I'm a huge fan of Korean food. It's spicy and so full of fresh, vibrant ingredients that I always feel superhealthy after eating it. So when I heard that a gigantic bowl of bibimbap would be served on the stretch of New York City's West 32 Street better known as Korea Way last Sunday I dropped everything and hopped on the subway. For those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, bibimbap is a dish consisting of rice mixed with a wide array of ingredients. There's usually plenty of veggies, a bit of meat and there's always gojujang, a fiery chili pepper paste. The version that was served up to a hungry horde that day is known as Jeonju bibimbap. Before mixing the ingredients were laid out in a stunning visual display that used five colors (green, white, red, black and yellow) and resembled the Korean flag. The 507-pound bowl of bibimbap contained 19 ingredients and took 27 people 43 hours to prepare.
Ginormous Jeonju bibimbap(click thumbnails to view gallery)
As with many Korean dishes, the ingredients have particular health benefits. The green portion of the color palette was represented by ginkgo nuts, spinach, watercress, pumpkin and cucumber. I don't know why pumpkin was lumped in with the green ingredients, but I've since learned that it contains plenty of vitamin C, B1 and carotene. The white ingredients were chestnut, bellflower roots, squash, radish, egg white and bean sprout. Jeonju bibimbap contains so much of the amino-acid rich sprouts that it's sometimes called bean sprout bibimbap. The red ingredients were jujubes, carrots, gojujang and raw beef. The black ingredients were a nutritional powerhouse. First up, black sesame seeds, which are rich in vitamin E, calcium and phosphorous. Next up was bracken, not particularly nutritious, but tasty in a rooty sort of way. Then came stone mushroom. Finally kelp, which helps lower cholesterol, and laver seaweed, which contains vitamins A, B, D and E as well as loads of minerals.
Once the bowl was unveiled there was much mixing to be done. First the chefs went at it with huge oarlike paddles to distribute the ingredients evenly. Then they resorted to using their hands. By the time they were finished the rice no longer looked white. It was delicious and contained a perfect amount of each ingredient. It was so good I went back for a second bowl.