Bibimbap is a signature Korean dish, pronounced “pibimbap” the word literally means mixed rice. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sauteed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce or doenjang, a salty soybean paste. A raw or fried egg and sliced meat are common additions. Served in a very hot stone bowl the content is stirred together thoroughly and cooked against the side of the dish just before eating.
I was lucky enough to experience my first bibimbap in the South Korean capital, Seoul. I visited years ago when I was a teenager, it was a real foodie experience and that was when I wasn’t half as adventurous as I am now! Continuing my foodie adventure back in London, I discovered Bi Bim Bap. Brightly coloured furniture and walls, plastered with Polaroid snaps of happy diners as the name suggests, Bi Bim Bap serves ten varieties of the stone-bowl rice dish.
The service is quick and the food is filling. Having visited on two occasions now, I thought it was about time I ran you through the dishes I’ve enjoyed!
Image Source: notquiteenough.co.uk
If you fancy sharing a few nibbles before your main then definitely try the pork & vegetable mandoo. Served with a chilli, garlic, sesame soy sauce deep fried pork mandoo (or mandu) is a type of Korean dumpling.
The deep-fried squid seasoned with sea salt and chilli were also rather nice. I’m not one for spice so it’s unusual for me to say that they could have done with a bit more of a kick. Served with garlic and chilli dipping sauce they were nice and light.
Bi Bim Bap offers a large variety of the speciality dish, classics include beef, chilli chicken, spicy pork and seafood. Veggies can also enjoy tofu, mushroom, brown rice, ginseng and gingko versions too.
On both occasion I have chosen the fillet beef dish and my dining partner has opted for the seafood. Toying with the idea of a raw egg the first time around was a bit much! But on the second visit I went for it! Some say the key to a good bibimbap is how well it’s mixed together, and staff let you do the honours here. In my experience, the results have always been sound, with crisp rice at the bottom and a decent amount of toppings to blend through.
Bibimbap ingredients are rich in symbolism. Black or dark colours represent North and the kidneys – for instance, shiitake mushrooms, bracken ferns or nori seaweed. Red or orange represents South and the heart, with chilli, carrots and jujube dates. Green represents East and the liver, with cucumber and spinach. White is West or the lungs, with foods such as bean sprouts, radish, and rice. And finally yellow represents the centre, or stomach. Foods include pumpkin, potato or egg. Can you imagine if we put that level of creativity in a Full English Breakfast?!
Bibimbap never comes in a size smaller than huge, which is good, because the real pleasure of it isn’t in the first mouthfuls. It’s in the way the warmth and flavours draw you in, deeper and deeper. The more you eat, the better it seems to get. And then you hit gold: the crusty-crunchy bits of baked-on rice at the bottom.
Bi Bim Bap currently has two London locations, the first in Soho and the second in Fitzrovia. If you’re ready to experience food that is good for the soul as well as taste delicious then head to a location near you.
ADDRESS / CONTACT:
Soho – 11 Greek Street, London W1D 4DJ / 020 7287 3434
Fitzrovia – 10 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2LT / 020 7323 6890
OPENING HOURS: 12:00–3:00 pm, 6:00–11:00 pm Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays