Second solution: Korean bibimbap

We mentioned in our last post that because we weren’t able to distinguish between North Korean and South Korean cuisine, we decided simply to make two Korean dishes. The first was bulgogi; the second is bibimbap. We actually made them both over one weekend.

Bibimbap literally means ‘mixed rice’, which is quite ironic because when served there is nothing mixed about this dish at all. Each ingredient is carefully separated to form a lovely food rainbow on top of the rice in the dish. It is, however, customary to mix everything whilst eating it.

A couple of things held us back from making an entirely traditional bibimbap. The first was our lack of dolsot (stone bowl) to cook and serve it in: if the cooked rice is heated further in the dolsot, it gives it a characteristic crunch. We did briefly consider appropriating our pestle and mortar for the task, but in the end we sacrificed the crunch instead of the mortar and just used normal bowls.

The other minor issue was the various exotic ingredients used in many bibimbap preparations, but bibimbap seems to be one of those dishes that everyone has a different version of, so we just followed that trend with a little help from the SBS recipe! Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Korea?: Korean bulgogi

North Korea and South Korea are indisputably two different countries. However, this didn’t become the case until the end of World War II (and thus the end of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea) in 1945, and this served us a problem: how can countries that have only been separated for 70-odd years have distinct national dishes? Searches for ‘North Korean national dish’ and ‘South Korean national dish’ yielded the same result – kimchi – which then presented another problem, given that kimchi is a dish that requires at least a week of fermentation, and we wanted to push on with our cooking challenge. So that left us with two problems to solve, and two dishes to make.

Our masterful solution ending up killing both of those problems with one piece of sirloin. We decided that rather than trying to find dishes specific to the two halves of Korea, we would just make two dishes. We’d bypass kimchi (neither of us is really a huge fan of it anyway) and would instead pick things that we could easily cook and actually want to eat. The first of these is bulgogi, which is simply marinated beef (literally ‘fire meat’). In an ideal world, it would be barbecued over coals, but it wasn’t particularly nice weather the day we made it, and setting up the BBQ would have taken away from valuable kitchen painting time, so we cooked it in a pan, which is apparently nearly as common a method these days anyway. There are no real rules for what to serve with the meat (the marinade recipe for which we got from Maangchi), so we opted to make lettuce wraps, as per The New York Times’ suggestion. Continue reading

Turning Japanese: Japanese sushi

This blog post is going to be slightly different (and a lot longer than usual), because the food within it was not prepared in our own kitchen. Instead, our foray into the world of sushi was courtesy of Miranda’s grandparents, who bought us a sushi making lesson as a wedding present, and Yo! Sushi, who hosted said lesson. That’s how last Sunday, instead of running the London Marathon in the cold (which was obviously Plan B for the day), we sat in the warmth of the County Hall branch of Yo! Sushi and learnt all about sushi (once we eventually got through the door after arriving too early).

617a Ash pre-sushi class compressed

618a Pre-class selfie compressed
(Being early meant time for some pre-class photos!)

We’d actually found out before we arrived that ‘sushi’ simply means ‘vinegar rice’ and that is how the word has come to be used as a catch-all for all the different varieties, like maki and nigiri. What we were surprised to learn from Helen, our instructor, is that the origins of sushi aren’t Japanese at all – they’re Chinese! It dates back to the 8th century or even earlier, when the Chinese would use fermented rice as a means of preserving fish. This then travelled to Japan, where it eventually evolved into the tasty morsels we know today. Nori (seaweed) wasn’t introduced until its invention (in sheet form, that is) around 1750.

The other important thing we learnt at the start of our lesson was about the rice preparation: as its name suggests, this is the key component of successful sushi. We didn’t make any ourselves, as it takes too long, but we were given the recipe to take home. Continue reading

Made in England: Taiwanese beef noodle soup

We had this dish for dinner last Saturday. There isn’t much of interest to report from the day itself. Ash trekked down to Bath (and back) to watch a game of rugby, stuffing his face along the way with a full English breakfast and a sausage baguette lunch. Meanwhile, Miranda slaved away at home, buying, carrying home and preparing ingredients with which to serve a delicious meal to her husband on his return home, surviving on little more than a bowl of cereal and a bit of toast… OK, and there might have been a small nap involved along the way as well.

Quite obviously, trying to turn any of that into an entertaining preamble for this blog post would have been a fruitless exercise, so we’ll instead get straight to the recipe for Taiwan’s national dish: a much better use of both our time and yours. To cook this dish, we took bits and pieces of inspiration from both Serious Eats and SBS. Continue reading