Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bibimbap! (비빔밥)

I was browsing fatmanseoul when I saw a link to this here article.

The gist of the short article is that the president of Woosuk University (우석대학교), a man named Ra Jong-Yil (라종일- again, don't understand why the heck it's "Ra" when there is NO 'R' IN THE KOREAN ALPHABET), wrote a children's book about bibimbap. (In four languages, no less- Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese).

The article claims that Mr. Ra wanted to promote the birthplace of bibimbap, Jeonju (전주). I wanted to share because Jeonju is my birthplace!

Bibimbap is a rice dish. "Bibim" means, literally, "mixed," and "bap" means both "food" and "rice." (It was #49 on the Korean 100 list). That's about where a clear description ends. The rice can be mixed with a huge assortment of things, and depending on the region you live in and the current season, people like particular twists on the dish.

It can be eaten cold in the summer, with cold ingredients, or hot in the winter, the rice made in a stone pot, with hot ingredients.

I prefer the winter version. Instead of the various sprouts and seasoned vegetables, I like it with some form of meat (I'm an omnivore, through and through) and unseasoned vegetables, cooked slightly, with a fried egg on top. There must be dollops of red chili pepper paste (고추장), a generous amount of sesame oil, and some toasted sesame seeds for good measure.

Once the rice has been eaten, there is a crust of cooked rice left (assuming it was made in a stone pot). Hot water or tea is added to this crust, which reconstitutes it. It doesn't become regularly cooked rice, though, but something different and delicious in its own right. Toasty, slightly chewier, delicious with barley tea. (And will raise your body temperature about 20 degrees- it's a great cold-weather meal).

Ah, bibimbap, how I miss you!

I miss Jeonju even more. One of my uncles that still lives in Jeonju is coming over to stay for a month (just to relax and play-- what a nice life that must be!). I can't wait to pick his brain about all the happenings and hear stories about what the family's been up to.

For now, I must try to wheedle some bibimbap out of my mother...