SOME like it hot, served on a sizzling stone pot. Some like it cold, served fresh and ready to eat.
I had never considered bibimbap — a signature Korean dish with mixed vegetables, sautéed and seasoned, sliced or ground meat, and fried or raw egg at the bottom — a favorite dish, until I got to know it better not too long ago.
One of my buddies always ordered cold bibimbap and I would crinkle my nose each time. I would watch her mix the ingredients and eat then with gusto. Then another friend took me to Seoul One Restaurant in Garapan for a taste of dolsot bibimbap which was served in a hot stone pot.
A food staffer brought a tray with six little platters of side dishes and a big stone pot with carrots strips, mongo sprouts, lettuce and raw strips of beef topped with raw egg. There was no way I was going to eat that!
Handing me a spoon, my companion instructed me to stir the contents of my stone pot. I never expected the pot to be that hot, turning the rice at the bottom into crispy, golden brown color just the way I liked it. The vegetables and the raw beef crackled in the heat, emitting a very mouth-watering aroma that made me hungry.
Very soon, everything in my bowl was cooked the way I wanted it — egg and beef strips and all flavors blending in. I took a tentative bite and another until the next thing I noticed, I had cleaned the bowl — a rare thing to happen.
Bibimbap, which means “mixed rice,” is famous in Jeonju, Jinju and Tongyeong in Korea.
“Bibim” means mixing, and “bap” means rice. The history of bibimbap dates back to “Siuijeonseo,” an anonymous cookbook from the late 19th century. Some scholars say bibimbap originated from the traditional practice at an ancestral rite of mixing all the food offerings in a bowl before they partook of it.
Because of the convenience of its preparation, bibimbap has become famous in other countries and is also being served on many airlines that fly to South Korea.
Other variations of bibimbap use seafood such as salmon, tuna, tilapia or octopus.
Bibimbap is always available at any of the Korean restaurants on island. Each restaurant serves a different version. For instance, Seoul One and Monte Vista Restaurant serve raw egg while others top it with a sunny side up or a well-done egg.
If you haven’t tried bibimbap, check out any of these restaurants:
Seoul One is on the second floor of Sushi Restaurant across from GIG Discotheque in Garapan. It is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. Credit cards are accepted. For reservations, call 233-1900 or 233-7776.
Monte Vista Steak House Restaurant is on Navy Hill and is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. Credit cards are accepted. For inquiries and reservations, call 322-3324 or visit www.saipanmontevista.com.
Sam Ho Garden Restaurant in San Antonio is open for lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Credit cards are accepted. For reservations or inquiries, call 234-3535.
Nam Dae Woon is in Garapan. Just follow the road besides Dollar Days heading toward Middle Road until you see the big sign by the road. It is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and dinner from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Sunday. Only cash is accepted for now. For inquiries or reservations, call 233-2324.
Sashimi House in San Antonio is at the Silver Hotel Building, is open from 10 a.m. until 5 a.m. For more information, call 234-8787.
Moomin Mura in Garapan is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner every day. Major credit cards are accepted. For reservations or inquiries, call 233-5097.
First published at the Marianas Variety