Kimbap is similar to the Japanese rolled sushi - maki, but it's equally similar to a salad sandwich.
A sheet of roasted kim is spread on a rolling mat and a layer of rice is spread over the sheet except for a 2cm gutter at the far end for sticking the roll together with sesame oil.
In many ways it is the most healthy fast food in Korea, and it's really cheap, only competing for the grand title of snack cum meal with Raman and tapokee at the 1000won bargain price. It can be used as an indicator of the area's affluence or perhaps some other demographic, such as the foot traffic, or proximity to Seoul. Like all foods Kimbap is more expensive in some areas than others, despite identical ingredients.
Variations are endless,
but the most basic roll will contain
in order of occurrence:
- Pickled radish (tamugi)
- Fake crab
- Fish sausage (odang)
- carrot (tangun)
- cucumber (oui)
- Egg (kayran)
- Spinach (shigimchi)
- Fern shoots
For a little extra won
age, common variations include:
- Canned tuna (kum chi)+ mayo.
- Sesame leaves
- Ground beef (so korggi)
The popular place to buy kimbap is the kimbap jeep AKA the kimbap house, which you'll find anywhere there are people. Walking past a window of one of these, at a busy time of day, you will notice an ever mounting pyramid of kimbap rolls against the shop window. The shops can expect enough foot traffic
that in many areas they can be less than 5meters apart, or even right next to each other.
The best example I can think of is at Suwon
train station underground mall with over twenty kimbap jeeps right next to each other, lining both sides, with strips of food fanning out the ends of the shrink-wrapped kimbap pyramids, Birds-of-paradise feathers to show that their
three stooled eating cubbyhole is much
better than the next identical one.
A variation of the wrapped rice in seaweed theme is samgak kimbap or triangle kimbap whose habitat is the chilled snatch foods section in convience stores. They lack all the fresh ingredients for a longer self-life and normally just have a smear of flavored paste in the center with some chewy bits added. Needless to say, they taste great but have a more dubious nutitional value.
These are also common in Japan known as onigiri.