The premium gimbap movement: The Box
Seoul has cycled through its fair share of trends, yet most of them have focused on foreign foods—the Burger Renaissance, gourmet pizzas, Ko-Mexican, craft beer. Korean staples have been the nerdy girl in the ‘80s teen comedy: always waiting for her moment in the spotlight. She’s pretty in her own way, but goes unnoticed until she transforms herself into the hot, fresh commodity with prom-queen potential. This year, the transformation has taken the form of premium gimbap.
Think about it. Premium gimbap is a no-brainer: It’s accessible, almost everyone eats it, it can be filled with anything you can think of and with rolls ranging from KRW 3,000 to KRW 8,000, it’s also cheap enough to be affordable in spite of gourmet ingredients inside.
There have been hints of this trend taking hold—foreshadowing, if you will—as some gimbap shops would feature a single special roll, like one stuffed with stir-fried anchovies or chopped galbi. But it wasn’t until this spring that the movement hit full craze status. We have three great places are listed here, but it’s already getting to the point where a premium gimbap joint is opening in each major neighborhood, even in the suburbs. What’s also interesting is that the trend hasn’t come from the major gimbap franchises; many of these places are single mom-and-pop shops or brand new enterprises.
Right on the edge of Insa-dong in the building next to the police station is a restaurant aptly named The Box. This tiny Korean deli specializes in organic gimbap with premium ingredients. The Gyedong gimbap eats like breakfast, with fresh free-range eggs and super-aged kimchi. Other rolls include hanu bulgogi, spicy pork (maeun jeyuk) and kohlrabi salad. Any of these would pair nicely with a refreshing bottle of housemade Mungyeong Omija Berry Iced Tea, prepared with a touch of vinegar. It revives the soul after a day of trekking the Insa-dong alleyways.
*Outside Anguk Station, Exit 6. 461 Unhyeongung SK Hub, 101-dong 101-1-ho, Samildaero, Jongno-gu
* T. 02-733-2558
* Anguk Station 안국역 (Line 3), between Exits 5 & 6