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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Over the Top About Bibimbap

Bibimbap in Stone Pot - Photo by You Know Where You Are

Bibimbap! Bibimbap!! Bibimbap!!!

Such a fun word to say...even if you don't know how to say it!  

How is it pronounced? Well from local Koreans, I've heard it pronounced as [pee-beem-bahp]. Sometimes the first syllable will be pronounced with a "b" sound, but I've been told that the latter pronunciation is proper.

So, what is bibimbap? 

Traditional - Photo by Say Kimchi News
Bibimbap is one of my favorite Asian dishes. I could eat it every day. The dish is Korean and its name means “mixed meal.” It’s very hearty, healthy, filling, and tasty - a complete meal fixed with complex carbs and protein through a serving of various vegetables and select meats. The dish is also perfect to customize for vegetarians and vegans.

As far as some of the ingredients used, bibimbap can be prepared in a number of ways due to its diversity. It’s traditionally served in a hot stone pot, called a dolsot, in which the rice is cooked. The rice is considered the base of the dish and characteristically becomes crispy at the bottom of the dolsot. It's frequently flavored with sesame seed oil for taste and to help along the scorching of the rice as it cooks along the sides and bottom of the stone pot.

The rice is layered with generous but radially arranged and color-orchestrated helpings of fresh and sometimes seasoned vegetables and a select meat, such as bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, minched beef (usually) or slivers of salmon, carrot julienne, kimchi (yum!), and bok choy or spinach.

This vegetable-laden portion of the meal is referred to as namul (without the meat selection). Namul is a Korean term for a dish or serving filled with a variety of seasoned vegetables. It can be served on its own or as an accompaniment to or inclusion in a meal, such as bibimbap.

Bibimbap is fabulously topped with a fried egg. The egg can be fried or it can be raw or semi-cooked. When the dish is mixed together, the runny and slightly gelled yolk from a semi-cooked or raw egg provides a divine taste, although it might sound weird to some.

Gochujang - photo by Korean Food
A red pepper paste referred to as gochujang is usually added to the dish or served on the side in a small condiment vessel. Gochujang has a spicy and slightly sweet flavor that compliments bibimbap very well. It is meant to be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, as bibimbap is eaten with a spoon rather with chopsticks or a fork.

Some people love to sprinkle sesame seeds, dried seaweed flakes or even dried bonito flakes over the bibimbap for added texture and flavor.

You can find bibimbap on the menu in most Korean restaurants. If you haven't had it, you should definitely give it a try! Korean food is delicious!

Spicy BBQ Chicken Bibimbap - Photo by Closet Cooking
I personally would love to try my hand at making this dish at home. It seems rather easy, requiring the freshest of ingredients.

I don't own any dolsots (stone bowls), but I am sure I could find such serving pots at local Korean grocery stores or ethnic food supply shops. Or bibimbap can made and served in a basic ceramic bowl such as the one shown in the above photo.

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