Kimbap or Sushi: which came first?


Kimbap or Sushi? Twigim or Tempura? Mandou or Gyoza? Ramyun or Ramen?  It can be tricky for the Filipino diner to know the difference. Frankly, there are restaurants who do not know the difference either. They serve Kimbap with soy sauce and Wasabe. Sometimes I wonder, is it the restaurant’s or the Pinoy diner’s ignorance?

Rather than spend your time reading a rant, let us educate ourselves together. Last I heard, a website and a Canadian newspaper said Kimbap is a derivative of the Japanese Sushi. I am unable to site the references here, but this is what I know as of the moment. So what’s the difference between Kimbap and Sushi?


Sushi is the more popular, as far as the Pinoy diner is concerned. Sushi is not pure raw fish, that’s Sashimi (many people seem to interchange the two). Sushi is usually a roll of rice wrapped in Nori or seaweed wrap, same wrap used in Kimbap. The rice is flavor-enriched with a vinegar solution. It is more sticky and glutinous than Kimbap. Inside the roll, there is usually raw fish, egg and whatever good stuff the chef wants to put it, most likely for color, appearance and taste. Because it has rice with vinegar, the raw fish’s flavor is enhanced. There are various kinds of Sushi and Maki but not all of them are necessarily wrapped in Nori. Some are wrapped in eggs while others have the Nori inside the rice, rather than outside.

According to my source, the original value of sushi was to ferment the fish in fermented rice. When the fish was done curing, the rice is discarded. Later on, the ancient Japanese cooks tempered the acidity of the fermented rice well enough to be eaten with the fish. Later still, vinegar was used because it lessened the fermentation time and lengthened the shelf life of the roll, thus the modern Sushi was born.

In the early 20th century when Japan occupied Korea, Kimbap was born, or so I was told. However, the Korean Kimbap had a different twist, more closely resembling the taste of Onigiri than the fermented rice of Sushi. Personally, I like Kimbap more than Sushi. It’s more “fun” to eat and can be very filling. Two rolls of Kimbap can be equivalent to a two cups of rice with “ulam”.

So, this begs the question how should Kimbap and Sushi be eaten? Simple. Kimbap can be eaten as a whole roll or in slices and does not require Wasabi or soy sauce.  Sushi, on the other hand, is eaten with Wasabi and soy sauce. While most Kimbaps are wrapped with the green seaweed wrap on the outside and sprinkled with a little salt, Sushi does not always come in this form. Sometimes the seaweed wrap is inside, sometimes no wrap at all. It can be covered in scrambled egg crepe or just shaped like a roll and cut into slices. Sushi can also be served in the seaweed wrap shaped like an ice cream cone.

Remember this, Sushi is different from Sashimi. Sushi is a roll, Sashimi is just a fillet of raw fish, either tuna or salmon, and yes, like Sushi, it is eaten with Wasabi or soy sauce. Although personally, I ask the waiter to hold the Wasabi.


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