In my last blog post, I mentioned a survey conducted by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute according to which bibimbap (비빔밥) is the hansik eaten by most visitors. I am sure you will agree to this result – anyone who has tried hansik should have already eaten bibimbap. Bibimbap is also sometimes served on Korean airlines. Moreover, bibimbap best represents the metaphysical philosophy of hansik by combining the five colours (i.e., green, red, yellow, white and black) which represent the five elements (i.e., water, fire, wood, metal and earth) that make up the universe. In this blog post, I will talk about this signature Korean dish.
What is Bibimbap?
The typical bibimbap is made from various vegetables, rice and red chili paste. Sometimes, there is also beef in bibimbap. There are regional variations of bibimbap which use ingredients well-known for their respective regions, for example, the well-known Jeonju bibimbap containing bean sprouts. Inside the bowl, the vegetables are placed on top of the steamed rice and usually there is also a fried egg or a raw egg placed in the centre on top of the vegetables. With the different colours of the ingredients, the appearance of bibimbap is very beautiful. There is also dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥) which is served in a sizzling hot stone pot. There are now modern versions of bibimbap which may replace red chili paste with butter or soy sauce or use ingredients (e.g. various types of vegetables, beef, and seafood) of your choice.
To eat the bibimbap, you need to mix the ingredients and the rice thoroughly with the chopsticks first and then eat with a spoon. Actually, the name of this dish comes from this mixing ritual – “bibim” (비빔) means “mixed” and “bap” (밥) means “rice”.
Given its ingredients, bibimbap is considered as a type of healthy and nutritious food. It is also popular among Hollywood celebrities. For example, Gywneth Paltrow referred to bibimbap in her weight-loss tips. Other famous bibimbap fans include Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton and Nicholas Cage.
Origin of Bibimbap
There are different stories regarding the origin of bibimbap. One story is that ancestral rituals were performed in the countryside away from home and after the rituals, instead of bringing all the foods back home which was cumbersome, the people mixed together all the foods in one big bowl and ate them all. Another story is that bibimbap came from the ancient custom of mixing leftover cooked rice with all the remaining side dishes and eating it as a midnight snack on the eve of Lunar New Year. Another story is that while working out in the fields, the farmers mixed together all the nutritious ingredients in one big bowl to have a quick and healthy meal.
Bibimbap As a Theme in Modern Arts
There is a show called “BIBAP” (비밥) which is a non-verbal performance using mainly rhythm, beat, dance steps and mime. Therefore, you don’t need to understand Korean in order to enjoy the show. The show takes place in a kitchen where chefs make a variety of dishes as orders come in, including Chinese, Japanese, and Italian dishes. The final order is “the best bibimbap” and the chefs compete in making it. Their dishes are tasted by a randomly selected audience member who then determines which chef will stay in the kitchen to continue making the best bibimbap. The sound of making bibimbap is mimicked by beat-boxing and a cappella, while the motions are demonstrated through b-boying, acrobatics, and martial arts. The combination of so many artistic skills in one show is similar to the combination of many different ingredients in one big bowl for bibimbap. You can get more information on this show by visiting this web page of Korea Tourism Organization. You can watch a video clip of the show by clicking the link below:
In the “Hello Baby” variety show, the K-pop idol group, MBLAQ sang the “Bibimbap Song” which is pretty cute. You can listen to this song by clicking the link below:
Making Your Own Bibimbap
In fact, you can make bibimbap yourself. You can refer to this web page of Korea Tourism Organization for the recipe or you can learn from Kiseop and Hoon of the K-pop idol group, U-Kiss, by watching this video. Happy cooking and eating! 🙂
Reminder: Due to the Easter holidays, the next blog post will be published on 9 April 2015. Watch this space!
Related Blog Posts
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Interesting things about Korean food and eating” dated 31 March 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Bulgogi” dated 9 April 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Samgyeopsal” dated 14 April 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Samgyetang” dated 16 April 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Korean Table Manners” dated 21 April 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Kimchi” dated 23 April 2015
“Hansik (Korean Food) Series – Chimaek (Fried Chicken and Beer)” dated 28 April 2015
Arirang TV, “Jeonju Bibimbap“, 100 Icons of Korean Culture, 2015-03-09
Lee Hee-ju, “Bibimbap: Perfection in a bowl“, The Korea Herald, 2014-10-31
“Non-spicy Korean foods to try“, Korea Tourism Organization, 2014-06-13
“Bibimbap“, Korean Food Foundation
“Bibimbap“, Korea Tourism Organization
“Customs“, Korea Tourism Organization