Bi Bim Bap - a loopa

Part of the fun of Korean food is how easily the names can be punned into western song titles. I’ve passed many an idle hour smiling to myself about the likes of Kim-bop, Galbi there and my personal favourite, Getting jiggae with it. However, while puns are all very well, most of the fun remains in the eating of the stuff and this is no less true of the quiet man of Korean cuisine, Bi Bim Bap.

The perfect way to regain some of that strength after going ten rounds with the Kindergarteners, Bi Bim Bap dishes all follow a variation on a basic set-up of rice, julienned vegetables, a fried egg, dried sea weed and sesame seeds. If you opt to go dol sot (which I do, always) then the whole thing arrives in a sizzling bowl adding a bit of pizzazz to the whole arrangement. Into this tumultuous cauldron go a few spoonfuls of gloopy, firey chilli paste to taste, after which it’s ready to go.

With Bi Bim Bap you’ve gotta work for your supper, giving everything a good mix to evenly distributed the various parts. The result is a mighty fine bowl of food. The rice, a staple of the Korean diet is transformed by the chilli paste and sea weed, while the egg provides an indispensible protein fix. While I mostly eat this basic version of Bi Bim Bap at the diner beside our school at lunch times, we will occasionally go to a special Bi Bim Bap restaurant for dinner, where a number of variations are on offer. My personal favourite is an extra spicy concoction that includes a liberal amount of tender, shredded pork and a bowl of mussel soup on the side.

I originally dismissed this unprepossessing bowl of rice and vegetables as merely a healthier (and as such less interesting) alternative to whatever dead animal I was in the process of shovelling onto my plate, but I am fast finding out that, as with a lot of Korean Food, there is more, much more.