One of the best things about Korea is the FOOD. As a Canadian, my palate usually preferred ‘Western’ style cuisine: pizza, chicken, and of course poutine. I never really was a spice lover, even when my dad would cook up West Indian dishes and go easy on the spice for me. Let’s just say… I wasn’t an adventurous eater. Before coming to Korea, I wasn’t sure if I would like much of the food, especially the spicy ones. But I was wrong! I love Korean food!
Today, I got a taste of Korean culture (literally!). I attended a cooking class to make Korea’s most famous dish: bibimbap!
What’s Bibimbap, you ask?
Bibimbap (비빔밥) literally means “mixed rice”. It’s served in a bowl with hot white rice, sautéed vegetables, and gochujang also known as red chili pepper paste. It’s common to add bulgogi (ground beef) and a fried egg on top. Then you mix it all up with a spoon and chopsticks and dig in!
A little more about the history of bibimbap (taken from Wikipedia):
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.
Back to today…
I was perusing Facebook earlier this week and came across the ‘Making Bibimbap’ event hosted by Busan Buddhism.
This organization puts on a variety cultural event each month so that foreigners can learn more about the history of Korea. They host events such as making kimchi, designing lanterns, and making hwajeon (flower pancakes) – which will be happening next month!
Emily and I made our way to the end of Line 1 (Nopo Station) where we hopped on a shuttle bus to take us to Hongbeopsa Temple.
We were greeted by the friendly organizers who got us prepared at our cooking stations. What I loved about the experience already was that we were sitting on the floor to cook the food (which is the traditional way Koreans eat meals). After some introductions, it was time to cook!
We first watched our experienced chef in action as she went step by step on how to make the dish. Then, it was our turn! Each cooking station had event organizers to assist in preparing the dish, as well as to answer any questions we may have. Our lovely sous chefs (Eun Jeong and Jun Woo) were awesome and gave us a lot of information about the ingredients (especially what they are called in Korean!).
Okay so… HOW do you make bibimbap?
It’s quite simple!
First, there is no exact measurement to how many vegetables you need. It will all depend on how many bowls you will be serving.
enoki mushrooms (팽이버섯), green squash (애호박), carrot (당근), shitake mushrooms (표고버섯), egg, soy bean oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, hot pepper paste (고추장 – gochujang), salt, sugar, sesame seeds
- Prepare the rice in a rice cooker (or if you’re like me, warm up Minute Rice!).
- Pick apart the enoki mushrooms and julienne cut the other vegetables.
- Saute the following veggies in soy bean oil*, starting from light to dark colour:
- enoki mushrooms (팽이버섯)
- green squash (애호박)
- carrot (당근)
- shitake mushrooms (표고버섯)
*You can use any type of oil, EXCEPT olive oil as it burns faster. Soy bean oil complements the vegetables nicely, so I would suggest using this oil! Saute each vegetable separately for about 2 minutes or until vegetables start to get soft.
- Fry the egg – typically sunny side up, but it’s up to you!
- Prepare the sauce
Oil the pan with soy bean oil; add the hot pepper paste; add a little bit of soy sauce, a pinch of salt and sugar. At this point, you could add bulgogi beef to the sauce if you wish. Stir it up and transfer to a sauce dish. The colour should be dark red and the paste should be a thick consistency.
- Build your bowl!
Rice goes on the bottom. Then add each vegetable on top, going clockwise. Add as little or as much red pepper sauce as you’d like! Drizzle on some sesame seed oil (just a little bit though!). Place the fried egg as the centerpiece. Garnish with sesame seeds.
VOILA! You just made bibimbap!
Once we were finished cooking, it was time to eat our creations! Along with our dish, we ate kimchi soup and drank chrysanthemum tea (normally drunken after eating bibimbap). I must say, my bibimbap dish came out great and it tasted yummy, too! I can’t wait to make this at home!
- You can add more ingredients to the dish if you’d like! Given the time frame of our cooking class, we didn’t prepare some ingredients such as the soybean sprouts, pickled radish, and bom namul (Korean spring greens). If you can’t prepare at home, you can always purchase these ingredients premade at the grocery store.
- Blanch the soy bean sprouts in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Don’t open the lid until finished or it will have a stinky smell later.
- Remember to sauté each vegetable separately and transfer to a plate. You can add a pinch of salt to taste while sautéing, too!
- It’s all about presentation – make your dish look Instagram-worthy!
Have you ever eaten bibimbap before? What other Korean dishes do you love? Share in the comment section below!