A great snack, picnic meal, lunchbox staple, and more — Jumeok Bap [Korean Rice Balls] always tastes so good!
In my Korean American kitchen, Kimchi Fried Rice is a standard, go-to meal. Delicious and simple — it’s my favorite one-pan, 15 minute meal when there’s nothing to eat in the house.
I often look for various ways to enjoy Kimchi Fried Rice. Topped with a fried egg. Or jammy soft-boiled eggs. Mixed with spicy Korean canned tuna. Or with a handful of crushed, roasted nori.
Now I want to introduce another way to enjoy it: Kimchi Jumeok Bap!
All the tasty pleasure of Kimchi Fried Rice. All the fun and gratifying texture of rice balls. YUM!
What is Jumeok Bap?
Jumeok Bap is a savory Korean rice ball. In Korean, Jumeok means “fist” and Bap means “rice.” Jumeok Bap means rice that is sized and/or shaped like a fist.
Classic fillings include: canned tuna, cooked veggies, corn, ham, spam, ground meat, nori, etc. Usually, the fillings are savory but you can include anything you like. The fillings are also simple to vegan-ize or vegetarian-ize, if that’s what you prefer.
Similar to Japanese Onigiri, Jumeok Bap are seasoned rice balls. The main difference is their shape (triangular vs round) and fillings (placed in the center vs mixed throughout). They are similar but not exactly the same.
Korean Rice Balls are pleasurable to eat because of their satisfying texture. Instead of individual rice grains, you bite into a toothsome, chunky morsel of rice. Hearty and densely packed, rice balls have a satisfying heft and weight.
How do I eat Jumeok Bap AKA Korean Rice Balls?
The beauty of Jumeok Bap: they are very picnic and lunchbox friendly. You don’t need utensils, although some people use chopsticks. Simply pick up with your hands or a square of roasted nori and enjoy!
That’s why Jumeok Bap is a favorite for school lunch boxes and also, for picnics and outdoor meals.
At home, Korean Rice Balls are often enjoyed as snacks or for a light meal. They can be eaten with banchan (side dishes) or as is. There’s no wrong way to eat it.
How do you make rice balls stick together?
Short grain rice is the secret to making rice balls that stick together.
Don’t try making this with long grain rice — it won’t hold together! Instead, everything will fall apart. There’s not enough starch in long grain rice to act as “glue.”
Short Grain Rice is sometimes called sushi rice. When cooked, the short grains plump and cling together. Short grain rice is sticky and perfect for rolling into Korean rice balls. (And Gimbap!)
More Tips for Jumeok Bap/Korean Rice Ball success:
1. Slightly warm rice works best.
Most recipes recommend freshly cooked rice that’s warm. But I’ve found that old, leftover rice also works. Just make sure to reheat old rice until slightly steaming first. The heat will make the rice stick together better.
2. Disposable food service gloves make rolling easier.
Short grain rice is very sticky. Disposable food service gloves prevent rice from sticking everywhere! If you don’t own them, liberally wet your hands with water. Prep a small bowl of water next to you and rub palms with water before rolling.
3. Chop filling ingredients into small pieces.
Smaller-sized ingredients make everything hold together better. If the filling is too chunky, the rice ball will fall apart.
4. Add a sprinkle of furikake at the end.
A generous sprinkling of Furikake adds tons of flavor. Also, texture! Furikake is a Japanese condiment made with nori, sesame seeds, salt, and a variety of other dried ingredients. My favorite kind includes bonito flakes and dried egg yolk. Delicious!
5. Consider size.
Although many KDramas show Jumeok Bap rolled as large as a baseball, I’ve found that smaller ones stick together better. Smaller, golf-shaped sized ones are also easy to pop into your mouth whole. For beginners, I recommend smaller rice balls. But if you enjoy larger rice balls, take a square of nori to hold everything together as you eat. So much easier!
6. Don’t be afraid to really press the rice balls together!
The rice balls stick together better when compacted tightly. Cup and press into balls with the palms of your hands.
How to make Kimchi Jumeok Bap:
First, make Kimchi Fried Rice: cook down kimchi, kimchi juice, and gochujang in a non-stick pan until caramelized and soft.
Add cold rice (at least 1 day old) and sesame seeds. Break down the rice chunks carefully with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Mix well. Season with fish sauce, sugar, and salt (if needed). Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
Time to make Jumeok Bap! Using disposable food service gloves, roll rice into balls. Make sure to press tightly with both hands.
Roll in furikake. Sprinkle more on top. Enjoy!
Kimchi Jumeok Bap [Korean Rice Balls]
- non-stick pan
- disposable food service gloves
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 cup kimchi + juice
- 1-2 tsp Gochujang (Korean chili paste) (depending on spicyness preference)
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 3 cups cold, day-old rice
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
- Chop kimchi into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat non-stick pan on medium heat with 1 tsp sesame oil. When hot, add kimchi, kimchi juice, and gochujang. Cook down until caramelized and soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add cold rice (at least 1 day old) and sesame seeds. Break down the rice chunks with a wooden spoon (or potato masher). Mix until the rice grains are well coated and uniform in color, about 5 minutes. Season with fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a pinch of salt if needed.
- Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly, about 5 minutes. The rice should be warm but cool enough to handle.
- Using disposable food service gloves, roll rice into balls. Make sure to press tightly with both hands. Set aside on a plate.
- Roll rice balls in furikake. Sprinkle more on top. Enjoy!