Bibimbap is a famous and very popular Korean dish – the word literally means “mixed rice”.
Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namool “(나물)” (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or doenjang (a fermented soybean paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions.
The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating. Every region in Korea have developed their versions by using their own specific variety of namool, each seasoned separately to bring their unique flavors to the dish.
In South Korea, Jeonju, Jinju, and Tongyeong are especially famous for their versions of bibimbap. In 2011, it was listed at number 40 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll compiled by CNN Travel.
The name bibimbap was adopted in the early 20th century. From the Joseon Period (1392–16th century) until the 20th century, Bibimbap was called goldongban, which means rice made by mixing various types of food.
This dish was traditionally eaten on the eve of the lunar new year as the people at that time felt that they had to get rid of all of the leftover side dishes before the new year. The solution to this problem was to put all of the leftovers in a bowl of rice and to mix them together.
Bibimbap is also thought to have been eaten by farmers during farming season as it was the easiest way to make food for a large amount of people. Bibimbap was served to the king usually as a lunch or a between-meal snack.
Bibimbap is first mentioned in the Siuijeonseo, an anonymous cookbook from the late 19th century. There its name is given as 부븸밥 (bubuimbap). Some scholars assert that bibimbap originates from the traditional practice of mixing all the food offerings made at an ancestral rite (jesa) in a bowl before partaking in it.
Vegetables commonly used in bibimbap include julienned cucumber, zucchini (courgette), mu (daikon), mushrooms, doraji (bellflower root), and gim, as well as spinach, soybean sprouts, and gosari (bracken fern stems). Dubu (tofu), either plain or sautéed, or a leaf of lettuce may be added, or chicken or seafood may be substituted for beef.
For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so adjacent colors complement each other. In the South Korean version, sesame oil, red pepper paste (gochujang), and sesame seeds are added.
Bibimbap ingredients are rich in symbolism. Black or dark colors represent North and the kidneys – for instance, shiitake mushrooms, bracken ferns or laver. Red or orange represents South and the heart, with chili, carrots, and jujube dates. Green represents East and the liver, with cucumber and spinach. White is West or the lungs, with foods such as bean sprouts, radish, and rice. And finally yellow represents the center, or stomach. Foods include pumpkin, potato or egg.
A variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥, dolsot meaning “stone pot”), is served in a very hot stone bowl in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl.
The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the layer of the rice touching the bowl cook to a crisp, golden brown (누릉지). This variation of bibimbap is typically served to order, with the egg and other ingredients mixed in the pot just prior to consumption.
The city of Jeonju (전주), the capital of the North Jeolla Province of South Korea, is famous throughout the nation for its version of bibimbap, said to be based on a royal court dish of the Joseon Dynasty.
A further variation of bibimbap, called hoedeopbap (회덮밥), uses a variety of raw seafood, such as tilapia, salmon, tuna or sometimes octopus, but each bowl of rice usually contains only one variety of seafood. The term hoe in the word means raw fish. The dish is popular along the coasts of Korea where fish are abundant.
Citizens, this is as relentlessly authentic a bibimbap as any you might find in Seoul – I hope you will make it without compromise and enjoy it for the classic recipe it is! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimi
8 ounces (226 grams) of fresh tender beef. Choose any tender cut of beef without fat: flank steak, filet mignon, round, etc.
½ of a Korean pear (or 2 bosc or anjou pears)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups of cold water
6 or 7 garlic cloves, minced
½ of green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon of honey (or sugar)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
a pinch of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
7 or 8 pine nuts
1 ½ lb Korean radish (moowoo)
2 Tbsp Korean chili flakes + 1 Tbsp anchovy sauce + 1 tsp chopped garlic + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion (optional) + 1 tsp sesame seeds
1 lb mung bean sprouts (sookju-namool)
2 tsp Korean say sauce + ¼ tsp salt + ½ tsp garlic + ¼ tsp shrimp powder (optional) + ½ tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp sesame seeds
1 English cucumber
2 tsp oil + pinch salt + ½ tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp oil + ½ tsp shrimp powder or shrimp sauce (optional) + 1 tsp Korean say sauce + 1 tsp garlic + ½ tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp sesame seeds
8-10 dried shitake mushrooms, need to soak in water for 2-3 hours
1 Tbsp oil + 2 tsp Korean soy sauce + ½ tsp sesame oil + ½ tsp sesame seeds + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion
3 oz dried wild fern (gosari), need to soak in water overnight – 고사리 (Gosari) is dried wild fern, a very typical vegetable found in traditional Bibimbap dish. If you can’t find it, then just forget about it and use shredded carrot instead.
