Seoul in the bowl: Be Bap
I had eaten several times at Be Bap, given its convenient location on Amherst and Ste Catherine, before finally sitting down to talk with owner and chef Jung-Kwom Seo. Passionate about Korean food and the bibimbap, their national dish, Jung is a former soldier who has applied his skill and discipline to serving delicious, healthy food, with a little help from Mom…
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As the son of Mr and Mrs Korea House themselves, i.e. Mr and Mrs Seo, Jung-Kwom Seo comes by the restaurant business naturally. Hailing from the area around Seoul, the Seo family made a reputation for fine Korean fare in Côte-des-Neiges before seeing their son take up the torch in the wave of popularity that the Asian nation’s cuisine has enjoyed recently. With very little deep-frying, lots of flavour, Be Bap is an excellent introduction to this lesser known culinary tradition. Often eclipsed by Japanese and Chinese fare, the hearty bibimbap is now on the map, at Be Bap!
Although there are multiple ways to serve Korea’s national dish, the bibimbap is usually presented in a hot stone pot with a fried egg on top. The individually-sized bowls contain your choice of jasmine, brown, or sticky rice, vegetables, and stir-friend chicken, pork, beef, or tofu. Catering to a busy lunch crowd, Jung has tweaked the standard ingredients, using julienned omelette instead of the fried whole egg, so that you get your lunchtime bowl of goodness with the quality of home-made fare, but the speed of fast food.
“My personal goal is to promote Korean food,” Jung says with a smile. The young owner-chef is aware that his lunchtime bibimbap is not the classic Korean presentation, so he makes up for it with a slower, more authentic dinner service (bring your own wine!) “It’s a way to serve two different styles: the lunch time, which is quick and accessible, and the evening menu, with its own bibimbap.”
Mom Mrs Seo is the mentor, he says: “she will correct and comment, she has the skills and palette.” Chef Jung-Kwon recommends the Seo family’s famous seafood green onion pancake (panjeon) as an appetizer, followed by the bulgogi, the house speciality consisting of marinated stir-fried beef served with rice and vegetable side dishes. The prevailing flavours in a Korean meal, and this is what makes Be Bap authentic in the end, are garlic, onion, chili, kimchi and fermented soy paste, a miso-like condiment that is the basis for many of their soups and sauces.
Rather than the traditional sweet rice and bean desserts, Be Bap’s are basically European with a Korean twist. Try the crème brûlée with black sesame seeds, a flavour to be found again in the ice cream choices, along with favourites green tea, red bean, and ginger. Made by Jung’s cousin who also makes the green tea ice cream, the sweet potato cake is velvety, blended with cream cheese, and layered on a sponge cake lightly flavoured with vanilla. Yum…
It’s always a treat to know that the sustenance you’ve been enjoying comes from someone who has thought of all the details, making Be Bap a welcome new staple amongst the family-run restos in the Village.
Restaurant Be Bap
1429 rue Amherst, Montréal H2L 3L2