Written by Rae
Photos by Ben
For those of you that don’t know what boribap is (보리밥), it’s a lot like bibimbap (one of Korea’s most famous dishes). A mixture of rice and barely sits at the bottom of the bowl and is topped with all sorts of goodness: pickled greens, sauteed or pickled eggplants, kimchi, bean sprouts seasoned with red pepper and sesame oil, lettuce, zucchini, and the list goes on. Normally there are large bowls of toppings that the ajumma has prepared and she picks from those toppings whatever she will put in your bowl that day. It’s topped with a sauce, which generally is a sweetened red pepper paste – but this ajumma puts a spoonful of pungent, fermened soybean paste (된장) on top instead.
The ajumma we are talking about.
This here at this small stall in Gwangjang Market is the best boribap in Seoul. Normally when people go to Gwangjang Market they expect to eat the famous mung bean pancake (빈대떡), which is good, too – but please visit this ajumma if you are ever in the area. If she were slanging her boribap in America at a Korean restaurant, she’d be rich! We feel bad that she has to haggle Koreans and tourists for her awesome food – which only costs 5,000KRW for a huge bowl.
If you haven’t tried enough good Korean food to gain an appreciation for it, please try more! This boribap is what Korean food is all about: salty, spicy, sweet fermented goodness. Aside from the variety of vegetables that goes on top, the best part about this ajumma’s boribap is the soybean paste that is smothered all over the bowl. It is has a deep rich salty flavor, compared to the sweeter red pepper sauce which is normally put on mixed rice dishes such as bibimbap.
The ajumma also serves a small soybean soup (된장찌개) and a small cup of barely tea (which she makes from the burnt barley at the bottom of the bowl she cooks in). The tea comes iced in the summer and warmer in the winter.