1 Tbsp Korean soy sauce + 1 tsp garlic + ½ tsp sesame oil + ½ tsp sesame seeds + 1 Tbsp oil + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion
Freshly cooked short grain rice (Korean or Japanese) : about 1 cup per serving
6-8 eggs (optional) : fried, sunny side up
The Hirshon Bibim Sauce : about 1 Tbsp or more per serving
2 ½ teaspoons Doenjang – TFD strongly endorses 3 year aged “Wholly Doenjang”, found at www.crazykoreancooking.com
2 Tbsp gochujang – TFD strongly endorses “Wholly Gochujang”, found at www.crazykoreancooking.com
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Turbinado Sugar (aka Sugar in the Raw)
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
Freeze the beef for 1 to 2 hours.
Make the seasoning sauce by combining garlic, green onion, soy sauce, honey, ground black pepper, sesame oil, and sesame seeds in a bowl. Mix it well.yukhoe seasoning sauce.
Soak the pear
Mix 2 cups of cold water and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl with a spoon.
Peel the pear and cut it into matchsticks. Soak them in the sugar water for about 10 minutes. Drain the pear sticks and dry with paper towel. Put them on a plate, clearing out a spot in the center to put your yukhoe.
Take the beef out from the freezer and rinse it in cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut the beef into thin matchsticks and then Mix it with the seasoning sauce. Place the yukhoe in the center of the plate of pear matchsticks.
Sprinkle with pine nuts and set aside.
#1 : Peel radish, slice thin and cut them into 1/8″ sticks. Place them in a mixing bowl, add 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp sugar. Toss and let it sit for 10 minutes. You will see some liquid extracted. Rinse the radish with water once and drain well. Place them back in the bowl and add its seasoning ingredients. Toss well and set aside.
#2 : Cook the mung bean sprouts in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and place in a mixing bowl. Add the seasoning ingredients and toss. Set aside.
#3 : Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice each half very thin half moon shape. Place them in a bowl and add 1 tsp salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse with water once, drain and squeeze out a little. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and stir quick, sprinkle salt and sesame seeds, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
#4 : Cut zucchini into 2″ logs. Using a knife cut off the green part around the zucchini from the side, discard the white part. (If you are not comfortable of doing this cutting, just use 1 whole zucchini) Slice the green part of zucchini into 1/4″ sticks. Heat oil, add zucchini and stir fry for 1 minutes. Add the seasonings and fry until it gets soften keeping the green color.
#5 : Soak the mushrooms in water for 2-3 hours. Remove from water and squeeze out excess water. Slice them thin and cook in the oil with its seasoning until soft, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
#6 : Soak the fern in water overnight. Cook them in a simmering water for 40 minutes until it gets re-hydrated. Drain and rinse. Cut off the woody end part (about 2-3″) and discard. Cut the fern 2″ slices. Place the fern in a bowl and add Korean say sauce, garlic, sesame oil. Toss with a hand. Heat oil in a skillet, add seasoned fern and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add sesame seeds and green onion. Set aside.
To serve, place rice in individual serving bowl or pot. Arrange vegetables contrast in color manner on top of the rice with the Yukhoe beef in the center. Mix Bibim sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Place fried eggs on top and dot with Bibim sauce. When ready to eat, mix like crazy! Serve with remaining Bibim sauce on the side.
Note: You can prepare each vegetables ahead of time and keep in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before you serve.