By the time I entered college, I thought of myself as a rather experienced eater. Born and raised in a multicultural family in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had been exposed to all sorts of foods from the get-go and was rarely fazed by anything "weird" (Chicken feet? Sure. Alligator tail? No problem. Crab innards? Give it to me over rice.) And my young adult self was certain that there was no cuisine I had yet to conquer.
Then I met the guy who is now my husband, and he proceeded to rock my world with the marvels of Korean food. Yeah, I had experienced plenty of barbecue and jjigaes (stews) by then, but one night he took me to a Korean-owned sushi joint tucked away in a tiny Oakland strip mall, and he ordered us two heaping bowls of hwae dup bap that seriously changed my life.
According to my loose understanding of the Korean language, hwae dup bap translates to raw fish over rice, and while it lacks the orchestrated beauty of Japanese chirashi, you can think of it as chirashi's untamed cousin. Everyone has their own version of this dish (my husband remembers his mom making a simple version with just sashimi and rice for church picnics), but the general equation is as follows (from the bottom up): sushi rice, greens, chopped raw fish, fish roe, and a quail egg, drizzled with sesame oil and a vinegary gochujang sauce. It's refreshing, light, but incredibly filling, and it will change the way you think about sashimi. The Japanese girl in me still enjoy a slice of toro delicately dabbed in shoyu and fresh wasabi, but my newfound Korean side absolutely melts for hwae dup bap.
I based this recipe on our spot in the East Bay which included seaweed salad to round out its from-the-sea flavor. If you have access to good quality sashimi and an Asian grocery store, then you'll have all the ingredients you need for this explosive dish. For the recipe, read on.