Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Battle of the Bibim Bab


Click image to enlarge.

About a month ago, I raved about the Korean Bibim Bab (hot stone pot rice, veggie and beef dish) at Seoul Kitchen in Cambridge. Last night I had a different - but equally delicious - Bibim bap experience.

A giant Asian supermarket called Super 88 opened a few years ago in Allston (near Boston University). It's an amazing Asian supermarket that is truly a feast for the senses. The produce is fascinating and the fish selection immense. And where else can you buy a 50-pound bag of rice? Adjoining the supermarket is a Food Court with a number of Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants. This is no typical food court. The food coming out of these small kitchens is excellent quality and the prices can't be beat. Although it was difficult choosing which one to try, I was craving Bibim Bab so opted for Misono Korean Cuisine.


Click image to enlarge.

A kind older woman waited on us and seemed excited to be preparing our food for us. For only $8.95, we each received our own fresh, enormous Bibim Bab bowl with a side of spicy chili sauce. The most difficult part was carrying this heavy bowl on a cafeteria tray over to our table. Those things are heavy! Small price to pay for a great meal like this.

We sat down and commenced the Bibim Bab dining experience. In the pot are a variety of items layered one on top of the other - sprouts, spinach, carrots, fried egg and sliced beef (you can also have it with just vegetables, chicken or unagi, aka smoked eel). What you do is add in the chili sauce and mix everything together with your chopsticks, cooking everything to your desired taste. Did I mention the stone pot is REALLY HOT? Whatever you do, don't touch it. They rest it on a tray underneath that enables you to grab the edge if you need to hold onto it while you mix your food around.

For the most part, I think the caliber of this BiBim Bab was as good as the BiBim Bab at Seoul Kitchen except I think the quality of the beef is a little better at Seoul Kitchen. Also, Seoul Kitchen is a restaurant with a very cozy environment. You feel like you're in someone's home. So you pay a little more but the ambiance is better. But for quick service and a few bucks less you can sit in the lively open space at the Super 88 food court. So it all depends what you're in the mood for. I would recommend both highly.

Bibim Bab is a delicious cold winter night dinner. And it's so affordable you don't have to worry about breaking the bank. Even better, you can peruse the food court and figure out what you might want to get next time you visit. If you have any room left, pick up a Bubble Tea (cold delicious flavored teas with tapioca balls on the bottom) for the walk home.

Super 88 Supermarket and Food Court
One Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA, 617-787-2288
www.super88market.com

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