a highly customizable dish, since everyone can pick and choose the ingredients exactly to their liking.

So gather your favorite fillings, cue up the karaoke tracks, and make yourself some Korean kimbap. And be very glad it isn’t spicy chicken feet.

This week’s subscriber exclusives: While you can fill kimbap with a variety of ingredients as noted in the recipe below, our favorite version includes delicious Korean BBQ Beef. The savory bits of sirloin have that hint of sweetness that makes Korean BBQ so popular, and it makes a great contrast to the crunchy vegetables. It’s also delicious served atop perfectly steamed rice as its own entrée.

And speaking of vegetables, I’m sharing my recipe for Pink Pickled Radishes. In kimbap, these can take the place of the traditional Korean danmuji, or yellow pickled radishes, that can be difficult to find outside Asia. But they’re also my secret ingredient in Lebanese chicken shawarma. They’re delicious on Mexican street tacos, too, and they make a festive dirty martini.

Subscribers to Around the World in 80 Plates have access to both of these versatile recipes.


Korean Kimbap

While kimbap resembles Japanese sushi in that they are rolled in sheets of seaweed and contain rice, the other fillings can vary widely. Rather than raw seafood, you’ll find kimbap with everything from ham and cheese to egg and pickles. Our favorite version contains Korean BBQ beef.

Making kimbap is more assembly than anything. All of the components are prepared in advance, and it’s a great way to practice mise en place. It’s also a versatile dish, since everyone can pick and choose their own fillings.

While it helps to have a bamboo sushi rolling mat, you can also use a nonstick baking mat or plastic wrap lightly brushed with sesame oil to help you roll the layered ingredients. Or you can skip the seaweed sheets altogether and make a “kimbap bowl.”

1 cup sushi rice
2 eggs, beaten
4 oz. fresh spinach
4 oz. matchstick carrots
4 oz. danmuji (Korean yellow pickled radish) or Pink Pickled Radishes
4 oz. Korean BBQ Beef or cooked sirloin steak
4 sheets dried seaweed (sushi nori)
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
salt
soy sauce

Place the rice in a sieve or fine mesh strainer and rinse under cool, running water for 1-2 minutes until the water runs clear. In a medium saucepan, add the rice and 1-3/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Allow to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, leaving the lid on and the rice undisturbed for an additional 10 minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil to the cooked rice, mixing well, and season with salt to taste.

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil. Add the beaten eggs, cooking until the edges are set and the center is beginning to firm, much like a pancake. Flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes or until cooked through. Move the egg to a plate and slice into 1/2-inch wide strips. Season with salt to taste.

In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a rapid boil. Add the spinach, cooking for 30 seconds. Pour into a colander and immediately rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Gently press the excess water from the spinach. Toss with 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil and season with salt to taste.

On a rolling mat, place one sheet of seaweed with the shinier side down. Spread a layer of rice over 2/3 of the sheet, leaving an open edge at the top to seal the roll when it’s complete. Starting an inch or two from the bottom, layer rows of your chosen ingredients atop the rice, portioning them among the four rolls. Using the mat to help you, roll the sheet from the bottom to the top, brushing a bit of water on the edge of the seaweed sheet to help seal it. Repeat with the remaining seaweed sheets, rice, and fillings.

Place the kimbap on a cutting board and lightly brush each roll with the remaining sesame oil. Cut the rolls into bite-sized pieces and serve with soy sauce on the side. Makes four servings.

Kimbap assembly with (top to bottom) seaweed sheet, rice, Pink Pickled Radishes, strips of egg, julienned carrots, lightly-cooked spinach, and Korean BBQ Beef

For $5 a month, you can get an additional weekly issue of Around the World in 80 Plates that includes bonus recipes not available to the public.

This week’s recipes for subscribers only:

  • Korean BBQ Beef: These savory bits of sirloin have that hint of sweetness that makes Korean BBQ so popular, and it makes a great contrast to the crunchy vegetables in kimbap. It’s also delicious served atop perfectly steamed rice as its own entrée. Or go wild and make Korean tacos!

  • Pink Pickled Radishes: These beauties are my secret ingredient in Lebanese chicken shawarma. They’re delicious on Mexican street tacos, too, and they make a festive dirty martini.