Bibimbap’s History and Culture

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bibimbap is a staple in the Korean diet. Its literal translation is mixed (bibim) rice (bap).

Invariably, there there are infinite ways to create and serve the dish. Nonetheless, traditional Korean bibimbap is made using rice, an egg, fresh and fermented vegetables, gochujang (고추장, red chili paste), and often meat. Foreigners often liken bibimbap to a burrito bowl. The rice dish has always been prevalent in Korea, but has now become a popular dish all around the world. Inevitably, with the dish’s popularity has also risen a curiosity around bibimbap’s history and culture.

bibimbap

History

The peninsula’s geographical makeup meant that different regions of Korea adopted different types of proteins. To the west and south in the coastal regions it was fish; Inland and the north focused on beef, pork, and chicken. However, Korea’s mountainous terrain meant that forest and root vegetables (in their many variations) were aplenty and an integral aspect in all regional cuisine. The precise origin of bibimbap is difficult to discern, but scholars have several speculations.

The first theory comes from the practice of jesa ritual rites. This theory argues that people mixed rice, vegetables, and side dishes together in a single bowl for ancestral food offerings, before eating it themselves. Another popular theory is that in an attempt to start the new year afresh, households would mix all of their leftovers with rice. This theory seems highly plausible as many people now make bibimbap at the end of the week when there are many leftovers in the fridge. That being said, understanding that Korea has historically had strict meal rituals, it is equally as likely that bibimbap’s true origins stem from ritualistic practices.

In fact, bibimbap was first recorded by a scholar during the Joseon Dynasty between the late 1500s and mid 1600s. Since then, multiple published works have referenced or described bibimbap. These varied texts illustrate the widespread prevalence and impact bibimbap had all around the Korean peninsula.

bibimbap

Culture

Bibimbap became a widespread phenomenon for several reasons. First, the dish is relatively easy to make. Bibimbap requires only a few ingredients, readily available at home. Secondly, the dish is popular because of increased travel to Korea. Thirdly, the Korean wave that is sweeping the world has certainly played a role in the popularization of bibimbap and other Korean dishes. People have garnered an interest in Korean food through watching Korean dramas, reality  TV shows, and music. In turn, entrepreneurs and business owner are opening Korean restaurants, food trucks, and food stalls. All of these places are likely to serve bibimbap, only increasing people’s interest in the dish.

Bibimbap’s history and culture is one of great interest. It alludes to the greater cultural impact that Korea continues to witness today. Anyone who visits Korea should try it in its many different forms, finding out for themselves which regional bibimbap they like the most!

Author: H.W. Nam

Share this article

Go! Go! Hanguk

Search articles

Popular posts

Go! Go! HANGUK Blog

Related articles

Dongguk University is located in the large area of Jung-gu district, in Seoul. There are plenty of things to do and visit in this area. In this article we give you some ideas on how to enjoy your student life at Dongguk University! 1. Eat delicious naengmyeon and fragrant bread To start off your new...
Just like the rest of the world, Koreans celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 too. In case you might be wondering, what do couples do to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Korea? It could be going on a short trip together, expressing “I love you” to their partners, buying meaningful gifts for each other, or just...
Have you heard of the Digital Nomad Visa for South Korea? Are you looking for an opportunity to work remotely or at a place of your choice? Due to the occurrence of the global pandemic in early 2020, an increased demand to carry out remote work is seen all around the world. With much influence...
Even in modern Korean culture, Seollal (설날, Korean New Year) is one of the most important traditional festivals in Korea, commemorating the first day of the lunar calendar. The origin of Seollal has a long history, which also consists of a variety of traditional Seollal food. Let’s read on to find out what some Seollal...
When visiting Seoul, it can be hard to know where to visit beyond visiting Gyeongbok Palace or Hanok Village. Seoul has many amazing Korean traditional activities to check out during your visit. This post will serve as a great guide to follow for fun destinations in Seoul. 1. Visit Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Garden  Changdeokgung...

Contact us

Any questions? We are here to help