Kim-Bob tuna rollKorean sushi? You may turn up your nose at the notion. It must just be another instance of bad New York fusion, you might say, like the Chinese restaurants that have sushi bars tucked away in the back. But, as Gothamist found out recently, Korean sushi has an authenticity all its own. Some even say that Korean sushi, most often called kim bap, was a precursor of the Japanese variety. The real truth may be that the two developed side by side. Seaweed and rice are dietary staples in both Japan and Korea. In kim bap they are married beautifully. In fact, in Korean, “kim” means seaweed and “bap” means rice—as in the more familiar bibimbap. There are a few factors to distinguish kim bap from its Japanese counterparts. Kim bap are always constructed in maki-like rolls with rice that is seasoned minimally, if at all. They don’t contain raw fish but always include vegetables. Whereas sushi is more a fancy luxury delicacy to be indulged in, kim bap are more of a spartan workaday food, good for lunches or snacks on the go.

This helps to explain Kim-Bob Take Out, a narrow seatless stall sandwiched among the grand barbeque and dumpling emporiums of Koreatown. Kim-Bob (an alternate spelling of kim bap) offers nine varieties of its namesake. All are made to order before your eyes by a lady who, in her white socks and thonged sandals, looks like she’s somebody’s mama. In every roll she places strands of cooked fresh spinach, raw slivered carrot, and pickled daikon radish. Depending on the variety you select, you may also find strips of scrambled egg and cubes of a type of ham that walks the line between tofu and spam.

Among the rolls Gothamist sampled, the tuna was our favorite. No raw toro here, just the plain old canned variety mixed with mayonnaise. That’s okay; cooked fish can be a comfort sometimes. The combination of tuna, rice, and crunchy vegetables is delicious. Also tasty was the kimchee roll, featuring a version of the pickled cabbage that is plenty mild enough for the American palate. For the more daring, there are rolls with jalapeno, squid, or cheese (American!). No matter which you choose you’re guaranteed an interesting variety of textures—and colors—in every bite. As a bonus with each order you get additional slices of the neon-yellow daikon pickle (think of it as extra relish with a hot dog) as well as a cup of a clear-broth soup (which can be drunk like a beverage). At just $5, this has got to be the best sushi deal in town. But remember, unlike Japanese sushi, these rolls are less about drama and more about satisfaction.