Sunday, December 9, 2012


So it seems that now that hiking season is coming to a close, I've turned to blogging about one of my other favourite things - FOOD! Or, in this particular instance Bibimbap (비빔밥)!
A photo of my school's bibimbap. You may not be able to see all the ingredients, but this one includes rice, fermented radish strips (buried under the rice), mushrooms, bracken fern stems (고사리 - gosari), soybean sprouts, zucchini, seaweed, lettuce, sesame seeds, sesame oil and gochujang (fermented red chili paste) with ground meat. It's delicious, if it doesn't look it, I'll take the blame. I'm the one who prepared it ;).
Bibimbap literally means 'mixed rice' ('bibim' means 'mixed' and 'bap' means 'rice'). It's a dish you will find all over Korea in a number of variations. In Jeonju (전주), Jeollabuk-do province this variation includes a raw egg and is said be how it was traditionally served during the Joseon Dynasty. Another variation is Stone Pot Bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥- dolsot bibipbap) which is served in a (surprise!) steaming hot stone pot. In the northern province of Gangwon-do, wild mountain vegetable bibimbap is the signature dish, while elsewhere beef may also be added. Here in Gwangju, it is also common to stumble upon spicy seafood bibimbap, which is one of my favourite variations.

The above bowl once mixed. This is making me ridiculously hungry.
Wherever you eat it, there are a few ingredients which will almost inevitably be present. The first, and most obvious of these, is rice, but a good bibimbap will also contain zucchini, cucumber, spiced radish strips, mushrooms, soybean sprouts, seaweed, bellflower root, bracken fern stems, sesame seeds and oil and, of course spicy chili pepper paste (often this is 고추장 - Gochujang, or fermented red pepper paste). Bibimbap is almost always served unmixed, with the ingredients arrayed attractively around the bowl. In many restaurants, the rice will be served in a separate lidded cup. It is up to the customer to mix it to their satisfaction.

Ddeok! A delicious Korean rice-based dessert.

While the above picture is not of bibimbap, it is of an equally typical Korean dish - Ddeok (떡), or rice cake. This particular assortment was given to one of the other teachers in my office as a 'thank you' from one of her student's parents. The giving of ddeok in thanks, in celebration or as a parting gift is a fairly common practice in Korea. In its most basic form, ddeok is made from glutinous rice flour and can take on many forms - both sweetened and not. In the above picture, both forms are intended to be eaten as a dessert or snack. To left is ggul tteok (꿀떡), or honey and sesame filled ddeok, while to the right is injeolmi (인절미), or steamed and pounded rice cake coated with soybean powder. Both are delicious.

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