There’s something about the comforting smell of sesame oil … whenever I catch a whiff, I find myself longing for Korean food, for stone pot bibimbap. Heck, just saying ‘bibimbap’ puts me in a fine mood — and for those wonderful Korean side dishes, banchan, that come out as prelude to the main event.
The Korean restaurant Alirang has a fine version of dolsot bibimbap. It comes out sizzling in its stone bowl, the rice bed crusting happily on the bottom, the top a wheel of treats: spinach, carrot, zucchini, yellow bean sprouts, radish, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, meat (I chose the sweet, marinated barbecued beef, bulgogi) all crowned with a lightly fried egg and black sesame seeds.
The contrasting flavours and textures, the garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili paste (gochujang) all contribute their parts to the whole. It’s a shame, but you gotta do it: take your chopsticks and attack. Muck it all up. It’ll look like the dog’s breakfast but the flavour is pretty wonderful.