When I get a flavor palette stuck in my head I have to feed the call. Last month it was Mexican and when the real cold hits it’s always Korean. Instead of arriving cloaked in a winter coat, it comes bristling at me with a vigorous and bubbling insistence. When the old choreography of storm after storm begins in New York the kitchen becomes more important than ever. By now you probably know that I use my kitchen and this space here to gesture obliquely toward my own aspirations and preoccupations. Sometimes they’re professional, sometimes personal, but the running theme is always the seasons or the weather and the effects they have on me as the backdrop to life. No matter what’s going on the kitchen keeps it real. It’s a place I can visit over and over again and work it all out. This week the combination of work, play and weather dictates Korean. Savory this time.
Bibimbap is a signature Korean dish. The word literally means “mixed rice.” It is served as a bowl of warm brown rice topped with sauteed and seasoned vegetables and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce and sesame sauce. Top it with a fried egg and some ground beef and you’re golden. Just don’t do what I did and cover the egg after you crack it. It’ll go from sunny to cloudy fast. When it’s all prepared, stir it thoroughly and devour.
The recipe is definitely component-heavy, but it’s not hard. Most of the accouterments can be made ahead of time and if you do a few of them at once (always the multi-tasker) it takes under an hour. The most unique ingredient in this dish is the baby fern/bracken. People in Korea often forage for it in the mountains. It’s got great texture, earthy flavor and brings an authenticity that really elevates the dish. If you can’t find it you can use red cabbage too. The best part of the dish is the obvious attention to detail when the flavors of each vegetable vary slightly. The making of a good bibimbap demands that each component is given the attention it deserves. Of all the meals I’ve made over the years and documented on this here site, this is the only one that made my husband pull out his phone and take a picture. And it tasted just as great as it looked. The next day I brought it to work for my dear Korean office-mate who introduced me to all of this wonderful cuisine. I think he was shocked that I could somehow recreate one of his faves to such a degree of similarity. Each vegetable is seasoned slightly differently and everything tastes so fresh. The paste is a must. Get the paste!
Work is sending me back to Mexico this week, but to Mexico City this time rather than my vacation in the peninsula. And it’ll be work, not play. But I’m excited to see the city, given my soft spot for our gruff neighbor to the south. I promise you I won’t get caught in another palette. Next week I’ll update you on my meeting with my culinary genius former neighbor, but I want to do it with one of the many dishes that she made for me with its roots firmly in the countryside. I had to watch Youtube to figure out how she pulled off what would seem like the simplest of culinary tricks. My butchering skills are mostly in the fish area, not in game. I can’t wait to share it with you! I hope you’re all doing well. Stay warm. Make this dish! Hasta pronto!
BIBIMBAP 비빔밥 - KOREAN RICE BOWL WITH MIXED VEGETABLES & MEAT
- Cooked rice (I used brown)
- a package of soy bean sprouts
- a bunch of spinach
- 2 small size of zucchinis
- 5-7 Shiitake mushrooms
- fernbrake/bracken (kosari) If using dried, bring 2 cups submerged kosari to a boil for 30 mins and soak overnight. For full disclosure, in doing my research I came across this article. (Can use red cabbage instead)
- 1/2 lb (200 grams) ground beef
- 1 small carrot
- 1 egg per serving
General quantities of the following:
- soy sauce
- hot pepper paste,
- garlic (I roasted and mashed a whole bulb in advance. You may want to do this too since the original recipe seems to call for it raw)
- sesame seeds
- sesame oil
- vegetable oil
For the Rice:
Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add one cup of white or brown short grain rice. Let simmer until soft. Add extra water as needed. Lower flame.
For the Bean Sprouts:
Prepare a large platter to put all your ingredients on. Rinse your bean sprouts 3 times and put them in a pot with a cup of water. Add 1 ts of salt and cook for 20 minutes. Drain water and mix it with 1 clove of minced garlic, sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Put it on the platter.
For the Spinach:
Put your spinach in a pot of boiling water and stir it for a minute. Then rinse it in cold water a few times and squeeze it lightly. Mix it with a pinch of salt, 1 ts of soy sauce, 1 clove of minced garlic and sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
For the Zucchini:
Cut 2 small size zucchinis into thin strips, sprinkle them with a pinch of salt, and then mix them together. A few minutes later, sauté them in a pan over high heat. When it’s cooked, it will look a little translucent. Put it on the platter.
For the Kosari or Cabbage:
You can buy soaked and cooked “kosari” at a Korean grocery store. Prepare about 2 or 3 cups of kosari for this 4 servings of bibimbap. Cut it into pieces 5-7 cm long and sauté in a heated pan with 1 ts of vegetable oil. Stir and add 1 tbs of soy sauce, 1/2 tbs of sugar, and cook them for 1-2 minutes. Add sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
For the Shitake Mushrooms:
Slice shitake mushrooms thinly and sauté with 1 ts of vegetable oil. Add 2 ts of soy sauce and 1 or 2 ts of sugar and stir it for 2 minutes. Add some sesame oil, and put it on the platter.
For the Ground Beef:
On a heated pan, put some oil and the ground beef and stir it. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbs of soy sauce, 1/2 tbs of sugar, a little grounded black pepper, and sesame oil. Put it on the platter.
For the Carrots:
Cut a carrot into strips, sauté it for 30 seconds and put it on the platter.
For the Eggs:
Prepare eggs with sunny side up by breaking them directly into an oiled pan. Don’t cover them like I did or it will be more cloudy than sunny, as per my photos.
Put your rice In a big bowl, and attractively display all your vegetables and meat. Place the sunny side up egg on the center. Serve it with sesame oil, hot pepper paste and a dusting of sesame seeds. Enjoy!