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Korean sushi -- What's the difference?

Is it made differently than the Japanese variety? Is it served or eaten differently? What's the story?

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  1. Hmm the main difference that I notice is that it is usually eaten sashimi style, with a hot red pepper paste + vinegar, sugar, and garlic mixture rather than soy sauce.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jennp

      Sashimi and sushi are seperate, distinct dishes.

      1. re: jennp

        There's also hwe dup bap which is sort of the Korean version of chirashi sushi. Unlike chirashi, it comes with a salad-like assortment of greens and a spicy sauce to be mixed with the rice.

        In terms of nigiri, sushi at Korean-owned establishments tends to have much larger cuts of fish. Also, I have heard that Koreans like to eat their raw tuna while it is still frozen.

      2. I have noticed some differences: Often, the rice tastes unseasoned. Often, the pieces of sushi are topped by the chef with drizzles of spicy sauce.

        1. I have never had korean sushi....I'm sure it's just a korean interpretation of the japanese dish.

          However korean sashimi or hwe is it's own separate thing. In my opinion I think the slices of fish are much thicker than japanese sashimi (but I've heard the opposite). Koreans also serve the fish with chojang (gochujang, sugar, and a little vinegar), and sometimes wrap it in lettuce, korean perilla leaf or with slices of raw garlic.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bitsubeats

            A Korean acquaintance of mine insisted it was the other way around. Like the game of go, raw fish and rice in the form of hae dop bop and other dishes was originally Korean, and adopted into what we now think of as sushi by the Japanese occupiers.

            I have no idea if it's true or not. Just an amusing twist on the tale.

            1. re: Loren3

              Not sure if that's true. I heard that the origination of sushi is actually from China.

              1. re: Loren3

                Your friend is delusional. Koreans have a recent habit of trying to claim Chinese and Japanese things as their own in order to escalate their relevance on the global stage.

                Sushi as we know it is undeniably of Japanese origin. I'm sure a Korean has eaten a piece of raw fish before as well but not like the sushi and sashimi the world knows. Chinese have a few raw fish dishes too, but no one claims Sushi is Chinese.

                Also, the game Go is also undeniably of Chinese origin.

            2. I had Korean sashimi (Hwe) in Korea on several occasions, and I agree with the comments already posted. I also noticed that Koreans have a tendancy to like fish ir seafood with texture - or as my husband puts it, they like "chewy" fish and food. So when you have raw skate, they leave in the cartilage. Squid is popular because it is chewy. The fish we had was not the buttery smooth texture of toro, but instead had a firmness and resistance when you took a bite. (I have no idea what kind of fish it was). As for the raw seafood I had on a beach on Jeju Island, one was a small type of abalone (chewy) and the other creatures were only recognizable as creatures that I had seen in aquariums. All were chewy. And accompanied by a piece of raw garlic and chile sauce. Very different than Japanese sashimi!

              As for rolls, Korean rolls (or kimbab) are much more robust than Japanese rolls. The ingredients are usually fully cooked, the rice is either unseasoned, or seasoned with sesame oil/seeds. The ingredients will include all sorts of things like pickled daikon, fried egg, seasoned meat, sauteed julienned vegetables such as carrrots, mushrooms, fish cakes. Very hearty fare. We take large quantities of this stuff on picnics and hikes (our version of sandwiches). It is tasty, but very different than Japanese maki.

              1. I think the original poster is talking about kimbap, which looks very much like sushi and is frequently found next to sushi on steamtables in NYC. Unlike sushi, however, the rice in kimbap isn't vinegared; it's lightly seasoned with perilla and sesame oils. Fillings usually include pickled daikon, carrots, spinach and a main filling of surimi, beef, kimchi or spam -- unlike sushi, no raw fish. Novices often eat kimbap with wasabi and pickled ginger, thinking it's the same as sushi, but as far as I can tell, it's meant to be eaten unadorned.

                14 Replies
                1. re: JungMann

                  the rice is flavoured with sesame oil? Usually the outside of the kimbap is rubbed with the oil. It is also great to rub the knife with sesame oil while cutting the kimbap, so rice doesn't stick to the knife.

                  kimbap is also meant to be eaten as a snack and not really at a main meal. Is sushi considered a main meal or a snack?

                  1. re: bitsubeats

                    We always season the rice with sesame oil in the kim bop I and my wife make. We also add a touch of salt and sometimes sesame seed. Haven't tried the perilla (Korean wild sesame) yet.
                    Our standard fillings include strips of fishcake (odaeng) and crab along with the daikon, spinach, and steamed carrot.
                    For myself I like to use strips of grilled chicken, or spicy pork, or bulgogi, or...well just about any thing.

                    1. re: hannaone

                      when you make kimbap next time, try laying a few ggaenip leaves down on the seaweed before you add the rice and goodies. My mom did this for me in the summer time and I loved it.

                      sometimes I also like to add sauteed gobo

                      1. re: bitsubeats

                        I will try that.
                        My current kick is a grilled chicken breast salad wrap. Very thin layer of rice with strips of grilled chicken breast, chopped lettuce, fresh shredded daikon, cucumber strip, steamed carrot, egg strip, diced tomato, and a sesame salad dressing that my wife makes.

                        1. re: bitsubeats

                          Question! I know what gaenip is but what is the name of the plant in English, say if I wanted to buy some seeds to plant?

                          1. re: ohmyyum

                            Perilla...sometimes they're used as garnish for japanese sushi/sashimi but the korean variety tastes slightly different - I would say it's spicier and less minty. They're sturdy plants and are easy to grow. If you're keen, you can grow them until they flower - the flowers will eventually fall off and leave clusters of fresh soft seeds. You can chop off the clusters and lightly fry them in a thin flour/egg batter or chop them up and incorporate into a scallion pancake mix. Sometimes people like to let the seeds mature until the plant dies and use them to replant the following season.

