Kimbap shops are a great place to grab a quick cheap meal in Seoul. You can get a kimbap (rice and seaweed roll) with various fillings for as little as 1500 won. But there are LOADS of kimbap shops in Seoul with varying degrees of quality. (Mr. Kim thinks there are more than 1000 chains – but this is just a guess ;)) So I can’t say that I’ve tried every chain. But I have been to quite a few and this weekend I found the best kimbap shop that I’ve been to so far. Thinly sliced crunchy vegetables with just enough spice. Really fab.
The chain is called 김가네 Kim Ga Ne and we went to the one in the Jongak area. These shops are known as Bunshik chip 분식집 meaning that they also sell food made from flour such as noodle dishes. We ordered a 김밥 kimbap, 떡뽁이 deok-bokki, and 유부우동 fried tofu udong. The three dishes were enough for two people and cost 11,000 won altogether. Cheap and cheerful.
There’s also a menu with pictures 😉
Eating out in cheaper restaurants sometimes has its problems though. And there is an issue in some restaurants of recycling leftover food like kimchi to other customers. (This is not just kimbap shops but all sorts of restaurants)
So how do the restaurants show that they are not recycling leftover food?
Restaurants are now keen to show that they DON’T recycle side dishes to other customers. Some places serve kimchi in a large pot and let the customers serve themselves by taking out as much kimchi as they want to eat onto a smaller dish. This saves waste. I think customers feel more responsible for leaving kimchi if they served it themselves – well I do anyway.
Another common practice is when cleaning up after customers have gone, all the leftovers are emptied out in front of other customers so we can see that there is no way these dishes can be smuggled into the kitchen to be used again. The Kim Ga Ne chain follows this practice and also has a sign on the wall assuring the customers that the ingredients are fresh and also that the shop DOES NOT re-use leftovers to serve to other customers.
I ordered the 멸추 김밥 (myeol-chu kimbap) anchovy and chili pepper and vegetable filling. 4000 won. Not the cheapest kimbap I’ve ever had, but this was definitely the best kimbap I’ve had at this kind of shop. A standard kimbap usually has a thick piece of yellow radish (I’m not keen on this. I think it’s too sweet and too overpowering) and a thick piece of spam. (I don’t eat spam if I can help it, so I have to ask to have the kimbap made without the spam – but then there’s not much filling at all, or it comes with spam anyway!)
But this kimbap was perfect. The vegetables were thin and crunchy not thick and soggy and there was plenty of filling. There was no radish or spam – just egg, cucumber, carrot, burdock, crab stick, as well as the anchovy and chilli. There was just enough spice to give the kimbap a kick.
유부우동 yubu udong 3000 won. For the cheap price the yubu udong was pretty good. Not too salty and plenty of yubu (fried tofu) which I love. (But probably shouldn’t eat now that I’m supposed to be on a diet ) There were also flakes of seaweed, sliced fresh green chilli, and minari – a green Korean vegetable that has a strong fragrance. This herb is often used in hot pots. We had a load of it when we went to the fugu blowfish restaurant.
And finally 쌀떡뽁이 쌀 (sal deok-bokki) sal 쌀 means that the 떡 deok – rice cakes – are made with rice not flour. (some rice cakes are made with flour!) The rice cakes are cooked with a hard boiled egg, processed fish, and cabbage in a spicy red chili kochujang sauce. I’m not a huge fan of deok-bokki but Mr Kim loves it, so he was the one who ordered this. But his opinion was that it tasted ok, but deok-bokki is always better eaten outdoors on street stalls (포장마차 pojangmacha). (SO WHY DID YOU ORDER IT THEN? )
Anyway, when I go there again I’ll definitely order more than one kimbap.