Bap: The Staple of Korean Cuisine and How to Prepare It

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Bap () is a term used for the grains cooked in Korean cuisine. The baps are rice, barley, beans and many other grains. There are different words for bap, according to the person being served. It is called jinji if served to elderly, sura for king, and me for the deceased in the ancestral rites. It also has different names depending on the grains used to make it. It is called ssalbap when bap consists entirely of steamed white rice, boribap if it made of rice with barley, or jobap when white rice mixed with millet.

In this article, I’ll explain what bap means in Korean cuisine and how it’s used.

What is bap in korean cuisine

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What is Bap in Korean Cuisine?

Bap is the Korean word for rice, but it means much more than that. It’s a cornerstone of daily life in Korea and the most basic food that Koreans eat. The word “bap” literally means “cooked rice” and is a separate term from other grains like millets.

How Bap is Prepared

Bap is prepared by boiling rice in water until it becomes sticky and soft. Koreans love their rice, so they make sure it’s cooked perfectly every time. There are plenty of phrases in Korean to describe the taste and texture of rice, including 쫄깃쫄깃하다 (chewy), 쫀득쫀득하다 (sticky), and 볼강볼강 (plenty of juice).

The Role of Bap in Korean Food

Bap is the foundation of many Korean dishes, and it’s hard to imagine Korean cuisine without it. It’s often served alongside spicy or rich foods to help balance out the flavors. For example, if you order a spicy Korean dish like buldak (fire chicken), you’ll almost always get a bowl of bap on the side.

The Different Types of Bap

While plain white rice is the most common type of bap, there are plenty of other variations to try. Some examples include:

  • Black rice: This type of rice is rich in antioxidants and has a nutty flavor.
  • Sweet rice: Also known as sticky rice, this type of rice is often used in desserts.
  • Citrus rice: This type of rice is flavored with citrus fruits like lemon or orange.

Korean-English Phrases to Describe Bap

Koreans have a lot of phrases to describe the taste and texture of bap. Here are a few common ones:

  • 맛있어요 (mashisseoyo): This means “delicious.”
  • 두거워요 (dugowoyo): This means “gone bad” or “spoiled.”
  • 맛이 없어요 (mashi eopseoyo): This means “tasteless.”
  • 맛이 풍부해요 (mashi pungbuhaeyo): This means “full of flavor.”
  • 새콤해요 (saekomhaeyo): This means “sour” or “citrusy.”
  • 매워요 (maewoyo): This means “spicy.”
  • 달콤해요 (dalkomhaeyo): This means “sweet.”
  • 새콤해요 (saekomhaeyo): This means “sour” or “citrusy.”
  • 시큼해요 (sikeumhaeyo): This means “tart” or “acidic.”
  • 쓴 맛이 나요 (sseun mashi nayo): This means “bitter taste.”
  • 음식이 상했다 (eumsik-i sanghaetda): This means “the food has gone bad.”
  • 즙이 많아요 (jeugi manayo): This means “plenty of juice.”

From Rice to Bap: The Art of Korean Rice Preparation

Rice is a staple food in Korea, and it is an essential ingredient in many Korean dishes. Koreans take their rice seriously, and they have a saying that goes, “If you have rice, you have a meal.” Rice is not just a side dish in Korean cuisine; it is the main dish. Koreans believe that the quality of rice determines the quality of the meal, so they put a lot of effort into preparing it.

The Process of Preparing Rice for Bap

Preparing rice for bap is not as simple as boiling it in water. Koreans have a specific way of preparing rice that involves several steps. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Washing the Rice: The first step in preparing rice for bap is washing it. Koreans wash their rice several times to remove any dirt, dust, or impurities. They use cold water and gently rub the rice with their hands to remove any excess starch.

2. Soaking the Rice: After washing the rice, Koreans soak it in water for at least 30 minutes. Soaking the rice helps to remove any remaining starch and makes it easier to cook.

3. Measuring the Water: Koreans measure the water they use to cook rice based on the type of rice they are using. They use a ratio of 1:1.1 for short-grain rice and 1:1.2 for long-grain rice. This means that for every cup of rice, they use 1.1 or 1.2 cups of water, respectively.

