I just returned from a vacation in Korea. The great thing about traveling to Mayberry USA, or across the globe, is experiencing the culture by sampling the local foods. It’s my kind of hands-on learning…bite by bite, with or without chopsticks and a spoon, as is the custom in Korea.
Korean cuisine follows the Asian philosophy of eating foods for good health, nourishment and enjoyment. After eating my way around Korea for two weeks, I proclaim bibimbap, a popular rice-based dish, the must-try Korean food.
Since the March opening of Bibim Bowl Korean-Japanese Restaurant, in the Hammond Springs Shopping Center, Korean food can now be found right here in Sandy Springs. Korean immigrants Sunny Hwang and her brother, Charles, are partners in this small family-run eatery tucked among the many businesses near Jason’s Deli and Lowe’s. They focus on health-conscious Korean and Japanese dishes such as bibimbop, noodle bowls, bento boxes and sushi rolls.
“We opened Bibim Bowl to bring healthy Korean food to Sandy Springs since there were no Korean restaurants in the area," said Hwang. "Everything is made fresh to order.” [They also operate Wasabi Grill on 14th Street near Georgia Tech in Atlanta.]
Bibimbap (BEE-beem-bop) sounding like the name of the latest Korean pop band is a bowl of steamed rice topped with a variety of vegetables and a fried egg served with gochujang sauce (a slightly sweet and spicy Korean chili paste).
Bibim means “mixed" and bap, “rice.” The toppings are mixed into the warm rice with a spoon right before eating. Popular variations on the dish include adding beef, tofu, shrimp and chicken.
Clara Kim, a native of Seoul, South Korea and owner of Clara’s Wedding and Alterations in Sandy Springs, seconds my opinion of bibimbap. She knows her Korean food and has built a thriving custom tailoring business, catering to metro area brides, the prom crowd and altering clothes for our vertically challenged family.
“Bibimbap is my favorite thing to eat. It’s healthy with lots of vegetables but very little oil,” she enthused. The dish is quick and easy to prepare, another added bonus for this busy seamstress.
When ordering bibimbap at Bibim Bowl you choose your ingredients by selecting them on a check-sheet at each table. Your options include: vegetables- cooked or raw, steamed rice- white or brown, protein-tofu, beef, chicken or shrimp for an addition fee, and egg-sunny-side up or scrambled.
I ordered my bibimbap with brown rice, cooked vegetables (lettuces, cabbage, onions, carrots, zucchini), bulgogi beef (thinly sliced beef marinated in a sauce made from pear juice, garlic, soy sauce and other seasonings) and the egg- sunny-side up.
The verdict: YUM! It took me right back to Seoul, Korea, without the jet-lag.
Bibim Bowl is located at 5975 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 404 856-0915.
Here’s my recipe for healthy delicious bibimbap you can prepare at home. It is essential to serve with tradtional Korean gochujang sauce, found at Asian markets or the Annie Chun’s brand from the local grocery, to add the distinctive punch of sweet and spicy flavor to the dish.
Bibimbap with Shrimp serves 2
8 large shrimp, shelled and deveined,
1 cup carrots, shredded
4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ small zucchini, cut into thin coins
1 cup Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup baby spinach
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
1 egg, scrambled or cooked sunny-side up
Sesame Seed Oil or Peanut Oil
Steamed brown rice
Gochujang, served on the side
Sauté carrots, mushroom, shallot, zucchini and Napa cabbage in a little sesame seed oil or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok. In a small skillet cook the egg sunny-side up or by scrambling; remove and set aside. In the same skillet sauté the shrimp in a little light soy sauce until pink. To assemble, place hot steamed brown rice in a large bowl. Top with the vegetables, shrimp and egg. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and serve with gochujang sauce.