“There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham – all a sham, James, and it won’t stand when things come to be turned inside out and put down for what they are.”
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
Black Beauty! Do you have memories reading this book as a child? I almost forgot about this great book until I stumbled upon a blog post on Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls aka Korean “sushi”). Holly at beyondkimchee.com calls the rolls “black beauty.” At first I chuckled because those words sound sort of awkward to say out loud (try saying any color before the word “beauty” – it’s kind of funny to say), but then I remembered the book from my childhood. I don’t remember what age I read it, but I remember racing through it and only putting the book down for absolutely necessary bodily functions. I’m sad that I can’t find my original copy of the book, but maybe I’ll go to the bookstore so that I can relive a part of my childhood. Thinking about the themes in the book and reading some quotes makes me want to do something I’ve been wanting to do that is, volunteer to help animals. I’ve been trying to find an animal shelter in my town to volunteer at and remembering this book is propelling me to put that thought into reality.
Now let’s get back to the culinary type of “Black Beauty,”a Korean dish called Kimbap which translates to seaweed rice (correct me if I’m wrong). Like the sandwich, it is popular as lunchbox-fare and at picnics. Sometime during my teenage years, I first tried kimbap when I was at an oriental supermarket with my dad and my sister. I saw these rolls in styrofoam and wrapped with plastic wrap and thought,”Mmmmm…let’s get some sushi!” When we got home, we ate the “sushi” and it had different flavor than the sushi that I had at the restaurants. Little did I know that it was not sushi.
To those who grew up eating Kimbap, it is totally different than sushi, but to me just as tasty and easier to make at home. On the other hand, like Japanese sushi, with kimbap you can make countless variations of rice and other toppings, often with dried seaweed, though other edible wrapping material such as egg or even bacon is used.
Some traditional fillings: Cooked julienned carrot (~3/8″ thick, still with some crunch), julienned cucumber, bulgogi, cooked spinach (squeezed ~dry), pickled radish cut into strips, imitation crab meat, fish cake strips, Perilla (sesame leaves found at Korean markets), and strips of beaten egg cooked in pan and left flat.
Other popular fillings: canned tuna, strips of hot dog, spam, mayo, ham, cheese, kimchi
I like making Kimbap with whatever I have on hand that I think would go well together. Maybe I’ll try using fake bacon next time…when I have a craving for it.
Rice mix: Short grain or sushi rice works best as it keeps the whole roll tight because it sticks better. It keeps the filling in place. Long grain rice isn’t as sticky and makes a loose roll. Old rice will make a loose roll too, so use freshly cooked rice that is slightly cooled (not steaming). For every cup of cooked rice, I add 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Mix well. That ratio is my preference, but you could also add more or less of the sesame oil, salt, and sesame seeds. Sometimes, depending on the fillings that I use, I also add vinegar and sugar to the rice mix to taste.
- Your choice of fillings – I think 5-6 different types is optimal, you want a good balance of rice and fillings.
- Dry, roasted seaweed sheets (nori/laver/kim)
- Cooked rice
- Sesame seeds
- Sesame oil
- Vinegar (optional)
- Sugar (optional)
Procedure to assemble Black Beauty
Step 1: Get Ready! Line up all your ingredients so that you can grab them easily and not run around the kitchen like I have done in the past.
Step 2: Put a sheet of roasted seaweed (aka nori, laver, or kim) on top of your bamboo mat shiny side down. Use your fingers to spread some of the seasoned rice, covering 2/3 of the seaweed. Make sure you have a bowl of water nearby as the water helps the rice from sticking onto your fingers. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds on the rice too.
Step 3: Place filling ingredients atop rice. Put the stiffer strips of ingredients on the outer edge and the softer fillings in the middle to make sort of a sandwich. This helps keep the fillings in line.
Step 4: Roll! I think a video would be the best way to get down the kimbap roll. Haha sounds like a dance move. Youtube channel Maangchi is a good source. You want to roll starting with the bamboo side closest to you. Roll over the filling, using your fingers to keep the filling in place. Keep rolling tightly, but at the same time be confident! Kimbap usually turns out well when you are confident, and attentive throughout all the steps. Don’t think of messing up, it will all be tasty. Dab a bit of water on the edge of the kim sheet to seal it up, like an envelope adhesive.
Here’s a nice pic on how to roll this dish from SeriousEats.com: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/images/20090723-kimbap-rolling.jpg
Step 5: Coat the outside of the roll with some sesame oil. You can eat it unsliced or slice the roll to desired thickness. Tip: Put some sesame oil on a paper towel and wipe some of the oil onto your knife to help cut the roll and ward off stickiness from the rice.
Here you go, two rolls of “black beauty!”
Have a kimbaperific day! (SeriousEats coined that term)
Update: For those of you auditioning for MasterChef, this type of dish might be a good option as it tastes good at room temperature. Play with it to come up with combinations of flavors that are awesome!
If you have any questions, opinions, or memories of Black Beauty, drop me a comment below!