Platter of sliced gimbap
Gimbap or kimbap is a popular Korean dish made from steamed white rice (bap) and various other ingredients, rolled in gim (sheets of dried laver seaweed) and served in bite-size slices. Gimbap is often eaten during picnics or outdoor events, or as a light lunch, served with danmuji or kimchi.
There are two popular opinions on the history of gimbap.
Japan as the origin
One popular opinion is that gimbap originated from Japan during the Japanese annexation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. During the wartime, Japanese has been distributing tekkamaki (鉄火巻 “makizushi”) as food for the soldiers. Since Korea was under the influence of Japanese, this form of sushi started to be eaten by the soldiers and later spread to the citizens.
It is also said that before the colonization, Korea has been wrapping steamed white rice in gim to eat with kimchi, jeotgal (a very salty sauce made of finely chopped fermented fish) or other seafood), or guk (soup). Under this opinion, Koreans started to include various ingredients such as pickled radish, egg, fish cake, beef, carrots, spinach inside to mimic Japanese “futomaki” (“makizushi”). Although the Japanese made their futomaki with rice mixed with rice vinegar, Koreans replaced the rice vinegar with sesame oil.
Korea as the origin
Second opinion is that gimbap originated from Korea, and thus is uniquely Korean food. According to Samguk Yusa, Koreans have keeping the tradition of eating bokssam (복쌈, 福裏 good fortune ssam) during Daeboreum. Bokssam is rice wrapped around gim, Chwinamul (seasoned Aster scaber), or Chinese cabbage leaves. Yet, there is little known about bokssam, and there is no explicit evidence that bokssam evolved into today’s gimbap. Gimbap in the present form appeared from 1950, and became popular in the modern ages.
The literal translation of the word gimbap is seaweed rice. These two things are the most basic components of gimbap. From there, you can find many variations on the filling, including fish, meat, eggs, and vegetables, whether pickled, roasted, or fresh.
Traditionally, the rice is lightly seasoned with salt and sesame oil/perilla oil. Popular protein ingredients are fish cakes, imitation crab meat, eggs and/or seasoned beef rib-eye. Vegetables usually include cucumbers, spinach, carrots and danmuji (pickled radish). After the gimbap has been rolled and sliced, it is typically served with danmuji.
Nowadays, the rice in gimbap can be many kinds of black rice, boiled rice and cereals etc.
Gim is dried, pressed seaweed made from the edible species, laver. Gim may be roasted and seasoned with oil and salt, roasted but unseasoned, or raw and unseasoned. The oil used for roasting gim is traditionally sesame oil; however, today, corn and canola oils are also commonly used, especially with the pre-seasoned packs of gim sold widely in stores. Olive oil is also becoming more prevalent. For gimbap, the roasted, unseasoned variation is typically used.
Besides the common ingredients listed above, some varieties may include cheese, spicy cooked squid, kimchi, luncheon meat, or spicy tuna. The gim may be brushed with sesame oil or sprinkled with sesame seeds. In a variation, sliced pieces of gimbap may be lightly fried with egg coating.
Chungmu gimbap (충무김밥) is a gimbap made with only rice as the filler ingredient. Originating from the seaside city of Chungmu, the rolls are thinner and the surface is usually left unseasoned. Chungmu gimbap is traditionally served with side dishes of kolddugi muchim (꼴뚜기 무침), sliced baby octopus marinated and fermented in a spicy red pepper sauce, and radish kimchi (무김치).
Mayak gimbap (마약김밥), a specialty found at Gwangjang Market in Seoul. Mayak translates as "drug" and it is called this because it is said to be addictive because of its deliciousness when dipped in the accompanying soy-based sauce.
Many South Korean fast food restaurant franchises specialize in gimbap and noodles, and these establishments are extremely diverse in the cuisine they offer. Such chains include Gimgane (김家네), Gimbap Heaven (김밥천국), Gimbap Land (김밥나라), Gimbap and Spaghetti (김밥과 스파게티) and so on. These restaurants serve not only gimbap but also numerous other dishes -- typically donkkaseu, ramyeon, udong, naengmyeon, bibimbap, stews (kimchi jjigae, doenjang jjigae, sundubu jjigae), and omurice, among others. Recently there are high-quality Gimbap franchises like Kim sunsang Gimbap(김선생 김밥), Go bong min Gimbap(고봉민 김밥) in Korea.
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- Kimbap, excerpt from Andrew J. Luxner's American English: A Teachers's Journey in Seoul, South Korea. Golden Hill Books, San Diego. ISBN 0-9760748-1-8
- (Korean) Gimbap at Doosan Encyclopedia
- (Korean) Gimbap at Encyclopedia of Korean Culture
- Levinson, David; Christensen, Karen (2002). Encyclopedia of Modern Asia: China-India relations to Hyogo. Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-80617-7.
This process was initiated during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), when Western food and drink, such as bread, confectionery, and beer, became popular in Korean cities, and a Western-style food processing industry in Korea began. Some Japanese food items were also adopted into Korean cuisine at that time, such as tosirak (the assorted lunch box) and sushi rolled in sheets of seaweed, which was popular in Korea under the name of kimbap.
- Brunner, Anne (2011). Algas/ Algae: Sabores Marinos Para Cocinar/ Marine Flavors for Cooking (in Spanish). Editorial HISPANO EUROPEA. ISBN 84-255-1977-2.
En Corea, los gimbaps son derivados de los maki sushis japoneses, pero generalmente están rellenos de arroz con aceite de sésamo y carne. [In Korea, gimbaps are derived from the Japanese maki sushi, but they are usually stuffed with rice with sesame oil and meat.]
- 김밥 [Gimbap] (in Korean). 한국민족문화대백과[Encyclopedia of Korean National Culture]. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012.
일본음식 김초밥에서 유래된 것으로 [(Gimbap is) derived from Japanese norimaki]
- 국립국어연구원 [National Institute of Korean languages] (2002). 우리 문화 길라 잡이: 한국인 이 꼭 알아야할 전통 문화 233가지 [Guide To Our Culture: 233 kinds of Korean traditional culture for you to know] (in Korean]). 학고재 [Hakgojae]. p. 479. ISBN 89-85846-97-3.
일본 음식인 김초밥 에서 유래 한 것으로 [(Gimbap is) derived from Japanese norimaki]
- "Gimbap" (in Korean). Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Korea. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011.
일본음식에서 유래된 것으로 [(Gimbap is)derived from the Japanese food]
- 日清フーズ株式会社 フードジャーナリスト 平松洋子「日本から韓国へ伝わった食べ物」
- 日本の太巻きが由来で、近代以降に韓国でも食べられるようになりました。2005年5月13日 西日本新聞
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- Goldberg, Lina "Asia's 10 greatest street food cities" CNN Go. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-11
- (Korean) Popularity of samgak gimbap, The Financial News, 2008-11-24. Retrieved 2010-06-25.
- (Korean) Chungmu gimbap at Doosan Encyclopedia
- (Korean) Gimbap franchises popular, Edaily EFN, 2008-09-04. Retrieved 2010-06-25.
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