Gimbap is a Korean dish made from cooked rice and other ingredients that are rolled in gim—dried sheets of laver seaweed—and served in bite-sized slices. The dish is often part of a packed meal, or dosirak, to be eaten at picnics and outdoor events, and can serve as a light lunch along with danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and kimchi. It is a popular take-out food in Korea and abroad, and is known as a convenient food because of its portability. It is usually well wrapped (traditionally with aluminium-foil, but now sometimes in paper) and does not have any liquid ingredients.
Production of gim in Gyeongsang and Jeolla Provinces is reported in books from the 15th century, such as Gyeongsang-do Jiriji and Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam. Eating cooked rice rolled in gim is also a long-standing Korean custom. Yeoryang Sesigi, a Joseon book from 1819, describes a dish called bokssam (복쌈; transcribed using the hanja 縛占, pronounced bakjeom in Korean).
There are two conflicting versions of the origin of the modern form of gimbap. Some sources say it was derived from norimaki, a Japanese sushi variant introduced to Korea during the Japanese occupation. Other sources say the food was developed from the local tradition of rolling bap (cooked rice) and banchan (side dishes) in gim.
Gimbap and norimaki now refer to distinct dishes in Japan and Korea: the former is called kimupapu (キムパプ) in Japanese and the latter is called gimchobap (김초밥; “gim sushi”) or norimaki (노리마키) in Korean. Gimbap usually contains more ingredients and is seasoned with sesame oil, while norimaki is rolled with fewer ingredients and is seasoned with rice vinegar.
Ingredients and preparation
Gim and bap are the two basic components of gimbap. While short-grain white rice is most commonly used, short-grain brown rice, black rice, or other grains may also serve as the filling.
Some varieties of gimbap 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 one variation, sliced pieces of gimbap may be lightly fried with an egg coating.
Fillings vary, often with vegetarian and vegan options. Popular ingredients include danmuji (yellow pickled radish), ham, beef, imitation crab meat, egg strips, kimchi, bulgogi, spinach, carrot, burdock root, cucumber, canned tuna, and kkaennip (perilla leaves).
To make the dish, gim sheets are toasted over a low heat, cooked rice is lightly seasoned with salt and sesame oil, and vegetable and meat ingredients are seasoned and stir-fried or pan-fried. The toasted gim is then laid on a gimbal—a bamboo gimbap roller—with a thin layer of cooked rice placed evenly on top. Other ingredients are placed on the rice and rolled into a cylindrical shape, typically 3–4 centimetres (1.2–1.6 in) in diameter. The rolled gimbap is then sliced into bite-sized pieces.
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