Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The 5 Best Gourmet Kimbap Joints in Korea

The 5 Best Gourmet Kimbap Joints in Seoul
Kimbap is for Koreans like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are for Americans, fish n chips for the British, Crepes for the French or marmite and margarine sandwiches for Australians. It is a nostalgic everyday snack food that many Koreans associate with school picnics and festivals.

It is a simple dish. It is just rice seasoned with some roasted sesame oil placed on a sheet of seaweed stuffed with various vegetables and meat like yellow egg, orange carrots, white cucumbers, green spinach, pink ham, brown burdock, and yellow turnip. They are then wrapped carefully, yet firmly, brushed with some more sesame oil (to prevent the seaweed from ripping) and then sliced into rainbow disks that tastes best when eaten from the fingertips.

Variations of kimbap are boundless. It can be stuffed with tuna fish, kimchi, beef bulgogi, shrimp, crab, cheese, and even crispy, tiny anchovies.

I have even seen dessert kimbap and "nude" kimbap that has rice on the outside. Kimbap is limited only by the imagination.

On school picnics as a child, I remember having a Korean lunch box, called dosirak, stuffed with rice rolls made by mother. All the other kids had them as well and while they were all similar in style and ingredient, each child would swear their mother made the world's best.

Mothers would often wake up early to prepare these vegetable and meat stuffed rice rolls. It is a labor intensive snack that requires love and attention and a dash of mother's pride. Even though you can find kimbap stores on nearly every corner, many mothers still make them by hand at home.

So if you are not lucky enough to have someone make the rice rolls by hand (for example, I have been known to make kimbap for my wife). I wanted to give you a list of my favorite places for kimbap in Korea. Now I do love Kimbap Nara and Kimbap Cheonguk, but I am going to not put them on this list because they are just everywhere. I am not dissing on them because I have no problems going there. Anyway, here is my list.
Jinsunja Gyeranmali Kimbap

5. Jinsunja Gyeranmali Kimbap at Yeongdeungpo

It's a small little place over by the West Side of Seoul. The place is small and it is a husband and wife run shop that does perfect little rice rolls that are wrapped in yellow egg. The rice rolls are quaint and they have just enough seasoned rice to go with the crisp turnip, a bit of chive and some ham. As simple as it sounds, it is delicious. Really. I just love the simplicity of the dish and the egg. The egg is cooked so it is still soft, but it is not greasy so it is like eating a very nice omarice (omelette rice). If you are still a bit hungry, you can get the udong soup, but I would be happy with just another order of the rice rolls.

Jinsunja Gyeranmali Kimbap
Address: Click here to open on your phone: Seoul, Yeongdeunpo-gu Dangsandong 3ga 315
Phone: 02-871-9993
진순자 계란말이김밥
서울특별시 영등포구 당산동3가 315
Narcotic Rice Rolls from Gwangjang Market
4. Mo-nyeo Woncho Mayak Kimbap in Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market holds a special place in my heart. I love all the different foods there but especially mayak kimbap or narcotic rice rolls. These are rice rolls about the size of a small cigar stuffed with some veggies and dipped in a mustard/soy sauce. They also brush some sesame oil on top. They call them mayak or narcotic kimbap because they are seriously addicting. The most addicting part of the dish is the mustard sauce which has a sharp bite and the seasoned rice. Everyone makes it there, but my favorite is Mo-nyeo Woncho Mayak Kimbap. Ok, they all claim to be the original but you'll often find them in center of the bindaetteok area and there sign has a picture of their family (see pic). Their original place is a down a clothes alley but I think you might have problems finding it.

Mo-nyeo Woncho Mayak Kimbap
Address: Click here to open on your phone. Seoul, Jongno-gu, Changgyeonggung-ro, Gwangjang Market
모녀 원초 마약김밥

광장시장




Gyeori Kimbap. Photo by oostore
3. The Original Gyeori Kimbap 

Gyeongju was the first city that I lived in ten years ago and so my first real exposure to local Korean food. One of the places I would often go to was Gyeori Kimbap. My friends would take me because they loved their rice rolls so, I would often follow them along. What they serve is a classic kimbap but what differentiates them from everyone else is the amount of egg that they use. They use a lot of confettied egg and it adds a plush flavor that melds well with the rice, the ham, and the pickles. I mean they must be doing something right because they'll have a line down the block everyday from 8am. I remember we used to buy them and then climb a mountain and eat them at the top of the mountains. One is not enough here so you have to buy minimum 2 for 4,500 won or you can get three for 6,900 won. Be sure to share with your friends. They will really appreciate it.

Gyeori Kimbap 
Click here to open on your phone: Gyeongsangbukdo Gyeongju Gyeodong 69
Phone: 054-772-5130
교리김밥 본점
경상북도 경주시 교동 69
Gourmet Kimbap at Kim Sonsaeng 
Gourmet Kimbap at Kim Sonsaeng
2. Kim Sonsaeng Kimbap


If you are looking for gourmet kimbap then this is the place. The ingredients are local and organic. They use all of the best quality ingredients such as the rice, the seaweed, the veggies, the soy sauce and even the ham. Kim Seongsang prides itself in getting the best ingredients and artistically putting it all together to create amazing, gourmet kimbap. The stores are staffed with legions of workers that painstakingly grill, chop, and roll the kimbap. They have a creative range of kimbap such as spicy pork kimbap, cream cheese kimbap, fried kimbap and bulgogi kimbap. Kim Seongsang has elevated this common everyday food.

Kim Sonsaeng Kimbap
Click here to open on your phone: Gangnam-gu Apgujeong-dong 29gil 71 103ho (Apgujeong Hyundai Department Store)
02-540-4585
강남구 압구정동 29길 71 103호 (압구정현대점)

Wasabi Kimbap Rolls at Chosun Kimbap
1. Wasabi Kimbap Rolls at Chosun Kimbap


This classic kimbap restaurant in the Seogyeokdong area has been around for over 20 years. Walking through their classical hanok door, you'll enter their tiny restaurant that sits about 12. Chosun kimbap is known for their high-quality rice rolls and noodles. Their odeng kimbap is made with poppy rice, fresh veggies, crunchy picked veggies, egg, ham and wasabi-sauced fish cake. The wasabi is an inspired addition for the sharp taste complements the savory sesame oil. They also have noodles which come bubbling to the table in a spicy fish broth. The noodles are delicate and should be eaten quickly or they get soggy in the soup. There is also the creamy pork bijijang. This pot stew dish has creamy tofu with pork and tart kimchi. It is a perfect complement to the rice rolls. The place is only open until 4:30pm each day so go there early for lunch or a midday snack.

Chosun Kimbap
Click here to open on your phone Jongro-gu Seogyeokdong 165 Georibu-gil Chatgi
Ph#: 02-723-7496
서울특별시 종로구 소격동 165
Price 3,500-7,000 won
Hours: 10am-4:30pm