Kinja Sushi Gives Bibimbap a Japanese Twist

Kinjadon is chef-owner Joe Kang’s version of the dazzlingly colorful Korean raw-fish dish hwaedupbap, basically “a take on bibimbap.”


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Two great tastes: sashimi turned into faux bibimbap, which is also known as hwaedubap at Kinja.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Given the geographical proximity of Korea and Japan, given that Japan colonized Korea for 35 years, and given centuries of cross-cultural borrowings between these two seabound countries, it’s no wonder that raw fish is relished in both.

Kinja Sushi, which opened on Grand Avenue this spring, serves Kinjadon, which is chef-owner Joe Kang’s version of the dazzlingly colorful Korean raw-fish dish hwaedupbap. Kang described hwaedupbap as “a take on bibimbap.”

Classic bibimbap comprises a bowl of rice flanked by add-ins such as shredded vegetables, egg, and meat, which diners add to the rice as they wish, when they wish.

“You’re supposed to mix it up and add gochujang, which is red-pepper paste,” explained Kang, who grew up in San Francisco “in a restaurant family. Ever since I was young, my mother has been running restaurants.” Kang’s mother immigrated from Seoul in the 1980s.

Kang planned to open a Japanese restaurant when he was 21, and his parents “suggested I go and learn sushi.”

After attending the California Culinary Academy, completing the Le Cordon Bleu program, then working at several restaurants, “I jumped to the next level, not just making sushi but doing what it takes to run a business: Building relationships with customers while making delicious food that they enjoy became a very big part of my life.”

Hwaedupbap’s add-ins are mostly raw fish, served with chojang, “which we make by adding vinegar and sugar to gochujang,” Kang said.

“Chojang is used all over Korea and America—mostly by Korean people—to dip sashimi pieces, instead of wasabi and soy sauce.

“Our Kinjadon hwaedupbap is slightly unique in that we use brown rice instead of white, along with spring salad mix, assorted cubed fish, sesame oil, bonito furikake, fresh daikon, wakami, capelin roe, and radish sprouts.

“I put this item on the menu because it’s what I saw growing up. My parents ate it. Most Korean-owned Japanese restaurants serve it. I put it on my menu because it is a sign of my background and my heritage. It’s a fusion that I grew up with, and I wanted to give my twist on it.’

 

Kinja Sushi Bar & Restaurant, 357 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-452-2443, www.KinjaOakland.com

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