중앙데일리

Chef adds fruit of the waves to a classic mix

[FOOD & KOREA] Haecho bibimbap, Jinhae, South Gyeongsang

Apr 08,2010
Haecho bibimbap was developed just 10 years ago by a cook in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang. Provided by the Korea Tourism Organization
Foreigners may not know about tteokbokki, samgyetang or sundubu, but anyone who’s eaten at a real Korean restaurant in their home country is familiar with bibimbap.

This simple and healthy dish of rice, vegetables, red pepper paste, beef and sometimes a fried egg makes a great lunch, dinner or late-night hangover cure. But what you - and even some Koreans - may not know is the incredible variety of tasty bibimbap out there.

For example, a chef in the southeastern port city of Jinhae, South Gyeongsang, has concocted a variation on the traditional dish known as haecho, or seaweed, bibimbap. As befits its name, seaweed is a key ingredient. In fact, Jinhae is renowned for both the abundant quantity and excellent quality of its seaweed. In the olden days, locals even made paper from the slimy plants.

Today visitors flock to Jinhae for a taste of the town’s specialty, but the dish the town is famous for is actually quite new. In fact, haecho bibimbap was created as a marketing tool.

This time of year, hundreds of cherry trees bloom over the city’s harbor and along its mountain paths, attracting about 2 million tourists a year for the oldest and largest blossom event of its kind in Korea. Other events during the town’s festival commemorate Admiral Yi Sun-shin, the naval hero whose tactics and famous “turtle ships” defeated the Japanese invaders at the end of the 16th century. This year’s Jinhae Gunhang (Naval Port) Festival began last Thursday and continues until Sunday.

Jinhae entrepreneurs thought it was a shame that local restaurants had no special Jinhae dish to offer the tourists that flooded their town. So, to fit in with most other popular tourist destinations, a cook came up with this unique combination of sea mustard, laver, rice and veggies just 10 years ago.

The varieties of fresh seaweed went well with the steamy white rice. But the creator of this new specialty wasn’t done there - he invented a secret sauce that would be perfect for the new dish.

While most know gochujang, or red pepper paste, as one of the key ingredients of bibimbap, the cook opted for a special blend of soy sauce instead.

The combination worked.

Haecho bibimbap contains eight different types of seaweed along with prawns, sea squirts and sea cucumbers, making it a dish full of everything the sea has to offer.

Despite its youth, the dish has already won accolades, placing first at the 2003 Seoul Global Food Festival at the COEX convention center in the southern part of the capital.


By Yim Seung-hye Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



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