There are a bunch of foods that I eat alone, assuming the world is better off not knowing about these
weird unusual concoctions. These “secret” dishes are borne out of desperation, unbounded inspiration, and more often than not, hybridization of cultural cuisines. In my case, there are a handful of dishes that are not QUITE Korean, and not QUITE American, but somewhere in between.
After I make them enough, they become part of my underground repertoire.
And in seclusion, sometimes shame, I indulge in these “hapa” dishes that I call my own, and only my own. I don’t offer them to my husband, assuming his distaste, and I never serve them up to friends. But of course, I find them outright tasty.
There is a traditional Korean dish called “bibimbap”, made of rice, topped with seasoned vegetables, beef (bulgogi), a fried egg, and hot sauce. You mix these ingredients up for a delicious meal. These days, it’s quite a delicacy, though its roots were quite humble; my mother said that it started out from servants making use of the household dinner leftovers. I love bibimbap–it is usually the dish I order at Korean BBQ restaurants.
And while I was growing up, my mother would make us quick lunches she called “bibimbap”–which did not resemble the more formal presentation in restaurants. Her bibimbap was comprised of any leftover in the house–kimchee or bean sprouts or tofu or tofu casserole, mixed with rice, sesame oil, and hot sauce (she left out the hot sauce if the ingredients included kimchi).
I noticed that she would decrease the amount of rice in my serving, and hand me (a chubby child) one bowl chock full of vegetables and other leaner ingredients. “Lots of fiber!” she would say in her pragmatic and cheerful way. It was…HEALTHY food. But the feeling of deprivation would not last for long, because rice or no rice, it was delicious–and I would dig right in.
Sometimes she would not have suitable Korean ingredients and so she would improvise. One dish that became a regular dish we shared (and only the two of us shared this dish) was the following:
- a can of tuna
- a bunch of shredded iceberg lettuce (the more, the healthier)
- italian dressing
She would mix the ingredients up into a hybrid “bibimbap” (which literally means “mixed rice”), remember to say, “Lots of fiber!” and we would dig right in.
These days, I add a bit of grated parmesan to the mix. Yah, it’s cheese, it’s fattening, it’s not fiber, and I think it’s tasty. This addition spawned from the fact that one day, I ended up using an Italian dressing that included parmesan cheese and falling in love with the extra ingredient that gave the dish so much “umami” (which translates from Japanese into English with some difficulty–it could mean “deliciousness” or “savory” or “pungent”).
It is my little guilty pleasure, though I suppose, with all that fiber, I ought to call it my “non-guilty pleasure.” And now I share it with you. Introducing: Weird Hybrid Bibimbap.
“Lots of fiber!’