|Place of origin||Korea|
|Region or state||East Asia|
|Associated national cuisine||Korean cuisine|
|Variations||Dolsot-bibimbap, Jeonju-bibimbap, Jinju-bibimbap, Tongyeong-bibimbap|
Bibimbap (// BEE-bim-bap, from Korean 비빔밥 [pi.bim.p͈ap̚], literally "mixed rice"), sometimes romanized as bi bim bap or bi bim bop, is a Korean rice dish. The term "bibim" means mixing rice (burned rice at the bottom of the dish and cooked rice), while the "bap" noun refers to rice. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) or kimchi (traditional fermented vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or doenjang (a fermented soybean paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating.
In South Korea, Jeonju, Jinju, and Tongyeong are especially famous for their versions of bibimbap. In 2011, the dish was listed at number 40 on the World's 50 most delicious foods readers' poll compiled by CNN Travel.
The origin of the many names of bibimbap come from Korea's hanja based records, originally appearing in Yokjokumun (Korean: 역조구문; Hanja: 歷朝舊聞) of Kijae-jabki (Korean: 기재잡기; Hanja: 寄齋雜記) by Park Dong-ryang (Korean: 박동량; Hanja: 朴東亮) in the end of 16th century (around 1590). This record associated the original bibimbap as "hondonban (混沌飯)" This later went on to become bubuiembap (브뷔음밥) nearly 200 years after the hanja record, and was documented in a Hangul record. The hanja dictionary (Korean: 한대자전; Hanja: 漢大字展) indeed contained "bubuida (부뷔다)" or "bubuiem (부뷔움), Dong (董)" in hanja, which meant "mix" or "bibida" in Korean. In the late 19th century the two names were recorded for the recipe being bubiban (捊排飯) and koldongban (骨董飯), with the recipe being written in pure Korean. Other various recordings after this include (in Hanja) koldongban (骨董飯, 汨董飯), hondonban (混沌飯), and bubiban (捊排飯) and also banyuban (盤遊飯); then in Hangeul, bubiumbap (부뷔움밥), bubiembap (부비음밥), bubuimbap (부뷤밥), bubeimbap (부븸밥), bubuinbap (부뷘밥), and bubimbap (부빔밥).
The exact origin of bibimbap (비빔밥) is unknown. People could have started mixing bap (rice) with banchan (side dishes) after the outdoor jesa (rites), such as sansinje (rite for mountain gods) or dongsinje (rite for village gods), where they needed to "eat with the god" but did not have as many cooking pots and items of crockery to hand as they would normally have at home. Jeonju Bibimbap is an old-fashioned and delicious dish. Some scholars assert that bibimbap originates from the traditional practice of mixing all the food offerings made at an jesa (ancestral rite) in a bowl before partaking of it.
Ordinary people ate bibimbap 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. Farmers ate bibimbap during farming season as it was the easiest way to make food for a large number of people. Bibimbap was served to the king, usually as a lunch or a between-meal snack. There was more than vegetables in this bibimbap.
Bibimbap was recorded as hondon-ban (混沌飯) in the history book Historical notes of Gijae by the Joseon scholar Bak Dong-ryang (1569–1635). In the Diary of Cheongdae by another Joseon scholar Gwon Sang-il (1679–1760), it was recorded as goldong-ban (骨董飯). The dish was also recorded in Complete Works of Seongho by Yi Ik (1681–1764) as goldong (骨董), in Complete Works of Cheongjanggwan by Yi deok-mu (1741–1793) as goldong-ban (汨董飯), and in Works of Nakhasaeng by Yi Hak-gyu (1770–1835) as both goldong-ban (骨董飯) and goldong (骨董).
The hangul transcription beubwieum (브뷔음) first appears in the 1810 encyclopedia Mongyupyeon by Jang Hon. The 1870 encyclopedia Myeongmul giryak states that the dish name is written as goldong-ban (骨董飯) in hanja but is read as bubaeban (捊排飯), a probable transcription of the native Korean bubim-bap (부빔밥).
In Collected Works of Oju written by Yi Gyu-gyeong (1788–1856), recorded varieties of bibimbap, such as vegetable bibimbap, miscellany bibimbap, hoe bibimbap, shad bibimbap, prawn bibimbap, salted shrimp bibimbap, shrimp roe bibimbap, marinated crab bibimbap, wild chive bibimbap, fresh cucumber bibimbap, gim flake bibimbap, gochujang bibimbap, soybean sprout bibimbap, and also stated that bibimbap was a local specialty of Pyongyang, along with naengmyeon and gamhongno.
The late 20th century brought about the globalization of the Korean culture, traditions, and food to many areas of the world with many restaurant chains being opened up in various international airports that encourage the sale of bibimbap.
Bibimbap is an extensively customizable food with a variety of ingredients that can be used in its creation. It has existed in Korea for centuries and even has a place in society today. It came from early rural Koreans taking leftover vegetables, sometimes having meat, with rice and mixing them in a bowl. This was cheap and did not require all of the time and space of a traditional meal.
