A Colorful Rice Dish Chock-Full of Healthful Ingredients

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A Colorful Rice Dish Chock-Full of Healthful Ingredients

Bibimbab is one of the most popular traditional Korean dishes at home and abroad. It is a simple fare - steamed rice garnished with colorful toppings made from a variety of vegetables marinaded in a spicy sauce. The popularity of bibimbab is due to the dish's versatility and cornucopia of nutrients. The main ingredients are called namul (lightly seasoned vegetables) and vary depending on the season and individual diner's preference. Take out the meat and this dish is an ideal choice for vegetarians. While bibimbab has been considered a safe bet for the less adventurous palate, adding more gochujang (red pepper paste) can give it a spicy kick.

Bibimbab was originally called goldongban and was first referred to in records dating back to the late 19th century. Both names refer to the mixing of certain ingredients with banchan (side dishes) and steamed rice. Historically, the recipe was in fact a favorite of all the different classes in ancient Korea, and during food shortages was a clever yet tasty way to conserve supplies. The king at the time found it so delicious that he required his chef to include it as a regular feature on the royal luncheon menu of the Choson dynasty. For busy farmers during the harvest season, this was a dish that could be made quickly and conveniently by mixing available banchan. After offering feasts at shamanistic ceremonies, participants mixed all the food together into bibimbap since finishing the food on the table was considered good luck. Traditionally, bibimbab was consumed before Koreans began a new year and also between late spring and early summer, the best time for eating the year's freshest vegetables.

Of all regional styles, the bibimbab from Jeonju (commonly known as Jeonju bibimbab) is most well-known, and it is considered one of major Choson dynasty specialties. Jeonju bibimbab includes kongnamul (bean sprouts) as its regional flavor.

Here is a recipe for traditional bibimbab.

How to Make Bibimbab:

Ingredients for 4 servings: 4 bowls of steamed rice, 3 eggs (yolk and egg white separated), 100 grams of beef (ground or thinly sliced), 1/2 carrot, 100 grams of doraji (roots of bellflowers cut into long thin strips), 3 large pyogo beoseot (shiitake mushrooms, dried or fresh if in season), 1 medium cucumber, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 3 teaspoons of salt, 1 clove of fresh garlic (chopped), 2 teaspoons of sugar, a dash of black pepper, 4 teaspoons (or more if desired) of gochujang, fried ginkgo nuts and/or thinly sliced, roasted gim (optional). The above vegetables may also be substituted with seasonal vegetables of choice


1. Cook rice, and set aside (keep warm).

2. Dried mushrooms should be soaked in water for an hour and cut into thin strips. Lightly squeeze the cut mushrooms to remove excess water. Fresh mushrooms can be cut into thin strips and set aside.

3. Soak doraji in lightly salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Cut cucumber into thin slices and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside for 20 minutes and squeeze out excess water.

5. Cut carrot into thin strips. Set aside.

6. Preheat skillet and grease lightly. On a low flame, fry the egg white and yolk separately (as if cooking a crepe). Set aside to cool, then cut into thin strips. Set aside.

7. Preheat skillet and add 2 teaspoons of oil. Fry 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic. Add doraji and fry until tender. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside. Fry the mushroom, cucumber and carrot the same way and set aside.

8. Preheat skillet and add 2 teaspoons of oil. Fry 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic. Add beef, sugar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and fry on a medium heat. When the meat is cooked, sprinkle a dash of pepper and sesame seeds. Set aside.

9. Place rice in a bowl. On top of rice, arrange namul and jidan (egg decoration). Sprinkle sesame oil, roasted sesame seeds and optional toppings. Serve with gochujang and Korean-style broth.

by Inēs Cho

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