Unraveling the secrets of bibimbap, the jewel of Korean cuisine

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Artificial Intelligence history

This piece is a production of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Picture a steaming bed of fluffy white rice blanketed by a vibrant assortment of vegetables. Savoury meat or fish complementing the dish. A generous smudge of gochujang (chilli paste), dwenjang (fermented soybean paste), or ganjang (soy sauce) for that kick of flavour, and perhaps a crowned egg. Bibimbap, a staple Korean cuisine, offers an endless variety of ingredients that can be tossed into the bowl, creating a culinary intrigue, as its history and origin continue to be a topic of debate.

Theories suggest that the name ‘bibimbap’ stems from ‘goldongban’, a term derived from Chinese characters. In this context, ‘goldong’ translates to ‘to mix’, identical to ‘bibim’ in Korean, while ‘bap’ signifies rice. This term implies the amalgamation of diverse ingredients with rice in a bowl. The traditional Korean goldongban ritual allowed people to declutter their homes at the end of a lunar year in anticipation of the forthcoming one. The hodgepodge of leftover pantry items, including grains and dried namul (plants), birthed a dish named ‘goldongjiban’. The first documented usage of this term is found in Dongkuksaesigi, a book by Hong Suk-Mo published in 1849, detailing the regional customs of Korea.

The first recorded recipe of bibimbap, which was referred to as ‘bubimbap’ then, was documented in the late 19th century. The cookbook Siuijeonseo, providing a snapshot of the culinary landscape during the late Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), penned this recipe. The author was presumably a woman from the aristocracy. In 1919, Sim Hwanjin, the newly appointed governor of Sangju, borrowed a copy and reproduced it.

However, the association of bibimbap with goldongban is not conclusive. Alternate hypotheses suggest that bibimbap could have been a solution to consuming jesa (ancestral ceremony) table leftovers. Another theory proposes that it was devised as a convenient method for farmers to feed large groups during the harvest season. This notion suggests the advent of bibimbap dates back to the late Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), coinciding with the establishment of the Korean bapsang (traditional meal table). The idea is captivating, as the practicality of mixing a selection of greens, rice, and sauce in a large bowl and eating it with a spoon is evident.

Each element contributes equally to the symphony of flavours and textures that define this dish.

Generally, bibimbap is presented in a metal bowl. However, the ‘dolsot’ variation gets its name from the heated stone pot it is served in. Originating in the Three Kingdom period (57 BC to AD 668), this method of cooking rice over charcoal, particularly for the royalty, has now transformed into a restaurant speciality rather than a home-cooked meal. The Japanese occupation (1910-1945) almost caused this technique to disappear, but its reintroduction in the restaurants in the 1960s helped revive declining customer numbers post the Korean War.

Bibimbap embodies the five flavours that establish equilibrium in a traditional meal: salty, sweet, hot, sour, and bitter, along with the principle of obangsaek. Obangsaek incorporates the five symbolic colours of Korean cuisine: red, green or blue, yellow, white, and black. These signify the five elements (fire, wood, earth, metal, and water) and the five primary compass positions (south, east, centre, west, and north). They are also believed to correspond to the five crucial organs of the body: heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys. 

Despite these broad categories, bibimbap allows ample room for creativity. The omnipresent short-grain white rice fundamental to Korean meals can be substituted with barley, millet, or a mixture of grains and beans. Beef (a ‘red’ food) might be seasoned and stir-fried, served as tartare, or replaced with pork, raw fish, or an assortment of seafood. Alternatively, the dish could be devoid of meat or fish. The egg could be fried, or the white and yolk cooked separately to maintain the colour distinction. If a dolsot is used, the egg is added raw as the heat from the stone cooks it.

The selection of vegetables evolves with the region and season. Spring brings tender shoots and kimchi prepared with young radish heads, while winter bibimbap is laden with rehydrated dried plants. Additional components like chestnuts, sesame seeds, perilla (a herb) seeds may find their way into the bowl, often finished with a drizzle of sesame oil.

Yangnyeom gochujang is the seasoning of choice for dishes like bibimbap, but it can also be served as a dipping sauce.

Jeonju, a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and capital of North Jeolla Province, claims

A user enters the chat.

