Last week, we were invited to a Korean food tasting party here in Los Angeles. Chrystal was not able to attend, so I represented the Duo and went solo. (Plus, Chrystal had own Korean food tasting adventure earlier this year. Now, it was my turn!) Bibimbap Backpackers hosted the event, packing in dozens of local bloggers, writers, journalists, and social media stars into the Korean Cultural Center of LA. What followed was a fun and informative nose-dive into authentic Korean culture and cuisine.
The Bibimbap Backpackers are made up of a group of young, energetic Korean culinary students whose main mission is to travel the world and spread the joy of Korean food–particularly the featured dish of the day, bibimbap. Literally translated, bibimbap means “mixed rice.” It’s a Korean food staple, in which warm rice is topped with an array of colorful sauteed and/or seasoned veggies–from radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, zucchini, fried egg yolks, spinach, and many more–where it’s all served in a large bowl and topped with a chili pepper sauce. Just mix it all together before diggin’ in and voilà, you have bibimbap. One of the greatest things about bibimbap is the endless variety. No rules apply to what can and cannot be included in your very own bow: some varieties include seafood, some chicken or beef, and some with tofu or no meat at all. It’s your world, craft it as you wish!
In addition to its versatility, the hosts of the event boasted bibimbap’s healthy appeal and cultural influence in Korea. We learned that most folks enjoy bibimbap when they hope to shed a few pounds, binge eat away any troubles or sorrows, or enjoy as a fulfilling meal anytime of the day. It’s great for dinner parties or other meal gatherings too, where friends can easily assemble their own dishes however they wish.
After a few more tutorials in making bibimbap, and more about Korean culture in general, we grabbed our chopsticks and got to work. We were served a few traditional Korean dishes as appetizers, which tasted beautifully and were full of spice. Next, we lined up and put together our own bowl of bibimbap, which was as simple as tossing together any salad.
One of our early Ethnic Explorations showcased Korea, where we made mandu, a Korean-style dumpling. Other than that expenditure, and a handful of trips to the Kogi BBQ Korean fusion food truck, I hadn’t tasted much Korean food before. It was tremendous fun to be able to experience authentic Korean cuisine from a group of such passionate food enthusiasts. They shared the love of their culture and food with a group of hungry strangers in an enjoyable and hands-on way. At the end of the event, I could definitely feel, and taste, the love.
Disclaimer: We were offered an opportunity to sample several dishes courtesy of Bibimbap Backpackers and Bibigo Products. Each guest at the media event also received a gift bag that included a cookbook and coupons. All opinions expressed here are our own.