Korean food made quite a splash in 2014, and much to our delight, it seems the food trend is here to stay. One of South Korea’s classic dishes, which coincidentally is also fun to say, is the bibimbap. Warm white rice is topped with cooked vegetables, meat (usually beef, but chicken is a popular alternative), chilli paste and a raw or fried egg is the finishing touch.
The dish is vibrant as well as nutritious, as colours of each ingredient are initially separated and it’s up to you to combine them thoroughly just before diving in. Whether you have the traditional style, severed in a sizzling stone pot, or have the opportunity to sample a cross-cultural interpretation of the dish, the results are reliably delicious. From the best Korean restaurants in Melbourne, to some unexpected entries, here’s where to head for a cracker bowl of bibimbap.
This delightful, hole-in-the-wall, Korean/Mexican hybrid is an excellent destination for office workers and students alike looking for a quick bite in the city. The bibimbap at Koba contains kimchi rice, seasonal vegetables, some extra kimchi for good measure, and your choice of beef, pork, chicken or tofu. The old-school hip-hop soundtrack and graff-art adorning the walls make this place fun as well as experimental; once you’ve tried the bibimbap, give the Korritos a go.
A tasty variation of the bibimbap is the ‘dolsot bibimbap’, served in a seriously hot stone bowl. (We love the one at Frying Colours). Before rice is placed in the bowl, the base is covered in oil, which makes the rice crisp up on the outside, providing a delicious crunch. Vegetables include zucchini, carrot, beansprouts and shiitake mushrooms, with the addition of pork or beef. When you burst the egg yolk in the centre, the piping hot sides of the bowl cook it as you mix it through, which suits those who may be slightly timid of consuming raw egg.
Richmond, Windsor, Hawthorn & Melbourne CBD
We bet you didn’t expect to see this guy on our list. Fonda’s distinctly Mexican-style Mex-Bim-Bap is located on the Ensaladas menu, and is presented as a deconstructed salad. Much like the traditional bibimbap, the ingredients are neatly separated according to colours, with the chicken, beef, pulled pork, mushroom or soyrizo generously heaped on top. The salad part of the dish includes corn, shaved zucchini, sweet potato, baby spinach, guacamole, quinoa, black beans, pickled onion and cabbage. Delish! Get it at the Richmond, Windsor, Hawthorn and Flinders Lane outposts.
The More The Better
Elsternwick’s Korea-meets-USA dining hotspot, The More the Better, gives you all the options when it comes to their bibimbaps. You can either have the traditional variety with seasoned rice, sunny side up egg, vegetables, and your choice from bulgogi beef, spicy pork, spicy chicken and teriyaki chicken, or teriyaki tofu and teriyaki eggplant for an all-vegetarian affair. For something with a bit more theatre, grab the hot stone sizzling bibimbap, it has all of the same toppings as the traditional bibimbap, but it sizzles as it makes its way to your table, and long after.
Widely regarded as one of the most authentic Korean restaurants in Melbourne, Bornga has lots of experience under its belt when it comes to feeding those craving something traditional. Previously known as Myeong ga-Madang, Bornga has maintained the same owners, same chef, but aren’t afraid to play with the menu. Their Stone Pot is both beautifully colourful and flavoursome, with beef being the meat of choice. At $9.90 for a more than generous bowl, it’s a steal.
Richmond & Northcote
One of our favourite Korean restaurants in Melbourne, lunch or dinner at Seoul Soul always feels like a treat, and their bibimbaps are no exception. The bibimbap here is presented so beautifully, with each sautéed vegetable neatly surrounding the rice placed in the centre, and the egg sitting patiently on top. Toppings include either vegetarian, avocado, spicy pork, beef, chicken or stir fried kimchi with delicious Korean chilli pepper paste to give it that final kick. In other fantastic news, Seoul Soul has two locations in Melbourne; either drop into the original location in Richmond or head over to Northcote for some banging bibimbap.
For a modern take on Korean cuisine, head to Bistro K on Smith Street, Collingwood. The European-meets-Korean influence here makes for some very interesting fusion food, which does not disappoint. Because the menu often changes, bibimbaps aren’t currently as heavily featured here as they have been in the past, but rest assured, they know what they are doing. They serve mini bibimbap in a cast iron pan with bulgogi or tofu as a side dish, meaning you have more room for even more delicious Korean fare. So really, everybody wins.
Bibimbap Food Truck
It’s a well-established fact that Melbourne has a food truck for every type of cuisine, and thankfully you can soon add bibimbap to that illustrious list. After a successful Pozible campaign and a few equally awesome pop-up events at Loop Roof, Courtney Kim’s bibimbap baby is soon to become a reality. At the time of writing she is hoping to be up and running in about three weeks, so fingers crossed this is the case.
Once it is open, you can look forward to creating your own bibimbap cup, filled with your choice of chicken, beef or tofu, and vegetables such as mushroom, lettuce, cucumber and carrot. The sauce options are chilli or lemon soy for those not as keen on spice, and vegan and gluten-free options are available for those who need/desire it.
Image credit: Seoul Seoul by Simon Shiff for The Urban List