Friday, August 21, 2009

Korean Culinary Carousal, Part I

Let this be the first in what I'm sure will become a regular series. A brief ode to a single Korean dish (among many) that I've come to enjoy in the month that I've here: gimbap.

Gim, meaning "seaweed" and bap meaning "rice", gimbap is a thick roll of rice made stiff with vinegar, encased around a core of pickled radishes, scrambled egg, crab, kale-like greens, cucumber, carrots, and Spam/hot dog meat. All of this goodness is encased by a dark sheet of dried seaweed. If cham chee gimbap is ordered, heaps of tuna are added to the roll, along with delectable sesame leaves, which are slightly hairy and taste like apple and mint combined (and are one of my new favorite veggies here, for sure). They work perfectly with the tuna. Occasionally, there's some mayonnaise/spicy mayo thrown into the mix. Of course, there are many variations and modernizations of gimbap--I bought brown rice gimbap in Seoul once, for instance. You can also buy smaller triangles of gimbap, which are usually simpler, contents wise--just rice, the perfect amount of fish (usually tuna or salmon) and salty gim, making for a nice snack/light meal.

Unlike it's dainty Japanese cousin (sushi), gimbap is hearty and will fill you up. Most rolls are as thick as my arm. It's lack of pretension might also stem from the fact that you can get it anywhere--at a gimbap restaurant, from food vendors at the subway station, or even in convenience stores like Seven-Eleven and Family Mart. It's a popular picnic food--my crew and I all took gimbap with us on our hike last weekend up Dobongson Mountain. Not to mention, it's dirt cheap--about $1,500 for a massive roll.

Inexpensive, delicious, nutritious--wonderful.

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