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Bibimbap (비빔밥, Korean pronunciation: [pibimbap], sometimes anglicized bi bim bap or bi bim bop) is a signature Korean dish. The word literally means "mixed rice". Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or doenjang, a salty soybean paste. A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating.
In South Korea, Jeonju, Jinju, and Tongyeong are especially famous for their versions of bibimbap. In 2011, it was listed at number 40 on the World's 50 most delicious foods readers' poll compiled by CNN Travel.
Bibimbap is first mentioned in the Siuijeonseo, an anonymous cookbook from the late 19th century. There its name is given as 부븸밥 (bubuimbap). Some scholars assert that bibimbap originates from the traditional practice of mixing all the food offerings made at an ancestral rite (jesa) in a bowl before partaking in it.
In Korean households, bibimbap is frequently prepared from steamed rice, vegetables and meat.
Since the late 20th century, bibimbap has become widespread in different countries, due to its convenience of preparation. It is also served on many airlines connecting to South Korea.
Vegetables commonly used in bibimbap include julienned cucumber, zucchini (courgette), mu (daikon), mushrooms, doraji (bellflower root), and gim, as well as spinach, soybean sprouts, and gosari (bracken fern stems). Dubu (tofu), either plain or sautéed, or a leaf of lettuce may be added, or chicken or seafood may be substituted for beef. For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so adjacent colors complement each other.
A variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥, dolsot meaning "stone pot"), is served in a very hot stone bowl in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the layer of the rice touching the bowl golden brown and crisp.
The city of Jeonju, the capital of the North Jeolla Province of South Korea, is famous throughout the nation for its version of bibimbap, said to be based on a royal court dish of the Joseon Dynasty.
A further variation of bibimbap, called hoedeopbap, uses a variety of raw seafood, such as tilapia, salmon, tuna or sometimes octopus, but each bowl of rice usually contains only one variety of seafood. The term hoe in the word means raw fish. The dish is popular along the coasts of Korea where fish are abundant.
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.
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