Monday, December 10, 2012

Dol Sot Bibimbap at Sobahn Express - Irvine

I don’t think there’s a people more obsessed with the temperature of food than the Koreans. What’s served hot must be boiling lava hot. What’s served cold must induce brain freeze. Of course, I’m generalizing. I’m not a food anthropologist, just a lover of Korean cuisine who formed his hypothesis after casual observation and countless scorched upper palates. But let’s look at the evidence shall we?

Soondubu (soft tofu soup) roiling in those thick metal cauldrons. Sizzling Korean BBQ plucked seconds from table-top grills, liquefied fat still rippling from the heat. And name me another culture whose answer to hot summer days is as brilliant as naengmyeon, the noodle soup that will sometimes have actual ice chips in the broth.

And then there’s bibimbap, which is never as good as when you decide to upgrade it to dol sot bibimbap, where the rice, veggies, meat and a raw egg is seared to crispness in the hot stone pot bowl it’s served in. This is exactly how it’s done at Sobahn Express inside the HMart foodcourt in Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree. Dozens of these bowls are heated on stoves roaring at full blast, ready to be filled and served at temperatures that can and will burn anything it touches to cinder.

When you eat, the raw egg cracked on top cooks instantly after you mix it up with the rice, the whole thing hissing, sputtering, steaming. Every spoonful you scoop is as scorching as the one you took three minutes ago. When you leave it alone for a while, the rice that sits too long cooks to a crunchy sheet, becoming a cousin to what the Persians call tadig.

But the point is to eat all of it while it’s hot, hot, hot. You squirt gochujang, chew on a piece of bulgogi, the rice, blowing so that you don’t cause permanent damage to your tongue and inner cheek.

Sobahn Express inside H Mart
2600-2100 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 660-8085

Au NatuRaw - Santa Ana


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