“Ahn-Young” (hi in Korean!) Korean food can be extreme: soups are delivered to the table at a rolling boil (it’s tradition to eat piping hot Chicken Ginger Soup on the three hottest days of the summer!), cold, sweet-sour buckwheat noodles are served in an ice-laden broth that’ll give you brain freeze, and when a sauce or a stew is meant to be spicy, it’ll make you sweat.
Bibimbap (pronounced “bee-bim-BOP”) means “mix-mix rice” in Korean. Bibimbap is a beautiful way to introduce kid chefs (and adults!) to the food of Korea: it’s flavorful yet mild, and very soul-satisfying. And most people recognize a mixed rice bowl. This recipe is special to me because I spent 3 years living in Korea teaching kindergarten and learning about the culture through its food, both past, and present. The kids and I didn’t speak the same language (although their English was miles ahead of my Korean) but we connected largely because I learned to love the food that was theirs, and they loved to share it. Kids in Korea share so naturally. They don’t bring just one cookie to school. They bring one for each classmate and teacher and if they’re short, they split theirs so that everyone can have a taste (I ate a LOT of cookies those years). The food of Korea is communal in this way too, and most dishes are meant to be spooned from and shared.
Bibimbap is one of the few Korean dishes eaten individually. It’s fast, filling, and endlessly adaptable, although there are set rules of what must be included: rice (of course!), a mix of vegetables, egg, and a dollop of spicy gochujang paste. A proper bibimbap includes 5 colors that relate to the five elements of the Earth and five important organs of the body:
Black: kidneys and water.
Red: heart and fire.
Green: liver and wood.
Yellow: stomach and Earth.
White: lungs and metal.
See if your kid chefs can identify which ingredient in their bibimbap represents which organ in their body!
Check out this book, Bee-bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park for a wonderful story about a modern Korean-American family and the intention behind the dish, and our very own Global Taste Buds cookbook for more inspiration!
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