Saturday, November 10, 2018

[Food] Gimbap (김밥, Korean Laver Roll)


[Food] Gimbap (김밥, Korean Laver Roll)

A mound of Gimbap

In Korea it is almost tradition or a very usual custom to bring Gimbap on a school picnic (as common as it is bringing a packed lunch in western countries). I would say this is the day when kids can check out other moms' cooking skills or families' financial situation (richer families use more expensive ingredients for gimbap). A mom with good cooking skills - rich or poor - usually packs tasty gimbap for her child (the small difference is that gimbap from a richer family uses expensive ingredients, such as beef) or buys a pack of gimbap from the Korean restaurant in her district. would say 'What's so different about them? They are all just gimbap anyway' but I could see the I'm-so-proud-of-my-mom-and-her-gimbap-look from children with home-made gimbap compared to children with the restaurant's gimbap just saying 'It's just gimbap from the shop....' to their friends at lunchtime. :( my case.....I was in 'shop-gimbap' mood. I'm sorry mom, but I have to admit that you were not good at cooking (and it's still the same now XD). This is a fact that all members in my family (mom included) admit. Maybe this is why she bought me a pack of gimbap for the picnic instead of home-made gimbap. Nevertheless, I liked it when she cooked for her family :) because I knew that she loved us.
Home-made Gimbap

Anyway I was, sometimes, jealous of those home-made gimbaps.

Once, she made gimbap at home when I was a teenager. I don't know why but she made it on the anniversary of her mom's passing (Yes, grandma on mom's side).

She brought a bunch of plastic bags (with lots of stuff in them) from the market not far from home, and started to slice and chop ingredients for gimbap.

Laver. Laver has been eaten in Korea since even before 1000 A.D..
We can at least infer that Koreans have been eating gimbap for a very long time.

Sweet and salty radish




Fish and crab cake
Bulgogi-flavored ham

These are common ingredients used for gimbap...she put a sheet of laver on a bamboo roll-maker and cooked rice on it. Then she laid strings and chopped ingredients. I could smell the salty and sesame rice which activated the hunger switch button in my brain.

Rice in gimbap is seasoned with salt and sesame oil, which is different from rice in Japanese Sushi-Roll (or Californian Roll) that tastes sweet and sour.

Bamboo roll-maker

Prepared ingredients for gimbap. There are slices of cheese, strings of omelette-egg and sesame leaves.

I couldn't believe that she was making gimbap at home. I even doubted my own eyes because I thought she didn't know how to make gimbap since that time. So I asked her:

"Mom, I thought you can't cook gimbap. What's going on?"

"You know, I haven't tasted my mom's gimbap since I was 12."

I was like...'Pardon?'

"Yeah? How come?"

"She passed away when I was 12."

Before that day she had never talked about her parents (and I had never asked), and suddenly she was talking about them to me - a teenager. Maybe she thought I was at an age when I could understand more about life.

"My mom suffered from depression for some years after papa's death, and had some alcohol problems since then. She wasn't a very healthy woman. She had liver disease, and her alcoholism had led her to an early death. This is the only thing I know about her death."

" that why you were sobbing this morning? Sorry, I saw you looking at a black-and-white photo."

" have seen that?"

"I didn't mean to mom but I guess anyone could hear you sobbing."

Yeah, I had seen mom sobbing as she was looking at a photo in the morning that day. My mom has one older sister and one younger sister, which means these 3 young sisters were left alone and had to struggle for survival in the world. Mom's homemade-gimbap for a picnic would have been something in her dreams.

It was making sense to me why mom suddenly made gimbap around her parents' anniversary (and maybe that day she wanted to make gimbap that her mom used to make for her before she passed away)

"Mom, do you remember the taste of grandma's gimbap?"

"No...but I'm trying so hard to recall it."

"Hm...that's serious..."


I could see her tearful eyes, so teenage Jerry (Me) said:

"Mom, please don't shed tears onto the gimbap. I don't want saltier gimbap."


She smacked my back really hard.

"Ouch! Mom, it's just a joke!"

"Hahaha, thank you for the laughter but you deserve that. Would you pass me some salt, son? I will put some salt into rice to season it instead of my teardrops."

Anyway, I helped mom to cook gimbap for the family. It was tastier than what I had thought.

So, that day, she cooked gimbap for her family for the first time in my life. Dad and my sister were also surprised that she cooked gimbap but quickly understood the reason why as I told them what happened before their arrival. That was the day my sister and I could listen to mom's story. I can't tell you all of it, but it was pretty sad. She said that she was the one who was envied by her friends because of 'mom's (grandma's) gimbap' till grandma's death.

Stir-fried anchovy, spicy green chili, fish-cake, cheese and tuna with mayonnaise. There are so many variations of gimbap in Korea. You can put whatever you want into gimbap.

No one had commented on the taste of mom's gimbap but

"This is awesome, did you really make it?"

Mom seemed to be happy and also reminiscing about her childhood when she was with her parents.

Gimbap Heaven. The name of a famous gimbap brand in Korea

Gimbap with spicy ramen and dumplings. Both are so yummy :q

Later, I asked mom to show me some pictures of her mom which were the only pictures she had. She took out two old black-and-white pictures from her drawer. One was her family photo and the other one was...

"Mom, who is she? She looks like you."

There was one noble lady with a radiant smile in a monotonous picture. With a grin, Mom said :

"The greatest gimbap maker of all time."

Bon appétit!

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