Thursday, October 25, 2018

[Food] Bibimbap (비빔밥, Korean Mixed Rice)


[Food] Bibimbap (비빔밥, Korean Mixed Rice)

"Mom....? are you there?"

I see nothing but hear the sound of a freezer and boiler - a small engine-like sound with its vibration tapping my eardrums. The smell of spicy kongnamul guk (Korean bean-sprout soup) and darkness fill the empty space of the kitchen. I remember coming to mom's house this morning, but I quickly fell asleep on my bed because of fever - serious overworking and a sudden cold are the causes, I think.

Don't worry, I took some meds from a pharmacy (before I slept) and I'm feeling very well now...except that I'm sweating and am hungry. I quickly found the light switch and turned it on.

My instinct tells me that there is a lot of food in the kitchen. I'm looking for anything to eat ...okay...there's some rice in an electric rice cooker and.....
Inside a typical Korean freezer with many plastic containers of a family's favorite side dishes.

"Jackpot! Mhahahaha!!!"

I'm extremely happy - like a pirate who finally found his or her legendary treasure chest. The freezer has all of my favorite side dishes that mom cooked :D and there is Korean chili paste and sesame oil in the cupboard.

Guess what I will do next :) Now I have rice, Korean vegetables, meat side dishes and Korean chili paste.....the answer is....

A typical Korean home-style Bibimbab (비빔밥, Korean Mixed Rice)
Bibimbap! Rice, chili paste and any side dish can be turned into a great meal of the day :) As quickly as possible, I start to pick out my favorite side dishes from my mom's freezer and toss them onto a table. Then I scoop a bowl of rice and chili paste into a round and large bowl. Now what? It's time to throw all the side dishes into the bowl and mix!

Korean Mixed Rice with various vegetables and Doenjangjjigae. Yum! :q
As I do munch and crunch with bibimbap, it jogged my memory being in Jinju, home to one of Korea's most famous bibimbap. Some Korean cities are famous for its unique bibimbap: Jeonju (S.Korea), Jinju (S.Korea), Andong (S.Korea), Pyeongyang (N.Korea) and Haeju (N.Korea). The interesting thing is that no one knows the exact origin of bibimbap because it has been eaten by Koreans for a long time - since at least 500 A.D. Bibimbap officially appears in a cuisine book of Chosun dynasty (1500 A.D. of Korea).

Let's take a look at ingredients that we put into a traditional bibimbap in Korea.

Vegetables, herbs and mushrooms

Chopped and seasoned raw beef

Mung bean jelly
These are 'traditional', not 'compulsory', ingredients. You can put in whatever ingredients you want to eat for your bibimbap, it's totally up to you :) If you want to put in the tomato pasta you had last night or french fries or meatballs, just do it :) but you do so at your own risk, hahahahaha!! 

Sunny-side up egg and Korean chili paste are popular topping for bibimbab today :)

The 5 cities' bibimbaps that I mentioned above differ in toppings and ingredients. Then you might ask 'what are these differences?' Here's the answer :)

1. Jeonju Bibimbap

A traditional Korean house village in Jeonju

A street in a traditional Korean house village
A Jeonju bibimbab 

Jeonju put in a lot of bean sprouts, some fresh vegetables, an egg yolk, chopped mung bean jelly and seasoned raw beef into bibimbap. The interesting thing is that Jeonju bibimbap uses a rice cooked in beef stock which gives a deeper and saltier taste to the rice (moreover, each rice grain is coated with oil from beef stock which gives it smoothness and a unique taste of gravy). And it is served with plain kongnamul guk (bean-sprout soup) :)

Beef stock
Plain kongnamul guk. It should be neither salty nor spicy, otherwise it will spoil the taste of Jeonju bibimbap :(

2. Jinju Bibimbap

Jinju bibimbap's rice (character) is 'plainness and mildness'. It uses parboiled and chopped vegetables without egg yolk :) It is served with ox blood soup (I can see you grimace and think it might taste yuk but it is great, trust me :) )

Jinju city is famous for its Oil Lantern Festival :)

A bibimbab restaurant in Jinju

Jinju bibimbab

Ox blood soup, that red lump is clotted ox blood :)

3) Andong Heotjesabab (Andong-style bibimbab)

'Jesabab' of 'Heotjesabab' means a meal that eat after any 'Jesa' (Korean ancestral rites) but this 'Heot' means 'something that doesn't exist'. So 'Heotjesabab' means a meal that eat 'like' after any 'Jesa' (Korean ancestral rites), so you can eat dishes that Koreans would serve for the ancestral rites if you go any 'Heotjesabab' restaurant.

A traditional Korean village in Andong

A night view of the Wallyeong bridge in Andong

Andong's Heotjesabab with tangguk (Korean beef radish broth - a traditional Southern Korean dish). You put rice into a vegetable bowl then put in soy sauce to add flavor :)
Unlike other bibimbap, Heotjesabab uses soy-sauce rather than chili paste. And it is served with tangguk (Korean beef radish broth, a traditional Korean dish of Southern Korea).

4) Pyeong and Haeju Bibimbab (North Korean Bibimbaps)

Morandae and Neungra Island of Pyeongyang in 1921 A.D.

A square in Pyeongyang
I can't find any photo of North Korean bibimbabs... :( but I can tell you what they are like... :)

Pyeongyang bibimbap doesn't use any raw meat - unlike South Korean bibimbaps - but uses fully cooked (omelette-like) and chopped egg with mung bean sprouts. Haeju bibimbap is like fried rice. In Haeju, they stir-fry rice onto a pan and add stir-fried pork and chicken onto the rice (Yum! :q). Alas, I'm so sad that I can't show you any pictures ;( there's none on Google...

Anyway...I've nearly finished my-style bibimbap :) I have put in some kimchi, soy-sauced beef, spinach, stir-fried carrots, chili paste and sesame oil :)

Jeonju bibimbap with various side dishes

Bibmbap with Bulgogi in it :)

Bibmbap with some lettuce :)

Bibimbap with young radish kimchi :)

Bibmbap is also eaten in the Korean army as a combat ration :)

What ingredients would you put in for your-style bibimbap? :) Whatever you put, I hope it tastes great :)

I think that bibimbap can be a symbol of peace and harmony. It is a very interesting food with each ingredient having a different flavor and taste but it is so delicious when they are mixed and harmonized with others...I hope that mankind can also be like bibimbap...we are all different but we can make great harmony and peace :) Am I being way too philosophical...? Anyway....:)

Bon appétit!

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