On car trips, the kimbap would fall and Christina would eat it like a burrito, slowly peeling off the foil as she ate. It’s simple food and nostalgia. In Korea, this is something Christina would get at the gas station, and now she never does. Instead, she’ll get some from H Mart as a last resort or get it from her mom.
One of the dishes that sweet spot Bapmukja in Lynnwood specializes in is kimbap. However, it’s not like the homemade versions Christina grew up eating. This kimbap is filled with luxurious ingredients: pork belly with perilla leaves, asparagus and pickled radish; shrimp tempura with sweet honey and spicy mayonnaise; steak and swiss cheese with asparagus. It is served sliced like sushi on colorful melamine plates from Korea.
There’s also tteokbokki, a traditional savory dish of fried rice cakes, gyoza, fried spring rolls, shrimp tempura and Korean street toast.
Open since July, Bapmukja is owned by Thomas Hur, TJ Duffy and SJ Paik. Herr and Duffy’s dream was to open a restaurant reminiscent of Korean bunsik places – “the style of restaurants in Korea where you have light snacks, grab-and-go on your way home from school. It’s nostalgic,” says Duffy.
They had seen bunsik-style restaurants opening in LA and New York and thought the Seattle area was overdue for bunsik, which offered all the street food of Korea with slightly elevated ingredients.
I met Christina there for lunch last week. We splurged and ordered the Steak and Cheese Kimbap ($10.99), Pork Belly Kimbap with Rosé tteokbokki ($18.99) and Street Toast ($8.99).
The street toast was a dream: lightly toasted thick-cut thick bread dusted with sugar and topped with a patty of shredded carrot, onion, cabbage and egg, thinly sliced ham, melted American cheese and shredded coleslaw, tossed with ketchup and mayo. It has all kinds of textures and ranges from sweet and salty to spicy. It shouldn’t work, but boy does it. It’s almost funny how good this little sandwich is.
“The secret is the sugar and ketchup mayo,” Duffy says with a laugh.
The tteokbokki rosé — named for the milk in the sauce, which turns it creamy and pink — was rich and smoky, thanks to a generous handful of chopped bacon swirled in the thick sauce. Duffy says he thinks Bapmukja is the only place in the Seattle area that serves traditional tteokbokki, which is usually in a spicy red sauce topped with a hard-boiled egg and onions.
Pork Belly Kimbap is Duffy’s tribute to an “all-in-one Korean BBQ bite.” Kimbap has a layer of perilla leaves plus sesame seeds, asparagus, carrot, egg and pickled radish. It’s pretty good on its own, but I also love what they call the BMJ sauce—a combination of spicy bibim sauce, honey mayo, and spicy mayo—for an extra kick.
His favorite is the short rib kimbap, stuffed with kalbi-style steak slathered with the marinade that Duffy has been perfecting for more than a decade. I look forward to trying it on my next visit.
Equally delicious in Lynnwood is Sabai Sabai Lao & Thai Cuisine. I grabbed takeout from there the other week and was in love with every dish I ordered, from the nam khao ($13.95) to the sai quoua ($11.95).
Sabai Sabai has an extensive menu of Thai dishes and a small section titled “Authentic Lao Dishes” where I focused my order. There are smaller dishes like sai quoua, house-made pork sausage heavy on lemongrass, and thum mak hoong, a Lao-style green papaya salad, and larger plates like kua mi lao ($13.95), fried rice noodles , which is very similar to pad thai, but with pork.
My absolute favorite was the sam khao, a crispy rice salad served in a lettuce wrap style. Fresh, crispy rice bites are mixed with tender ground pork, peanuts and slivers of red onion and tossed in this spicy sauce that combines lots of lime with fish sauce and spicy red curry paste. You will pile the rice on a wide leaf of rum and wrap it. If you ordered sai quoua (you should), tuck in a slice of the sausage for extra kick.
A close second – especially for winter – was the khao piak sen ($11.95), a Laotian chicken broth soup that felt downright restorative. There’s also lightly shredded poached chicken, thick-cut rice noodles, fried onions, and hot chili butter served on the side that can cut through even the worst congestion. This soup is one I want in heavy rotation for a winter cure.
Bapmukja 11:00am – 8:00pm Monday – Friday, 11:30am – 8:30pm Saturday, noon – 7:00pm Sunday; 18623 Highway 99, Suite 110, Lynnwood; 425-480-1871; bapmukja.com
Sabai Sabai Lao and Thai cuisine 11:00-21:00 Monday-Thursday, 11:00-22:00 Friday, noon-22:00 Saturday, noon-21:00 Sunday; 1120 164th St. SW, Suite B, Lynnwood; 425-742-9155; sabaisabailaothai.com