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Obsessed with Korean: The Bowls

As a country, we seem to be quite smitten with Korean food—and for good reason. It's anything but subtle, boasting intense flavors ranging from fiery to potently garlicky to fermenty-funky to salty-sweet … or some glorious combination of all the above. Here, an exploration of some of the defining dishes from this burgeoning cuisine. 

OK, so one of the biggest food trends for 2016 is The Bowl. Just take a quick peek on Instagram or Pinterest, and you'll find no shortage of rice or whole-grain bowls crowned with lovingly arranged toppings. There's something wonderfully satisfying about your whole meal fitting into a bowl you can cup in one hand, that you can sort of cuddle up to, you know?

Bibimbop is one of the most iconic Korean dishes, and infinitely customizable. This version happens to be vegetarian.

And, well, I'd argue that the Korean classic Bibimbop (or bibimbap, translated as "mixed rice") is the OB—the original bowl. I grew up with this dish, which my Korean mother would sometimes pull together for dinner; I would describe it to my childhood Mississippi friends as "piles of stuff on rice." It typically consists of rice in a bowl, topped with neatly arranged separate piles of colorful toppings and an egg in the middle of it all. Oh, and a good squirt of  gochugang sauce to spice things up. In Korean restaurants, you'll often find dolsot bibimbap, which presents the dish to you in a heated stone bowl; the rice sizzles against the searing-hot stone, and as you eat your way down to the bottom, you discover an absolutely delicious crispy layer of rice. Without the stone pot, you can still craft an insanely good bibimbop, with or without meat. Try these two recipes for starters, and then riff with your own combinations.

A different version of bibimbop, this one made with beef.

There's also a great bibimbop variation, one that combines rice and barley as the base of the bowl. It's called Boribap, and it follows the same principle: flavorful toppings artfully arranged over the base.

Boribap is like bibimbap, but with barley added to the mix.

Either way you go—bibimbap or boribap—you get a healthy meal full of vibrant tastes and lots of produce.

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