There were other epiphanies, as I learned about all the regional versions. The luxurious bibimbap of Jeonju, in the southwest, is made with rice cooked in rich beef stock, the region's succulent soybean sprouts, and a mound of raw minced beef with a raw egg yolk quivering on top. Jinju bibimbap, from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, near the sea, gets a briny boost from the addition of marinated clams. For the fabled Haeju bibimbap, a hearty North Korean specialty, the rice is cooked in pork fat and topped with pan-fried pork and strips of chicken. Some of the versions were served in a dolsot; more often, they were presented in a metal bowl. When I asked Jimmy about it, he said, "Dolsot is something you see only in restaurants. We never make it that way at home." Though stone bowls were used centuries ago, they were limited almost exclusively to royal tables and then disappeared from use entirely during the Japanese occupation of Korea, from 1910 to 1945. It wasn't until the 1960s that restaurants began reintroducing this method of serving bibimbap—a novelty, bringing a dash of drama to the homeliest of dishes. Still, my favorite of all was the summery version I had in that market in Seoul. The meal was simple and satisfying, and the ritual of assembling it before my eyes made me feel cosseted and fussed over—no small comfort when you're 7,000 miles from home.