Sushi vs. Kimbap | Differences in Flavor, Preparation, Variaties

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 26, 2020

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Even those of us who have never really explored Japanese cuisine are familiar with sushi.

This snack has become so integrated into American culture; we may take it for granted as ethnic food.

But there is a good chance that people that are familiar with sushi have no idea what kimbap is.

sushi vs kimbap

Yet, it is quite similar to sushi. In fact, many consider it Korean sushi.

The most important differences between sushi and kimbap are the preparation of the rice, with vinegar for sushi and sesame oil for kimbap, and the ingredients, where sushi most often has raw food in it and kimbap preserved ones.

Read on to find out more about kimbap and the differences with sushi and what you can expect if you decide to order it.

What is Kimbap?

Like sushi, kimbap has two main ingredients.

The first is cooked rice or “bap”. The second is a dried seaweed sheet or kim, hence the name, kimbap.

The people of Korea enjoy kimbap as a light lunch. It is often served with a yellow pickled radish called danmuji.

Its small size makes it portable. Therefore, it’s a terrific home-packed meal or take-out food.

Japanese Sushi vs. Kimbap: Differences

So far, kimbap sounds pretty similar to sushi, but there are differences.

Different rice

The first lies in the preparation of the rice.

Sushi uses rice seasoned with vinegar while Kimbap uses rice mixed with sesame oil. This results in sweeter tasting rice.

Kimbap may also use black or brown rice whereas the rice used in sushi is almost always white.

Different fillings

The fillings also set kimbap and sushi apart.

While sushi uses mostly raw fish, kimbap uses preserved items.

Canned tuna, grilled bulgogi, ham and cheese, and kimchi are some of the fillings that are commonly used.

Different social status

The social status of kimbap and sushi also sets them apart.

While both are eaten with chopsticks, kimbap is often eaten with the hands as well.

As such, sushi is often considered a luxury food that is reserved for formal occasions while kimbap is more casual in nature.

Find out more ways in which the Japanese cuisine differs from the Korean one: The difference between Japanese and Korean Food | Use of spices.

Sushi vs. Kimbap: Preparation

There are differences in the way kimbap and sushi are prepared.

Here is a rundown of how each one is made.

How kimbap is made

A device called a gimbal is used to wrap the kimbap.

First, the seaweed sheets are toasted over low heat. Then the desired ingredients are added.

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Typically, a thin layer of rice is added first followed by the meats and vegetables. Then the Gimbal is used to roll the food into a cylindrical shape.

How sushi is made

There are several ways to roll sushi but it is typically done by laying a sheet of the seaweed on top of a bamboo mat called a Makisu.

The ingredients are layered on top and the sheet is rolled to compress the sushi into a rounded figure.

Sushi vs. Kimbap: Origin

One of the most obvious differences between sushi and kimbap is that sushi originated in Japan while kimbap originated in Korea.

No one is certain how kimbap originated. Some say it was derived from an old tradition of Koreans eating cooked rice wrapped in seaweed.

Others say it’s a takeoff on a specific type of Japanese sushi called Norimaki.

Sushi originated in Southeast Asia when people began placing fish in fermented rice to increase its shelf life.

People realized this produced a pleasing taste and it became a dish in its own right.

Also read: this is how kimbap differs from onigiri

Different Kimbap Varieties

Kimbap comes with a variety of fillings, but there are three main types of the dish.

These are as follows:

Different Sushi Varieties

There are many varieties of sushi, but here are some of the most common.

Kimbap and sushi are delicious Asian foods that are very similar but if you haven’t tried both, you may be missing out.

Will you be making it a priority to eat kimbap the next time you decide on Asian cuisine?

Looking for some more inspiration? Read about 43 of the best, most delicious & unusual Asian food to Try!

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.