“The World’s Choice for Well-Being, Bibimbap” has been newly translated into four different languages — English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish — by Leescom. / Courtesy of Leescom
By Chung Ah-young “Bibimbap,” a sizzling bowl filled with rice and mixed vegetables, meat and a fried egg, might be one of the world’s best-known Korean dishes. It has been widely adored particularly by gourmets who care about diet and well-being due to its low calories and essential nutrients. World celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow are known to enjoy the dish as part of their low-cal diet. “I make it a rule to eat bibimbap for my diet after exercise. Normally I enjoy my bimbimbap with kimchi and vegetables like carrots, mushrooms and leeks. Replace white rice with brown rice and it’ll be much healthier,” Paltrow said. One of the big fans for the food, Paltrow even shows that she cooks bibimbap, one of her favorite dishes, on her GOOP blog. To more widely spread the beauty of the dish, a cook book about bibimbap “The World’s Choice for Well-Being, Bibimbap” has been newly translated into four different languages — English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish — by Leescom. Based on the original Korean book written by Jhun Ji-young, the book contains recipes of 30 kinds of bibimbap. It is also divided into two different parts — background information about bibimbap and recipe chapters. The background information is composed of “The Story of Bibimbap,” “The Basic of Making Bibimbap, Cooking Rice,”“Preparing the Wild Vegetables,” “Glossary of Korean Cooking.” The beauty of the book lies in reinvention and the special twists on the dish with different recipes, which consists of regional traditional bibimbap, popular bibimbap to cater to everyone’s liking, fusion bibimbap with both flair and taste, healthy bibimbap for dieting and bibimbap for a box lunch where everything is just a mouthful. “Bibimbap is like a beautiful watercolor painting of nature in a bowl. Unlike Western cuisine sauteed in butter, bibimbap uses only ingredients boiled in water, making it very low in calories. Its nutritional value is exceptional with many different kinds of ingredients. Not to mention it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, with varying colors from green, yellow and red to green on a bed of white rice,” the author writes. The book also explains the basic instructions to prepare the ingredients, such as preparing the rice — choosing, washing, soaking the rice, adjusting the heat, making mixed-grain rice and brown rice — and also preparing the wild vegetables from marinating to pan broiling them. Korea’s traditional bibimbap showcases distinct flavors when combined with ingredients native to a certain region. The classic, Jeonju-style bibimbap, Andong-style bibimbap with mixed vegetables in seasoned soy sauces and Tongyeong-style bibimbap with seaweed, represent distinct regional tastes. However, the dish has changed over time. Bibimbap is sometimes cooked in a sizzling hot stone pot and mixed with “bulgogi” (Korean-style barbecued beef), tofu or sashimi. Also, it can be made with fried pork, kimchi and various herbs and spicy octopus, which are fresh and seasonal ingredients. Among these diverse flavors, fusion bibimbap might catch the eyes and tastes of youngsters and foreigners. The innovative and new ways to upgrade the dish are, for instance, topping the dish with cheese to make a pizza bibimbap or putting the bibimbap between slices of bread to make it a sandwich. Bibimbap Pizza is a Korean-style pizza that uses pan-fried bibimbap dough, instead of the original flour based one, while bibimbap is rolled in crepes, making perfect bite-size finger food. Also, “tteokghalbi,” Korean-style meatball-shaped patties, can be recreated with bibimbap mixed with ground marinated beef ribs. The most interesting rediscovery of bibimbap is making it into a dessert that is made with sweet potato cream and fruit flavors in a deep-fried bibimbap bowl. For those who are watching their weight and concerned about their health, bibimbap is well-balanced with mixed vegetables and meat and has few calories. “Sanchae Bibimbap,” a representative diet dish, mixes an assortment of fresh greens, rich in vitamins and minerals in red pepper paste. The dish can also be enjoyed with tofu and acorn jelly as added toppings. Bibimbap is also perfect for a simple lunch box if it is transformed into finger foods such as rolls and crepes. “Fried Tofu Bibimbap” mixes vegetables and is stuffed into the fried tofu with rice. Rolled with thinly sliced beef and dipped in mustard soy sauce, bibimbap can be reborn as a wonderful bite-size lunch menu. Bibimbap can also be mixed with minced corn, kimchi and other chopped vegetables and grilled flat.