Anatomy of a Dish: Bibimbap

It's all about the mix when it comes to creating bibimbap, a colourful dish that is also one of the true classics of Korean cuisine.

The key here is understanding that 'bibim' means 'to mix'. One of the most distinctive dishes in the Korean culinary canon, not least for the artful quality of its presentation, bibimbap is all about a mixture of tastes and textures.

According to Paul Lee of Sydney-based Korean import company Table 181, bibimbap is a dish with its roots in the cuisine of the royal court of the 14th-century Joseon Dynasty, and 'consists of oh-sek (five colours) and oh-mee (five flavours)'.

Those flavours are sweet, salty, hot, bitter and gosohan-mat, a term which Lee likens to the quality of a creamy cheese or good sesame oil. Dig in. 

Bibimbap | House and Leisure

Bibimbap: the Essential Elements

The Sauce

Jangs – fermented mother sauces – are essential to Korean cooking and gochujang, a sweet-hot ferment of sweet rice paste and dried red chilli, is a defining component of bibimbap. It's the gochujang that brings the salt, too; serve it on the side and season your other ingredients lightly with this in mind. 

The Meat

There's many a fine meatless bibimbap, but beef remains one of the most popular additions, whether thinly sliced, or served raw (as we have here) as the tartare known as yukhoe, marinated in pear juice, soy and rice wine. 

The Rice 

Short-grain rice cooked in beef stock is the classic move. However, brown rice is a winning alternative, as are mixtures (called japgokbap in Korean), which include short, brown and black rice with millet, barley and other grains. 

The Toppings

A variety of approaches can be taken to achieving the five colours Korean tradition calls for in a bowl of bibimbap. The colours are green (here we've used zucchini and Korean watercress), yellow (bean sprouts in this version, or mung-bean jelly), white (daikon here, or perhaps chestnut, pine nuts or bellflower root), black (we've used shiitakes; bracken or kombu might also feature here), red (here raw beef and carrot, but It could also be red dates).

The egg in the centre is a classic garnish, and while it's often fried before It's added. a runny yolk is best for mixing well through the rice and toppings. 

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