Korean cuisine is consistently popping up as an Asian cuisine favorite. As recent as 10 years ago, Chinese would have been the main option, but today going out for Asian food can mean Korean BBQ, Thai curries, Japanese noodle shops or Vietnamese Pho. With so many new Asian cuisine restaurants popping up with young patrons, it is apparent that Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X have embraced this global culinary revolution. As these younger generations become more engaged with both the culture and cuisine, you will see an increased desire for authentic dishes and seasonings. As this transition in restaurants happens, the flavor profiles will become more acceptable.
One emerging Asian dish I see gaining significant traction is the Korean bibimbap. It is currently breaking out of traditional Korean restaurants and entering from stage left on food trucks, delis and independent establishments. Bibimbap lends itself to many people for different reasons: It hits the authentic ethnic category, has the conveyance factor of a single bowl meal, is quick to put together and can be healthy for you.
Bibimbap pronounced (bee-beem-bahp) is probably the second most common Korean dish after Korean BBQ (bulgogi). Bibimbap literally translates to mixed rice. A simple peasant rice dish, bibimbap is believed to have started as a leftover dish using common Korean meal ingredients such as pickled vegetables and meat. It is traditionally made with steamed white rice, cooked vegetables and a small amount of meat, but can be made without meat as well. There are two main types of bibimbap with seemingly endless variations.
Types of bibimbap
- Bibimbap: Is served in a standard bowl, can be served room temperature or warm.
- Dolsot (dole-sot) Bibimbap: Dolsot translates to “stone bowl.” This version is served hot in a stone bowl that has been preheated up to 500 F. Dolsot is also commonly topped with a raw egg. The intense heat of the stone bowl keeps the dish hot, adds the unique crust to the rice and cooks the raw egg. As the egg cooks it acts as a binder and coats all the other ingredients.
Here are just a few of the common ingredients I found, but bibimbap started as a vehicle for leftovers – by no means is this a complete list of ingredients.
- Bulgogi (BULL-go-ghee): Translated to fire beef, the Korean BBQ beef is usually marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger brown sugar and pepper
- Kimchee: Considered Korea’s national dish, this is a spicy fermented cabbage
- Pickled or thinly sliced cucumbers
- Sautéed green squash, aka zucchini
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Raw or slightly sautéed bean sprouts
- Sautéed spinach
- Pickled carrots
- Raw green onion
- Pickled diakon, an Asian radish
- Fried or raw egg (raw is only used in dolsot bibimbap where the hot bowl cooks the raw egg)
- Sesame oil: traditional non-roasted sesame oil poured into the hot stone bowl to flavor the rice
- Gochujang: a spicy Korean fermented pepper sauce/paste. You can find this at most Asian grocery stores and is normally in a little red plastic tub
- Soy sauce
- Sesame seeds
The main ingredients in Bibimbap are very approachable. If used properly, they can provide a platform for safe exploration for the average consumer. For example, I had a bibimbap burger in Memphis – the ground beef was seasoned with gochujang, topped with a fried egg and stir-fried pickled vegetables. The flavorful and creative combination of bibimbap ingredients with an American comfort food made the newer global offering accessible to new consumers. If you have questions in how this direction can work for your company, let Asenzya help you explore your options.