Anytime I travel somewhere, I tend to latch onto one particular food and eat it far more than anything else, so that inevitably, when I go home, eating that food immediately transports me back. When I visited Norway, it was mussels and smoked salmon (I made sure to eat one or the other, but preferably both, every single day of the trip). In Uganda, it was chapati rolled up with fried egg (mainly because it was more appetizing than goat stew, which always included either jawbones – teeth still intact – or pieces of stomach), and here in Korea, it’s tuna gimbap.
At the ubiquitous Gimbap Heaven franchise (which is open 24 hours and seems to never be more than 3 blocks away, no matter where in the city you are), these rolls are only a couple dollars and keep me full for hours. Although the ones I usually get include some fried egg and mayo, I left them out when making them at home because I wanted to lighten them up a little.
You can make gimbap with just about anything. I’ve seen it with ground beef and processed cheese, which I really don’t get excited about, and with just tuna and vegetables, which I love. If you have trouble finding yellow pickled radish, it can be left out, and if imitation crab meat is not your thing (which is understandable… I’m not sure why I like it and yes I know it’s probably worse for me than hot dogs), omit it! You don’t need one of those fancy sushi rolling mats either… I just made this directly on my cutting board and had no trouble rolling it up.
4 sheets of nori (about 8″ x 8″)
2 cups freshly cooked short grain white rice
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
6 shiso leaves, torn in half
1 can of tuna (packed in water), drained
1 carrot, cut into long, thin strips
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into long, thin strips
4 strips yellow pickled radish
4 long strips ham
a few strips of imitation crab meat
Prepare all ingredients and have them nearby.
Mix the rice with the sesame oil and rice vinegar. Add a little extra oil if the rice seems especially sticky.
Put about half a cup of white rice on a sheet of nori and spread it to a thickness of about 1 cm. I like to use a piece of plastic wrap between my hands and the rice so I don’t end up with a sticky mess. Leave an inch or two of the nori uncovered.
Arrange the shiso leaves on top of the rice.
Sprinkle 1/4 of the tuna over the shiso evenly. You can add a little mayo here if you like.
Line up a few pieces of crab (or Krab)
Add the strips of carrot and ham…
…then radish if you can find it (check Asian grocery stores)
Carefully roll it all up
then slice with a sharp knife and enjoy