Bibimbap was originally written in hanja due to the ancient use of the Chinese characters in Korea. There are two separate ancient writings that suggest the original reasoning behind the creation and use of bibimbap. The first one, "People's Unofficial Story of Jeonju" (全州野史), tells of Jeonju bibimbap being used in occasions such as parties that included government officials of provincial offices. The second being, "Lannokgi" (蘭綠記), which told of bibimbap being made by the wives, of farmers, who had no time to prepare meals the traditional way with many side dishes, and instead they were able to throw most of the ingredients in a bowl sometimes adding whatever they happened to be cultivating. Although bibimbap was originally rarely mentioned and mostly only in hanja records, it began to be more frequently referenced and in Hangul (Korean alphabets) records as well upon the creation of Hangul by the King Sejong the Great to improve the state's literacy.
The division of Korea in the 20th century caused a cultural divide in the creation of bibimbap with two types related to both North and South Korea. The most famous regions for traditional bibimbap happen to be Pyongyang for its vegetable bibimbap in the North and Jeonju for its Jeonju Bibimbap.
In the late 20th century, bibimbap started to become widespread in many countries in the West, due to its simplicity, cheap cost, and delicious taste. Many airlines connecting to South Korea via Incheon International Airport began to serve it, and it was accepted more globally as a popular Korean dish. Bibimbap has also been described as a symbol of the Korean culture to non-Koreans due to Korea becoming more acceptable to foreigners and multicultural traditions.
Bibimbap can be various kinds of bibimbap depending on the ingredients. Vegetables commonly used in bibimbap include julienned oi (cucumber), aehobak (courgette), mu (radish), mushrooms, doraji (bellflower root), and gim, as well as spinach, soybean sprouts, and gosari (bracken fern stems). Dubu (tofu), either plain or sautéed, or a leaf of lettuce may be added, or chicken or seafood may be substituted for beef. For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so adjacent colors complement each other. In the South Korean version, sesame oil, red pepper paste (gochujang), and sesame seeds are added. The Bibimbap meal includes meat, rice, sesame oil, vegetables, as well as gochujang which are presented as a single dish and eaten with chopsticks and spoons. The meal provides unique nutrition and flavor fused with attractive colors due to its rich ingredients. Furthermore, the ingredients have low calorie content, hence offer a healthy diet. The combination of vegetables, rice, fermented sauces and meat provides adequate fiber, carbohydrates and protein content. By harmonizing together various ingredients, bibimbap emerges as a unique meal that symbolizes the harmony and balance in the Korean culture.
Jeonju is the name of a province in South Korea known for its long standing food preparation style which has been praised and passed down throughout the past thousands of years. Jeonju is the most famous place for Bibimbap. Jeonju bibimbap along with kongnamul-gukbap are signature dishes of Jeonju. Jeonju bibimbap is one of the most popular dishes in Korea and around the world. It is usually topped with quality Jeonju soy bean sprouts, hwangpo-muk, gochujang, jeopjang, and seasoned raw beef and served with kongnamul-gukbap. The rice of Jeonju bibimbap is specially prepared by being cooked in beef shank broth for flavor and finished with sesame oil for flavor and nutrients. Jeonju Bibimbap Festival is also held every year.
Hot stone pot bibimbap (dolsot-bibimbap, 돌솥 비빔밥)
Hot stone pot bibimbap (dolsot-bibimbap, 돌솥 비빔밥) is a variation of bibimbap served in a very hot dolsot (stone pot) in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the layer of the rice touching the bowl cook to a crisp, golden brown known as nurungji (누릉지). This variation of bibimbap is typically served to order, with the egg and other ingredients mixed in the pot just prior to consumption.
Yakcho-bibimbap (약초비빔밥) is from Jecheon. Jecheon is a great place for medicinal herbs to grow. People could get a thicker root and more medicinal herb than other areas. The combination of the medicinal herbs and popular bibimbap made it one of the most popular foods in Jecheon.
Hoedeopbap (회덮밥) uses a variety of raw seafood, such as tilapia, salmon, tuna or sometimes octopus, but each bowl of rice usually contains only one variety of seafood. The term hoe in the word means raw fish. The dish is popular along the coasts of Korea where fish are abundant.
Other recorded variations
- Beef tartare bibimbap (yukhoe-bibimbap)
- Freshwater snail soybean paste bibimbap (ureong-doenjang-bibimbap)
- Roe bibimbap (albap)
- Spicy pork bibimbap (jeyuk-bibimbap)
- Sprout bibimbap (saessak-bibimbap)
- Tongyeong-bibimbap, served with seafood
- Wild vegetable bibimbap (sanchae-bibimbap)
- Wild herb bibimbap
- Brass bowl bibimbap
Bibimbap ingredients are rich in symbolism. Black or dark colours represent North and the kidneys – for instance, shiitake mushrooms, bracken ferns or nori seaweed. Red or orange represents South and the heart, with chilli, carrots, and jujube dates. Green represents East and the liver, with cucumber and spinach. White is West or the lungs, with foods such as bean sprouts, radish, and rice. And finally yellow represents the centre, or stomach. Foods include pumpkin, potato or egg.
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