User: Hi, I want to know more about the history of AI. Can you help me with that?
AI: Of course, I’d be happy to provide an overview of the history of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been a field of interest for many decades and has seen significant developments over the years. Here is a brief timeline:

1950s – Early Concepts

  • British mathematician Alan Turing developed the concept of a universal machine, capable of computing anything that is computable. This concept formed the basis of the digital computer. In 1950, Turing introduced the Turing Test to assess a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to or indistinguishable from human intelligence.

1956 – The Birth of AI

  • The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was first coined by John McCarthy at the Dartmouth Conference, which was the first academic conference on the subject.

1960s-1970s – Early Development

  • These decades saw the development of the first AI programming languages: LISP by John McCarthy and Prolog by Alain Colmerauer. The 1960s also saw the development of the first problem-solving program, or ‘expert system,’ known as DENDRAL, which offered solutions to chemical analysis.

1980s – AI Winter and Expert Systems

  • AI research suffered setbacks and reduced funding, often referred to as the “AI winter”. Despite this, the concept of expert systems was widely adopted, used to emulate the decision-making abilities of a human expert. IBM’s Deep Blue, a chess-playing AI, was developed during this period and made headlines in 1996 when it defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in a game of chess.

1990s – Machine Learning

  • A shift occurred from knowledge-driven approaches to data-driven approaches. Scientists started creating programs for computers to analyze large amounts of data and learn from them, marking the birth of machine learning.

2000s – Big Data and Deep Learning

  • This period saw a massive increase in both the availability of data and computational power. These advances led to significant improvements in machine learning algorithms, and ‘deep learning’ (neural networks with many layers) started gaining traction.

2010s – AI Breakthroughs and Mainstream Adoption

  • Google’s AlphaGo program defeated the world champion Go player in 2016, a significant milestone in AI due to the complexity of the game. AI also started to become part of everyday applications, such as voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant.

2020s – The rise of AI models

  • Significant advancements in AI models such as GPT-3, GPT-4 (which you are now interacting with), and BERT have taken place. These models have shown impressive abilities in natural language understanding, generation, and more.

Post-2021 –

  • While I can’t provide specifics about advancements in AI after 2021 due to my training data cut-off, it’s safe to say that the field is advancing rapidly, with continual improvements in AI capabilities, understanding, and integration into everyday technology.

This is a very high-level overview of the history of AI, and there are many more specific events, innovations, and individuals that have contributed to its development. If there’s a particular aspect of AI history you’re interested in, I’m more than happy to go into more detail!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Artificial Intelligence history

What is the historical background of Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has its roots in ancient history, with examples like the mythological automatons of ancient Greece. However, it was only in the mid-20th century, specifically in 1956, that the field of AI research was formally founded at a conference at Dartmouth College. The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined at this conference.

What are the major periods in the evolution of AI?

The evolution of AI can be broadly divided into three main periods: the birth of AI (1956-1974), the AI Winter (1974-2004), and the contemporary period (2004 onwards). Each period has been marked by distinct characteristics, such as a focus on problem-solving algorithms in the early years, the rise of machine learning in the contemporary period, and reduced funding and skepticism during the AI Winter.

What is the current focus of AI research and development?

The current focus of AI research and development is on improving machine learning, a subset of AI that provides the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience. There’s also significant interest in developing general AI, capable of performing any intellectual task that a human being can.

What is the influence of AI in our daily lives?

AI significantly influences our daily lives. It is used in a wide range of applications, from voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, to recommendation systems used by Netflix and Amazon, to autonomous vehicles, medical diagnosis, and many more. Its influence is expected to grow even more in the future.

What are the major challenges in AI research and development?

The major challenges in AI research and development include ensuring the ethical use of AI, addressing issues of bias in AI systems, making AI systems more explainable and transparent, and dealing with the potential societal impacts of AI, such as job displacement. Additionally, creating a general AI, which can perform any intellectual task a human can, remains a significant challenge.

More about Artificial Intelligence history

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Ethan B. July 25, 2023 - 12:05 pm

AI’s got potential, but I’m with you on the ethics part. We need strict regulations.

Samantha J. July 25, 2023 - 12:46 pm

Agree with the points made here. We have to carefully navigate AI’s ethics, it’s a slippery slope!

Roberto D. July 25, 2023 - 5:48 pm

wow, it’s crazy how fast tech is evolving… AI’s already doin more than i imagined

Megan L. July 26, 2023 - 1:38 am

Great read. Good to see both sides of the AI story – it’s not all doom and gloom!


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