Bibimbap means “mixed rice” and is a popular Korean dish where a bowl of steamed rice is topped with a variety of ingredients and the eater mixes it all up to his tastes with a savoury sauce. In South Korea, different variations exist in different cities. Jeonju is famed for its raw beef bibimbap. I met up with a Jeonju local who took me to Hankookkwan (한국관) in the Hanok Village. We ordered one raw beef bibimbap and one dolsot bibimbap which comes in a hot stone bowl. While we were waiting for our dishes to come, the servers brought us an impressive selection of panchan (complimentary side dishes).
One of my favourite sides was the mung bean jelly (almost like a mung bean tofu) with cooked beef. The mung bean jelly had a very light flavour and was served with a little bit of savoury minced beef. The different varieties of veggies and kimchi tasted fresh and light.
After a short wait my bibimbap arrived in a pretty gold bowl. All the colourful ingredients were neatly arranged on top and there was a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds on top of the raw beef and egg yolk. Therewere a few gingko seeds and pine nuts on top as well. A small dish of gochujang, gochujang, a spicy pepper paste came on the side so I could add as much or as little as I wished.
I stirred all the ingredients in my bowl with the gochujang until it was thoroughly mixed. The raw beef was very flavourful and tasted more delicate than the cooked beef I’m used to. All the vegetables in the dish were really fresh and each gave a unique texture to the dish. One in particular that I never see back home is fernbrake (the brown sticks) which is a plant that is foraged in the mountains. All of the vegetables had a light sesame oil flavour that went well with the gochujang sauce.
The dolsot bibimbap was great too and came sizzling hot. The assortment of vegetables were the same as mine and also arranged with care. The only difference was the beef which was cooked already and was the same beef that was served with the mung bean panchan that I mentioned earlier. The seeds and nuts that mine came were absent but the hot stone bowl crisped the bottom of the rice giving it a texture mine lacked.
The portions were very big and while I managed to finish my bibimbap there was no way I could finish the panchan. While we were heading out a line of people waiting for tables had formed at the door. My new friend told me that was common at Hankookkwan so if you decide to go, either go for an earlier lunch or expect a bit of a wait. The sign outside actually doesn’t have any english on it but Hankookkwan is the phonetic spelling of its Korean name. There was also a large menu displayed outside with pictures of bibimbap so you can look for that as well.
31 Taejo-ro, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea