The History and Legends Behind Korean Dish Kimbap – Rice Rolls

Kimbap, also known as gimbap, is a popular Korean dish that features rice and various fillings, all wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed. Similar to sushi, kimbap is a versatile and portable food that can be enjoyed as a quick snack or a complete meal. But have you ever wondered about the origins of this iconic Korean dish? Join us as we dive into the history and legends behind kimbap.


The origins of kimbap can be traced back to the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, over 500 years ago. During this period, rice was a staple food in Korea, and kimbap was developed as a convenient way to enjoy rice on the go. Originally, the rice rolls were filled with only rice and were wrapped in kim, a type of dried seaweed. These simple rolls were easy to make and were favored by farmers and travelers due to their portability.

Over time, the fillings of kimbap started to evolve. In the early 19th century, ingredients such as pickled radish, spinach, and fish cakes were added to enhance the flavor and nutritional value. These additions made kimbap more diverse and appealing to a wider range of people. It soon became a popular street food, sold in markets and stalls all across Korea.

While the exact origin of the name “kimbap” is uncertain, there are a few interesting theories. One theory suggests that the name comes from “gimchi bap,” as kimbap is often served with kimchi. Another theory suggests that the name is a combination of “gim,” meaning seaweed, and “bap,” meaning rice. Regardless of its etymology, kimbap has become the preferred term for this delicious Korean dish.

Ingredients for Kimbap

In addition to its historical significance, kimbap also carries a few intriguing legends. One popular legend tells the story of a wise old woman who used to make rice rolls for travelers passing through her village. It is said that her kimbap provided energy and nourishment to those who ate it, giving them the strength and stamina to continue their journeys. This legend highlights the practicality and life-sustaining aspects of kimbap.

Another legend surrounds the cultural significance of kimbap. It is believed that kimbap played a role in banishing demons during a lunar eclipse. According to the legend, people would make kimbap and throw it into the air during an eclipse, believing that the demons would mistake the rice rolls for their lost halos and leave in search of them. This ritual shows the deep-rooted belief in the protective and spiritual power of food in Korean culture.

Today, kimbap continues to be an integral part of Korean cuisine and culture. It can be found at family gatherings, picnics, and even school lunchboxes. The fillings have expanded to include a wide variety of ingredients, catering to different tastes and dietary preferences. Vegetarian options with tofu or vegetables, as well as meat-filled varieties, are readily available. Kimbap has also gained popularity internationally, with Korean restaurants around the world serving this flavorful rice roll.

Kimbap being prepared

In conclusion, kimbap is not just a tasty dish but also a symbol of Korean history and culture. Its humble origins as a portable food have transformed into a beloved and versatile dish enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you’re savoring the traditional rice and seaweed combination or trying a modern twist with unique fillings, kimbap offers a glimpse into the rich heritage and legends of Korean cuisine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *