I love food. In fact, one of the reasons I exercise so much, is so I can keep my weight down and enjoy the foods I have around me. Since coming to Korea, I’ve been asked numerous times what my favorite food happens to be. In many cases, it surprises folks when I share my answer.
That’s right, my favorite food in Korea is the kimbap (김밥), although with the new romanization rules, it’s now written gimbap! It’s a snack and a meal that isn’t native to Korea. It was introduced by the Japanese during the occupation period as the futomaki. Gimbaps are made from rice (bap/밥). The gim (seaweed/김) is used to roll the rice and other ingredients into a tight package and then is sliced into bite-sized pieces for consumption. The rice is typically lightly seasoned with a little salt and oil, giving it a slightly different flavor than if ordering rice with a meal. Typical ingredients also include fish cakes, imitation crab meat, egg, radish, ham, carrots, spinach, and cucumbers.
Perhaps the greatest feature of the gimbap is its price. For this filling treat, expect to pay no more than W1500. If one orders one of the specialty gimbaps, the prices go up to W2500 or W3000 per roll, but considering how filling an entire gimbap can be, the price is right. This leads me to why the gimbap is my favorite Korean food. With the average gimbap being so cheap, making them at home just doesn’t make sense. The individual item costs make the price-point for rolling one or two very high; however, when becoming creative, the sky’s the limit.
Over the years, I’ve substituted various ingredients to those considered standard to make special gimbaps for my family to enjoy. Two of my favorite variations include “The Mexican Gimbap” which lays down seasoned chicken, sauteed onions and peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, black beans, and salsa in the laver and “The American Gimbap” which includes Angus steak, sauteed mushrooms, potatoes, and a light dash of steak sauce. These two creations transform the snack into a meal or a great party appetizer.
What’s your favorite way of eating or preparing this treat?