Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bibimbap - Origins and Brief History

The earliest written record of bibimbap appears in the annals of the kings as "bubimbap", a light meal for the king. The origin itself is speculated, however, three theories currently exist. One is that of farmer origin. As farmers were poor and a lot of work was demanded of them outside of the home, it is believed that rice with some kinds of vegetation could quickly be mixed in a large bowl or container for communal feeding. Another theory is that after ancestor ceremonies which required the preparing of fruits, vegetables, rice cakes, fish, and many more "thankful" foods, leftovers were mixed to create simple meals after the intensive labor of ancestor meal preparations. The third suggested theory is that in uprisings and battles, there was not time for food preparations so rice, the "bread" of the east, was mixed with whatever foods were handy to create a meal.

Although the historical development is fogged over by the mists of time, the present bibimbap food culture is evident in restaurants throughout Korea. Various "famous" kinds of bibimbap are known throughout Korea -- they are known by their city of origins and have flavors and ingredients that suit the citizens (and some argue, temperaments) of the specific locales.

Jeonju bibimbap - having spicy (red pepper sauce) and bean sprouts as the main ingredients, the lip-smacking spicy-flavored spice complementing the cooling sprouts has made Jeonju bibimbap as one of the most well-known bibimbaps in Korea.

Jinju bibimbap - made with herbs and SOOKJU sprouts and a non-spicy sauce, probably of soy sauce base; it is usually served with an egg (raw or fried).

Andong bibimbap - made with herbs and beef, and served with a special soy sauce.

Tong-young bibimbap - made with various mountain vegetables and herbs; usually it has no red spicy sauce. Also this dish is usually meatless and eggless, but frequently tofu chunks appear among the vegies.

Masan bibimbap - made with bean sprouts and other simple vegies topped with a glob of red pepper sauce-duingjjang sauce and an egg, raw or fried. Jeonju bibimbap and Masan bibimbap are quite similar in their spice factor, but then the two cities are quite close with much travel to and from Masan being routed through the larger city of Jeonju.

My students - Oh Hyewon and Kim Yongha - compiled this research and pictures for a phenomenally well organized presentation. They also added that bibimbap has a lot of cultural value and Korea is marketing this most precious traditional food as a food symbolizing coexistence, cooperation (eating together) which promotes harmony, peace and friendship.