Most foreigners who enjoy Korean food provably tried Kimbap, the seaweed rice rolls stuffed with various vegetables. I bet not many of them have tried or even heard of “Chungmu Kimbap” though. Chungmu Kimbap is popular seaweed rice rolls among local Koreans. There are many franchise restaurants in Korea that specialize this particular kimbap. Chungmu Kimbap is dear to my heart because it is the food from my hometown, Tongyoung, one of the most beautiful harbor town of south Korea. Tongyoung was once called Chungmu, where the name of the dish originated.
Chungmu had been a fishing town surrounded with beautiful islands and there were many boat ferries to ship passengers to nearby islands. In one corner of the ferry terminal, there was an old lady who was selling this kimbap to the passengers, tourists, and fishermen. People called her “fat granny (뚱보할매 ttungbo halmae)” because she was a little heavier and old (In olden days in Korea, people often distinguished each other by their appearance)
This local delicacy became quite popular 1988 around the time Korea hosted Seoul Olympics. We no longer saw the fat granny in the ferry terminal since then (In fact the ferry terminal is not there anymore, either). With many franchise offer she got, she became very wealthy. Although she passed away many years ago, her daughter-in-law continued the business and you will see her restaurant across the street where the ferry terminal used to be. There are several other restaurants that specialize Chungmu kimbap along the same street.
In fact some people believe that the fat granny is not the one who created the recipe. It was known that one unknown fisherman’s wife came up with idea after many incidents of her traditional kimbap she made for her fisherman husband’s lunch got spoiled easily while he is on the sailing, so she created kimbap without the filling. She wrapped the plain rice with seaweed into bite size pieces and put the side dishes (radish and squid) on the side instead. She wrapped the kimbap in plastic coated papers and a couple of toothpick to use as an utensil. It worked! The kimbap stayed fresh longer even during the hot season. Since then many fisherman’s wives tried that method and became the tradition of Chungmu.
Funny thing is some local Chungmu people don’t consider the fat granny’s kimbap as an original. But whether her recipe is original or not, it is true that she was one of the most well know person from my hometown, and perhaps I will be the next…? Just kidding! If you see my Tongyoung post that I wrote a couple of years ago, you will find many other attractions why this harbor town is so famous among Koreans.
As for the recipe, I can’t nail it down to be exactly the same as what you would get in Tongyoung, but it will be better than what you would get in Seoul in one of those copycat Chungmu kimbap franchise restaurant.
Move on to the squid side dish, usually the original chungmu kimbap uses semi-dried squid but it is hard to find that outside of Korea, so I use fresh squid. Besides I am not taking this as a lunch for my day long fishing trip. My husband will say “Yikes!” if he seeds this image of squid. He hates squid but his wife loves it! No matter what, we get along very well.
That’s all! They might seem nothing special, but it is so good together. I would prefer to eat this kimbap over other kinds of kimbap 9 out of 10 times.
This brings me so many memories of my childhood and the scenery of my hometown. For some unknown reason this tastes better when you use a toothpick rather than a folk or chopsticks. For me this is a kind of food that I can eat everyday and I won’t get board easily. Yum!
- Peel the radish and slice it in free form to get ½" on the thickest part.
- Dissolve salt, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl and soak the radish slices for 2 hours. Drain well. Set aside.
- In a blender, puree garlic, onion, and anchovy sauce together until smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoon of the puree.
- To make the radish side dish, combine the onion puree (except the reserved 2 tablespoon) with the rest of the radish ingredients. Mix well. Toss with the radish. Let it sit on the counter for a day to ferment if the permits.
- For the squid and fish cakes, blanch the squid in a boiling water for 30-60 seconds and drain well, place on a mixing bowl and set aside. Slice the fish cakes into desired bite size. Add to the squid. In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoon of the onion puree with the rest of the ingredients; mix well. Pour the seasoning into squid and the fish cakes and toss well to incorporated everything.
- Cut each sheet of seaweed into 6 equal segment. Spread a little bit (about 2 tablespoon) of rice over the seaweed pieces and roll it up. Serve the seaweed rice rolls with the 2 side dishes.