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Gimbap Recipe 5: Mayak Gimbap

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kid friendly
prep time: 
30 min
inactive time: 
0 min
cooking time: 
50 min
total time: 
80 min

Mayak gimbap literally translates into "narcotic gimbap." No, it does not have any special substance in it. It's just highly addictive, hence the name. Mayak gimbap's ingredients are very simple. But, the simple ingredients in combination of the gimbap's unique sauce are incredibly delicious. It's become very popular in Korea because it's easy to make, extremely cute and fun to eat.

Mayak gimbap is a relatively modern invention. It is believed to originate from a street vendor at a farmer's market in Korea. While gimbap can be versatile in terms of its ingredients, the original mayak gimbap is made with only three ingredients, carrot, spinach and danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and is always accompanied by the dipping sauce (while most korean gimbap is meant to be served without dipping sauce).

For Koreans, gimbap is one of those foods that brings back warm and fuzzy memories. The nostalgia likely includes picnics and school field days, where gimbap was nearly essential. It also frequently shows up on birthday party tables. Although gimbap is closely associated with special occasions, it's also an everyday food pretty much seen everywhere, including convenience stores, service stations, cafeterias, and restaurants.

Gimbap has evolved quite a bit over the years. Back in the day when Koreans were poor, it was just seaweed and rice with maybe one vegetable. Today It is much more elaborate and nutritious. Gimbap to Koreans is like sandwiches to North Americans; it's very common, yet never gets old. On top of being delicious, it's nutritious, portable and versatile.

There are an infinite number of variations in gimbap. Sharing gimbap with friends at a school picnic was fun because each family adds a different twist, whether it's a special ingredient, unique shape or size. You can always make your own signature gimbap by adding your favorite ingredients or seasonings, or by making different shapes.

See other variations of gimbap:
Classic Gimbap
Petal Shape Gimbap recipe
Tuna Gimbap
Kimchi Gimbap
Nude Gimbap

Change serving size to: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Change to: Metric US
1 cup  Rice, white short grain 쌀
2 sheetSeaweed for Gimbap (Korean rice roll) 김밥김 (unseasoned)
1 ozPickled Radish (Dan-mu-ji or Yellow Radish) 단무지
1 ozCarrot (large Korean carrot) 당근
2 ozSpinach 시금치
1⅓ tbsSesame Oil 참기름
pinch Black Pepper 후추
½ tspGarlic (minced) 다진 마늘
1 tbsSesame Seeds 깨
1 tspSalt 소금
⅔ tspVegetable Oil 식용유

for dipping sauce

1 tspSoy Sauce (regular) 왜간장
1 tbsWater 물
1 tbsVinegar 식초
1 tbsSugar 설탕
1 tbsKorean mustard paste, Geoja 겨자
1 tspSesame Seeds 깨
Ingredients Notes: 

*The default serving of this recipe is set to 2. For this recipe, 2 servings refer to about 8 mini rolls of gimbap. Please note that ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.

kitchen tools
- 1 bamboo mat for rolling
- 1 small to medium pot or rice cooker for rice
- 1 large bowl to mix up rice
- 1 small pot to blanch spinach
- 1 small to medium pan for sautéing carrots

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Optional Ingredients and Substitution
- There is no set of rules for gimbap ingredients. You can substitute most ingredients with your favorite ingredients. However, danmuji (yellow pickled radish) is key to authentic Korean gimbap. Season the ingredients with sesame oil and either salt or soy sauce unless it's already salty without any seasoning (e.g., crab meat).

Whatever you use, ensure they don't produce liquid. The liquid will go through the rice and leak out or make the roll soggy. Remove moisture by squeezing with hands or by pat-drying with clean towel. If you must use moist ingredients, place them on top of perilla leaves or something else that acts as a barrier between the rice and the ingredient.

Most common ingredients used in gimbap in Korea include danmuji (yellow pickled radish), spinach, cucumber, carrot, perilla leaf, burdock root, crab meat, fish cake, egg, beef, cheese, ham, beef, kimchi, tuna mixed with mayo, etc.

Good to Know
Size and flavor of gimbap
You can make various shape and size of gimbap.
To make gimbap smaller and also more flavorful, make the rice layer as thin as possible.
You can also decrease the size by cutting 2-3" off of the seaweed.

Gimbap tastes best when it's freshly made. In room temperature, it can last 4-6 hours. In a hot summer day, it may only last an hour or two.

The leftover ingredients may last a day or two with an exception of seasoned spinach. Make sure you don't put all the ingredients in the same container or at least use cling wrap or aluminum foil as dividers so they are not touching each other. Seasoned spinach is delicious but doesn't last as long as other ingredients. For this reason, some people prefer cucumber over spinach in their gimbap.

More questions? Please leave your questions below in the comment section. We will do our best to answer as soon as we can.

Ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.
Click to enlarge photos.
Ingredient amounts in the recipe summary are for the default serving size.

1. Prepare rice

Wash 3 cups of short grain rice twice and drain all the water. Add water (3 cups for electronic rice cooker or 4 cups for regular pot) to the rice and add 2 (2”X2”) pieces of kelp in the water. After 30 minutes, remove kelp but leave rice and water. Kelp water apparently prevents rice from drying up and helps rice stick to the seaweed better. But, you can omit kelp if you don’t have any.

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Wash & drain

  • 3 cups rice

Add 3 cups water (for rice cooker)

Soak 2 pieces kelp image: clock.png Remove minkelp

2. Cook rice

Cook rice. For detailed instructions, see how to cook rice in a rice cooker and how to cook rice in a pot .

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Cook rice

3. Prepare spinach

Cut the roots off of 2.1oz (60g) of spinach and wash thoroughly.

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Cut off roots

  • 2.1oz (60g) spinach

Wash thoroughly

4. Blanch spinach

Boil 5 cups of water. Blanch spinach in the boiling water for a minute. Rinse and gently squeeze out water.

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Boil 5 cups water

Blanch spinach image: clock.png 1 min

Rinse & squeeze water out

5. Season

Season spinach with a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of minced garlic. Mix well by hand.

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Season spinach

  • a pinch salt
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • a pinch minced garlic.

6. Prepare carrot

Peel and rinse a carrot. Cut 1.7 oz (50g) of carrot (about ⅙ large Korean carrot) into long ¼” thick and 5” long strips. If you are using smaller carrots, just cut into shorter strips. You will just have to add a few more when making a roll.

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Peel & rinse

  • 1.7 oz (50g) carrot

Cut into

  • long ¼” strips

7. Cook carrot

Preheat a pan with 1 tsp vegetable oil on medium heat. Sauté carrots on medium heat for 2 min or until they are cooked (not crunchy any more).

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Preheat pan

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Sauté carrots

Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 2 min

8. Cut danmuji

Rinse danmuji (yellow pickled radish) with water. Pat-dry with paper towel. Cut 1.8 oz (50g) of danmuji into ½” thick and 5” long strips.

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Rinse danmuji

Pat-dry with paper towel

Cut 1.8 oz (50g) danmuji

into strips

  • ½” thick
  • 5” long

9. Roast seaweed (optional)

If the seaweed you got is not pre-roasted, you can roast in a pan. Roasting removes dampness and fishy smell from the seaweed. Cook each side of the seaweed in a pan on medium heat for a few seconds only. Do not over-cook. The seaweed will get crunchy and break apart. Do not use any oil.

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Cook each side seaweed

in a pan

Med Heat image: medheat.png a few seconds

10. Cut seaweed

Cut 6 sheets of seaweed into quarters.

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Cut 6 sheet seaweed

into quarters

11. Season rice

Season cooked rice with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Gently mix the rice with a spatula without squashing the rice. Mix it around until it’s cool enough to touch with bare hands. You want the rice to be a bit warm when you are making the roll.

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Season rice

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • a pinch salt

Gently mix

12. Spread rice on seaweed

Place the seaweed on a bamboo mat, rough side up. Thinly spread rice over the seaweed.

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Seaweed on bamboo mat

Spread rice over seaweed

13. Add ingredients

Add all the ingredients in the center. Place the ingredients so that they stick out about ½” from both ends of the seaweed.

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Place all ingredients

in the center

ingredients stick out ½”

14. Roll

Tightly roll the seaweed, using your fingers to secure the ingredients. Gently squeeze along the roll a few times.

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Roll the seaweed

Gently squeeze

15. Coat with sesame oil

Using your hand or a brush, lightly coat the roll with sesame oil. Sprinkle sesame seeds all over the rolls.

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16. Make sauce

Mix 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of gyeoja (Korean mustard), 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds.

image: RKIMBF65.JPG


  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 tbs vinegar
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp gyeoja (korean mustard)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

17. Slice danmuji

Slice danmuji (yellow pickled radish) into ⅛” thick half moon shape to serve it on the side with gimbap.

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Slice danmuji

⅛” thick half moon shape

18. Serve

Arrange on a plate or in a lunch box. Serve with danmuji on the side. Enjoy!

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Serve on a plate

with danmuji on the side