Kimbap vs Sushi


Nope, we ain't talking about you today, sushi.


Recently, I have learned about the existence of kimbap and am dying to try it, but still have yet to do so. However, the one thought that keeps popping up in my mind is: “kimbap vs. sushi.” What is kimbap and how is it similar/not similar to sushi?

Consumed with the thought, I typed exactly that into Google. An interesting article that came up was a Vancouver review of a local Korean restaurant that sells kimbap and why newbies/neophytes/virgins/greenhorns should try the food. Comparisons to sushi inevitably came up. Read the article here:

Looking at Wikipedia and the description in the article, kimbap seems to be an amalgamation of Americanized ingredients packed into a seaweed-layered rice roll, quite different from its sushi counterpart. Bigger and covering the basic food groups, kimbap is a lot like the American-invented California roll except with more familiar ingredients like eggs, spam, cucumbers and cheddar vs. the usual nigiri pieces and maki rolls made of only raw fish in sushi. The fact that kimbap avoids raw fish, one of my big issues with eating sushi, removes that problem and can be more filling for a cheaper price. Kimbap is usually bigger than sushi due to the amount of ingredients that seem to be in it. It also does not use as fancy ingredients. Granted, you don’t get the fancy fish or the pure taste of the ingredients, but it is made for a different culture and probably with different requirements. Japan is an island surrounded by fish; Korea is a country still putting itself back together from war and economic crises. The resulting foods and similar style can be due to the backgrounds of these two countries.

Both kimbap and sushi are considered a kind of “fast food” for meals. They are both relatively quick to make and easy to eat as they are cut into bite-sized pieces beforehand. Kimbap’s history actually stems from Japan and sushi, being kind of like the Korean version of sushi. However, it has far progressed into its own type of food and though the origins and characteristics may be similar, it is distinctly not sushi.

There also seems to be a different approach to making kimbap vs. sushi. When one thinks of sushi, it is usually a lone activity or a one main sushi roller with assistants around fanning rice and whatnot. When one makes kimbap, however, it is much more enjoyable as a social activity. It is often made for social events or just a nice lunch and is great to do as a group or just hanging out with people while making it.

All in all, I didn’t even try sushi until high school and was surprised to find myself liking it, raw sushi or not. Today, I still try to go for the sushi with cooked seafood, but I will occasionally indulge in a raw salmon roll. Now, I’m ready to add to my food range, kimbap, and try out a whole new culture of foods. What are your thoughts on kimbap?

P.S. Sorry, no pictures since I still haven’t really seen much kimbap. Please look online and you can see a lot of different varieties of kimbap and observe how different it looks.

© quotid of Austin: Keeping It Foodie, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to quotid and Austin: Keeping It Foodie with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. If there are any questions, please contact the author through the means given in the ‘About’ page.


18 responses to “Kimbap vs Sushi

  1. “Korea is a country still putting itself back together from war and economic crises.”

    This post was made in 2010 but the above statement is just as invalid now as it was then. I am originally from Washington DC and taught abroad 2010-2012 in Seoul, Korea. Of course there are exceptions but generally, the standard of living in Seoul (Korea’s Capitol) is equal if not higher than DC (US’s Capitol), and far more technologically advanced (Incheon airport, 4G LTE speeds, public transit system, etc.).

    I am glad you want to try Korean food but I do want to caution against spreading inaccuracies.. perhaps this post can be edited? Thank you.

  2. kimbap or sushi is not fast food they both take time to make

  3. Just because sushi is more well known doesn’t mean kimbap is some sorry-ass subset of it. You’re insulting a lot of Koream folks with this sort of narrow-minded attitude. Just sayin.

  4. Kimbap has roots in sushi and Japan? You’re going to have to explain this a bit further because it sounds ridiculous. It’s called cultural proximity, in my head.

  5. Why everyone always type gimbap?It waskimbap not gimbap.

    • Hi there, firstly I’d like to apologise for the long read. But I hope you can find this answer helpful. The reason it can be spelt both ways is because in Korean, ‘kimbap’ (or ‘gimbap’) is written like this 김밥. The symbol ‘ㄱ’ can be written in English as either a G or a K and is ponunced as a soft K, almost similar to a G. You may also see other variations in spelling ‘bap’, ‘bab’, etc. this is for the same reason; as the symbol ‘ㅂ’ can be recognised as either a B or a P. I find the most common way of spelling 김밥 is probably ‘kimbap’ though, as it makes it more specific and easier to pronounce for people who are unfamiliar with Korean language.

  6. I know you wrote this a long time ago, but I just found it and wanted to leave some comments. Have you had the opportunity to try kimbap yet, by the way?

    Maybe it’s because my family was from a poor farming village, but the only non-Asian ingredient my mom ever put in Kimbap was hot dog, which was introduced to Koreans by American military personnel. This is the first time I ever heard of cheddar in kimbap, and it sounds so gross to me! (I also dislike cream cheese in sushi.)

    Sushi has vinegar and salt in the rice. Kimbap rice is sometimes seasoned with sesame oil, though I’ve had plain rice quite a few times.

    Korea is a peninsula surrounded by fish, so I don’t think that the geography (or the economy) was a deciding factor in whether or not they included fish.

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  8. Honestly while some sushi rolls are awesome and totes deli I def love Kimbap def taxable

  9. Gimbap can be very dinstinct as any kind of food even if it was inspired by another culture’s food. Even sushi is not a pure japanese invention but actually stems from the Polynesian and Maori who used to preserve raw fish inside slightly vinegared rice. Gimbap can be far more delectable depending on the ingredients. You don’t have to smother it in soy sauce or wasabi like most people do with sushi, which tends to sometimes be bland…

    • Thank you so much for adding to the history and background of gimbap and sushi! I only have here what I could glean from the internet. It’s quite fascinating to hear people’s opinion on their preference and now I suddenly want gimbap! 🙂

  10. Great summary! I’m linking your blog to mine on my 김밥 recipe. Thanks for saving me the trouble of explaining it.

  11. “Korea is a country still putting itself back together from war and economic crises.”
    You clearly have no idea about modern day Korea do you? (post was created 2010.) And what on earth are you talking about “[sushi] usually a lone activity”? It all depends on the quantity of ingredients and people preparing/eating it. Logical enough isn’t it?

    Goodness gracious some of the facts in this post are ridiculous!

    • Dear Anonymous,

      Thanks for your feedback! I am sorry, you are right that modern day Korea is not in the midst of putting itself back together from many crises. I was just trying to emphasize that the development of Korea and its history may have influenced the food.

      As for sushi being a lone activity, I was thinking more about people making sushi at home and how kimbap seems to emphasize the making of kimbap for people and with people. Sushi can and is definitely done in group activities, but I don’t think it necessarily emphasizes or is very commonly shown as a group activity. However, that is just my opinion.

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  13. I must make you my kimbap since you missed out on the first one 😦

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