4. Boiling the Rice: Once the rice has been soaked and the water has been measured, it’s time to cook the rice. Koreans use a rice cooker to cook their rice, but it can also be cooked on the stove. They bring the rice and water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

5. Resting the Rice: After the rice has been cooked, Koreans let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. This allows the rice to absorb any remaining moisture and become fluffy.

The Result: Perfectly Cooked Bap

The result of this meticulous process is perfectly cooked bap. Korean bap is fluffy, slightly sticky, and has a subtle nutty flavor. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any Korean dish, and it’s so delicious that it can be eaten on its own.

Discover the Different Dishes You Can Make with Bap

When it comes to Korean cuisine, bap is a staple ingredient that is used in a variety of dishes. From main courses to side dishes, bap is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in many different ways. Here are some of the most popular bap dishes in Korean cuisine:

  • Bibimbap: This is a popular Korean dish that literally means “mixed rice.” It includes a variety of vegetables, cooked meat, and a fried egg on top. The dish is served with a spicy sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and gochujang (a type of Korean chili paste).
  • Japchae: This dish is made with sweet potato noodles, vegetables, and sometimes meat. It is typically served as a side dish and includes a sweet and savory sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil.
  • Kimbap: This is a type of Korean sushi that is made with bap and a variety of fillings, including vegetables, meat, and sometimes seafood. It is a popular snack food in Korea and is often sold in convenience stores.
  • Kongnamul Bap: This is a simple dish made with bap and kongnamul (soybean sprouts). It is a low-calorie and nutritious dish that is easy to make.

How to Choose the Right Type of Bap

When it comes to choosing the right type of bap for your dish, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Sticky vs. Non-Sticky: Bap can be either sticky or non-sticky, depending on the type of rice used. Sticky rice is often used in dishes like sushi and kimbap, while non-sticky rice is used in dishes like bibimbap and fried rice.
  • White vs. Brown: Bap can be made from either white or brown rice. Brown rice is a healthier option as it contains more fiber and nutrients.
  • Gluten-Free: If you have a gluten intolerance, make sure to choose bap that is labeled as gluten-free.

The History and Culture of Bap

Bap has a long history in Korean culture and is an important part of the country’s cuisine. Here are some interesting facts about bap:

  • The word “bap” is derived from the Korean alphabet, which includes a character that means “cooked rice.”
  • Bap is traditionally prepared by boiling rice in water or using a pressure cooker.
  • Many Korean dishes include bap as a main ingredient, including bibimbap, kimbap, and fried rice.
  • Bap can also be used to make desserts, such as rice cakes and rice pudding.
  • In Korean culture, the expression “let’s eat bap” is often used to mean “let’s eat a meal.”

Cooking with Bap: Tips and Tricks

If you’re new to cooking with bap, here are some tips and tricks to help you get started:

  • Practice makes perfect: Cooking bap takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts don’t turn out perfectly.
  • Use the right amount of water: The amount of water you use when cooking bap is important. Too much water can make the rice mushy, while too little water can make it dry and hard.
  • Choose the right brands: Some brands of bap contain MSG or other additives, so make sure to read the ingredients list before buying.
  • Join an online community: There are many online communities dedicated to Korean cooking and bap recipes. Joining one of these communities can be a great way to learn new recipes and get advice from other cooks.
  • Experiment with different sauces: Bap can be served with a variety of sauces, including soy sauce, sesame oil, and black bean sauce. Try experimenting with different sauces to find your favorite.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes: There are a lot of different bap recipes out there, so don’t be afraid to try something new. You might just find your new favorite dish!


So, that’s what bap means in Korean cuisine. It’s the cornerstone of the daily life and basic food of Koreans, and it’s literally just cooked rice, but the way it’s prepared can vary a lot. 

You can also use it as a way to balance out spicy and rich dishes. So, the next time you’re looking for a way to amp up your Korean cuisine, don’t be afraid to try some bap!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.