Korean chef Yeo- kyung Lee, who recently conducted a workshop organised by Comida teaching home chefs in the city to prepare Korean classics, tells us more about the bibimbap and how it is eaten in a Korean home
Is bibimbap commonly made in a Korean home?
Yes, very much so. Bibimbap is often made at home, when we have family gatherings or even otherwise. Restaurants have fancier versions, of course. The Dolsot Bibimbap is one of the most famous varieties. It comes from the Jeonju region and if you ask a Korean, they’ll say this one’s their favourite.
Do you tend to use leftovers from a previous meal?
Yes, my mother often used leftovers while making bibimbap. A typical Korean meal has a lot of side dishes. Usually these are served on separate plates and everyone picks what they want from those plates and adds it to their bowl of rice and soup as they are eating. The concept of bibimbap is slightly different, of course, with everything mixed and served together. There’s a word in Korean which is difficult to translate, it signifies care and love. It is the perfect word to describe the preparation of the colourful bibimbap.
Are the ingredients needed to make bibimbap easily available in Mumbai?
I’ve been looking around in the markets of Mumbai, and I haven’t found Korean sticky rice, which is stickier than Indian rice but less so than the Thai variety. But that’s okay, you can use Chinese sushi rice or whatever is available to you. The flavours will remain the same; it’s only the texture that will change. Luckily, the chilli paste, Gochujang is quite easily available. But if you don’t want to make your dish too spicy, you can always use soya sauce with a little bit of sugar, spring onions and chopped up chillies.
Does bibimbap have to include meat?
Certainly not. My mum very often made it vegetarian. A standard bibimbap would contain spinach, carrot, spring onion, eggplant, a little bit of chillies ( green or red, depending on the colour you want to give), and bean sprouts. My mother used to add sliced up cooked egg whites too. The veggies are cooked separately in a pan with a little bit of vegetable oil. If you cook the veggies together, they tend to lose their original flavour. Just before serving, season with salt and add a dash of sesame oil. If you do want to add meat, cook it in a Korean barbeque sauce. You could also serve seafood.