Bibimbap: the real Super Bowl?

In less than a week, a cast of water birds and a herd of horses will meet in the Super Bowl. The game is the most important of the season. The stakes are high. Everyone will be watching.

Yet, there is a problem. The name “Super Bowl” suggests that it is the best bowl of all. As for me, I think the NFL’s claim is rather tenuous. I humbly submit that a better bowl exists.

The bowl I have in mind involves no football, no birds, and certainly no horses. Nevertheless, the bowl might be the best. It might just be—dare I say—Super.

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The bowl is Bibimbap, a classic Korean dish at least twice as old as the other Super Bowl. Literally meaning “mixed rice,” it can be served cold or hot.

The dish starts with a bed of perfectly cooked white rice, sometimes fried crisp. Then, an assortment of vegetables—sometimes raw, sometimes cooked, sometimes both—is arranged on top of the rice. Bean sprouts, daikon radish, mushrooms, and zucchini are among the most popular. The real fun begins with the addition of spicy sautéed beef, tofu, pork, or seafood. Finally, the bowl of goodness is topped with a sunny-side-up egg, sesame seeds, and gochujang (chili paste).

According to Visit Seoul, bibimbap originated from the ancestral practice of eating up leftover food before the beginning of a new year. Koreans would simply toss all their remaining food into a large bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Bibimbap appeared on CNN Travel’s list of the “World’s 50 Best Foods.” Ranked at number 40, it beat out Parma ham, maple syrup, Fettucini Alfredo, and even the hamburger. Of the Korean dish, CNN’s Tim Cheung wrote:

“Mixed vegetables and beef, sitting atop steaming-hot rice, held together by a half-raw egg. The beauty of this Korean dish lies at least partially in the diner’s DIY mixing of the ingredients. Bibambap is best when served in a heated stone bowl, and eaten with metal chopsticks.”