                            1. re: hyunnee

                              Thank you so much for the detailed response! I love "perilla" that's been marinated in soy sauce with steaming hot, white, Korean sticky rice.

                        2. re: hannaone

                          There's a Korean market near my house that makes kimbap on Fridays. If they haven't run out by the time i'm off work, I buy a bunch of it. Theirs is generally vegetarian, sometimes some egg, once I saw something that looked like little bits of Spam-type meat, but usually, because they're not refrigerated, I'm guessing, they're vegetarian. And they're wonderful, even though I generally dislike the taste of sesame oil

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            Kimbab typically has some form of ham type product in it which is probably what you identified as spam. And usually some fish cake also.

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              Not always. Sometimes when I've gotten them in the RoK they just have pickled vegetables and sesame seeds on top.

                              The other day, from Assi Plaza in Flushing, NY, the kimbap had squid.

                              As for a version in Yangzhou, China (http://buildingmybento.com/2012/04/18...) - though they called it sushi - I don't even want to know what it had. It was mostly mayonnaise and a variety of representatives from Crayola.

                              1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                That's...why I said "typically" and "usually"..

                                Anyway, you can stuff whatever you want into your kimbap. I like making mine with pulled pork and mayo (in addition to the usual stuff)

                                1. re: joonjoon

                                  Well, you can do whatever you want when preparing food, but I'd "hardly" call one laden with pulled pork "kimbap."

                                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                    Why does pulled pork detract from the kimbapness? Anything flies with kimbap as long as it's got kim (seaweed) and bap (rice).

                                    If I put bulgogi in a taco is that not a taco any more?

                          2. re: hannaone

                            although i love perilla leaves in kimbap (particularly the seasoned ones), i think jungmann was referring to using Deulgireum (perilla seed oil) instead of chamgireum (roasted sesame oil).
                            kimbap is so flexible and just like Budae chigae (korean army soup), anything goes!

                      2. Korean sushi is more accurately described as sashimi. It's characterized by freshness, quantity and texture. Presentation is an afterthought. If you go to small coastal towns in Korea, locals will shop for fresh fish suitable for sashimi-ing (flounder/fluke are the most valued) in fish markets then take it to a restaurant to turn into sashimi. The bones/head are made into a spicy fish soup and completes the meal. The fish should preferably be alive just before preparation. Some modern korean seafood restaurants have added a gimmick of serving the sashimi slices layered over the the bones/head with the mouth still moving. That's the ultimate freshness people will pay big bucks for. The sashimi is served unseasoned in large quantities, spread over a plate the size of a personal pizza on a bed of shredded daikon or lettuce. There's always the common option of serving with a bowl of hot steaming white glutinous rice (unflavored) and a choice of a hot pepper paste/vinegar sauce or soy/wasabi. Each piece is dipped in the sauce then layered over a bite size morsel of rice by the diner and consumed one piece at a time (instant nigiri!) - takes some dexterity. Sometimes you can consume it in the form of a ssam (lettuce/perilla). If the diner doesn't care for rice, they can go without.

                        The comments about the preference for "chewy" texture is absolutely correct. Tuna and salmon are considered too soft. Seabass and fluke/flounder are chewier white fish that are good options.

                        The korean rolls involve no fish and is the ideal and traditional picnic food - it can conveniently be eaten by hand and flavorful enough to go without the common korean meal of rice and "banchan." You can brush the roll before cutting into pieces with sesame oil then very briefly rolled over a frying pan to maintain crispness of the seaweed.

                        1. More on this here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379384

                          Long story short, Sushi is Japanese. The closest Korean equivalent is Hwe, which is it's own thing.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: joonjoon

                            Unfortunately, everything Sam Fujisaka said in that thread about sushi is incorrect.

                            Anyway, the origins of sushi are from southern China and SE Asia- most likely Laos. But sushi is VERY Japanese as the Japanese added vinegar to the rice (which in the original version the rice wasn't even consumed) and the Japanese added raw fish (only done so in the last 100 years) and they turned it into nigiri and maki rolls.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              I dont know about southeast asia, but China has a long history of eating raw fish sliced thin, called kuai, and raw laund fauna in the same manner, called sheng. This practice is recorded in history books back to the earliest dynasties. Confucius was reportedly a big fan of kuai and sheng.

                              But this practice died down a few hundred years ago after Chinese doctors discouraged these dishes for fear of parasites in the raw food. Most people don't know about it.

                              Modern sushi is flash frozen to kill parasites, but of course that was not available hundreds of years ago.

                              1. re: clam61

                                Consuming raw fish or meat has a long history in many countries. But sushi has as distinct history irrespective of this.

                                Many people assume sushi and sashimi are connected historically in origins but they are not. Sushi's origin is a direct result of efforts to preserve freshwater fish using fermented rice. The early words and kanji for sushi, which derive from Chinese, had meant "sour tasting", which was a result from the rice fermentation. The appeal of the sour taste and efforts to preserve fish led to the use of vinegar in the Edo Era.

                                Sushi in Japanese is a broad term for many types of items with vinegared rice although most people associate it with nigiri- even in Japan. Where BTW, many fish are not flash frozen, including some tuna.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  im not saying sushi comes from china. there is no evidence for that. i was just expanding on the previous comment about raw fish consumption in china.

                                  in the US, by law everything is supposed to be flash frozen.

                                  if you dont flash freeze it, then you rely on wasabi to kill parasites like liver fluke which isn't always reliable.

                                  1. re: clam61

                                    There aren't many places in the US that use real wasabi. Most are using colored horseradish. But the antiseptic benefits of wasabi aren't going to kill much. And besides many sushi items do not call for wasabi.