Bibimbap is one of the foods I crave at least once a week. There’s nothing better than having someone place a ridiculously hot stone bowl full of flavor in front of you. You hear that crackle, that sizzle that basically means you’re in for non-stop eating. My spoon and chopsticks do not stop moving once I start digging into my bibimbap.
But how do you know you’ve found the ultimate bibimbap location? What makes it so special? Because, after all, it’s literally rice, veggies, meat, and an egg inside of a sizzling hot stone bowl, right? As long as you have the main ingredients and the pot is so hot eating becomes a trapeze act, that means the bibimbap is the best that you can get…right?
Let me tell you what I think makes the best bibimbap.
Rice is easy to make, but hard to perfect. Sushi chefs take years to learn how to make their sushi rice perfectly. Though I don’t think bibimbap requires that level of expertise, rice is the main ingredient, and therefore, one of the most important.
One of the biggest pitfalls in bibimbaps is soggy rice. Personally, I prefer my rice in bibimbaps to be on the slightly drier side so it can crisp up against the side of the hot stone bowl. With soggy rice, all of that crispiness doesn’t exist, and makes for a somewhat lackluster meal. The flavors become less vibrant, lost in the diluted quality of the rice, so go find a bowl where the rice is cooked to your level of perfection!
The Stone Bowl
Many bibimbaps aren’t served in a stone bowl. These non-stone bowl bibimbaps have every right to be delicious, but let me tell you that the stone bowl is what makes the dish shine. We eat with our eyes, but also our ears. I want to hear that searing heat coming from the bowl, because that means we’re going to get what’s next on my list of bibimbap necessities.
If you’ve never had bibimbap with crispy rice your world is going to change for the better. When the rice is cooked on the drier side, and the stone bowl is crazy hot, that intense sizzle you hear means that the crispy rice is being made right in front you. Crispy rice is my favorite part of bibimbap – it’s crunchy, but chewy, and infused with the flavors of delicious caramelizing. I could eat that layer of crispy rice like potato chips!
Note: Make sure when you first begin stirring your bibimbap that you don’t scrape the edges. Mix the middle section, and leave the rice on the edges to crisp until you’re ready to use all that muscle strength with your spoon to scrape away. Usually, I wait until the sizzling settles down before I start digging.
ps – if you live in Calgary, my favourite place to go to for crispy rice is a small restaurant called Club House Family Restaurant & Lounge. The bibimbap there has the best crispy rice I’ve ever had (but not the best overall flavour).
Bibimbap isn’t just about the rice, but also the veggies and meats that go in it. Carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, beef – all of these ingredients need their own love and seasoning. You should taste each individual ingredient, but also appreciate how it all mixes together into a bowl of deliciousness. If any one of these ingredients is lacking in its seasoning or preparation, you’ll be able to tell.
A Perfect Egg
Most, if not all, bibimbaps have a cooked egg on top of the rest of the ingredients. Sometimes, the egg is just a raw yolk – perfect for mixing. But I prefer a whole egg, with the yolk and whites slightly runny so I can easily mix it. Of course, this is highly dependent on what you like. If you appreciate a good egg that’s not runny at all, the bibimbap will be just as delicious.
Bibimbap is one of my favourite dishes. I journey to all the Korean restaurants I can find to discover where my favourite bibimbap location is, and so far, there’s no definitive winner. Let me know if you have a bibimbap location worthy of the grand prize – I’ll be desperate to try it!