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Cheeseburger Kimbap

Courtesy Jenny Huang


Stovetop Method White Rice (makes 3 cups cooked rice)
  • 1 cup medium-grain white rice, such as Calrose
  • 1 cup water
Rice Cooker Method White Rice (makes 3 cups cooked rice)
  • 1 coffee mugful medium-grain white rice, such as Calrose
  • water
Cheeseburger Kimbap
  • 1 cup cooked white rice, fresh or day-old
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped kosher dill pickles, plus 1 to 2 pickles, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 (7½- by 8-inch) sheets unseasoned kimbap gim (dried seaweed)
  • 2 slices American cheese, halved

Chef notes

If Spam's not your thing, then this invention from my thirteen-year-old self might do it for you: kimbap with all the flavors of a classic cheeseburger. Though you need the cheese and burger for this to be a cheeseburger kimbap proper, the true key to that nostalgic taste exists, for me, within the mayochup (mayonnaise and ketchup), raw onion (trust me), and pickle (lots of it).


For the stovetop method white rice:


Place the rice in a sieve and hold it under cold, running water, shaking it often, until the water runs clear.


Place the rinsed rice and 1 cup water into a small pot and let the rice soak for 10 minutes.


Set the pot over high heat and let the water come to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and continue simmering for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove from the heat and let it sit, still covered, for 10 minutes to steam and get fluffy (don't peek, as much of the cooking happens in this resting stage). Fluff with a fork before serving.

For the rice cooker method white rice:


Place the rice in the bowl insert of a rice cooker and run it under the cold tap. Swish your hand around the rice and water, occasionally rubbing the grains between your fingers. Change out the water three to four times, carefully pouring it out the edge of the bowl, making sure not to lose any of the grains by keeping your other hand under the stream of cloudy rice water.


In the now mostly drained (but still pretty wet) rice, add enough water so that when you press your hand flat over the rice it reaches the first crease on your wrist. This is, of course, assuming your rice cooker insert is big enough and your hand small enough (mine never are, which is why I measure this; also, science). Let the rice soak for 10 minutes to an hour.


Place the rice cooker insert into the rice cooker and turn it on. As soon as it finishes steaming, fluff the rice with a flat plastic rice spoon to prevent clumping later.

For the cheeseburger kimbap:


In a medium bowl, stir together the rice and sesame oil, season with salt, and gently stir everything together with a plastic rice scooper or rubber spatula (to minimize sticking) until evenly combined. You'll notice the grains start to glisten and separate thanks to the nutty sesame oil. Set the seasoned rice aside to cool if it's not already.


In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Fry, stirring occasionally, until browned, evenly caramelized and crispy at the edges, and no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Drain off the fat and transfer the beef to a medium bowl. Add the onion, chopped pickles, mayonnaise, and ketchup to the beef and stir until well combined.


Lay one sheet of kimbap gim, shiny-side up, on a cutting board or clean counter in front of you, a shorter side facing you. Spread ½ cup of the seasoned rice as evenly as you can across the entire surface area of the seaweed. (A plastic rice scooper is best for this—again, the sticking — but you can use any implement you like, keeping a small bowl of water nearby to wet your hands if things get sticky.)


About one-third up from the bottom, lay two American cheese halves (they should be long rectangles) end to end over the rice, creating a straight orange line across the width of the surface. Spoon the beef laterally across the cheese, creating a straight, fairly contained line. Finally, place the quartered pickles, as many as you like, over the beef.


Starting from the bottom, tightly roll the kimbap like a sleeping bag or cinnamon roll. Once rolled, use both hands to gently squeeze the roll even tighter together, compacting the rice, seaweed, hamburger filling, and American cheese into each other, fusing as one. With a very sharp knife, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces. Repeat to make 1 more kimbap.


These are at their best when eaten slightly warm, but also taste great at room temperature.

Reprinted from "Korean American." Copyright © 2022 Eric Kim. Photographs copyright © 2022 Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.