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!
1 cup short grain rice
200g sirloin, finely sliced
3/4 tbsp soy sauce
70ml sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp crushed garlic
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup finely sliced chestnut mushrooms (in the absence of shiitake!)
1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 small daikon (also known as mooli if you’re in an Indian shop rather than a Korean one), cut into matchsticks
1 small courgette, cut into matchsticks
1 small bunch spinach, leaves picked
1/2 generous cup bean sprouts
2 egg yolks
Chilli bean paste (or gochujang if you can get it)
1. Rinse the rice thoroughly, then put in a saucepan and place a hand flat over the top. Fill with cold water to the top of your hand. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
2. Combine the beef with 1/2 tbsp of the soy sauce, a little sesame oil, 1 1/2 tsp of the garlic, the sugar and a pinch of pepper. Stir fry until golden brown and set aside.
3. Mix the mushrooms with the remaining soy sauce, a little sesame oil, 1 tsp of the garlic and some pepper and set aside.
4. Stir fry the carrot in a little sesame oil with 1 tsp of the garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and repeat with the daikon and courgette.
5. Blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water for 15 seconds, then scoop out, drain, place in a bowl and toss with some sesame oil, a little garlic and salt and pepper. Repeat with the bean sprouts.
6. Put some rice into each serving bowl and arrange small mounds of beef and vegetables over the top. Gently place an egg yolk in the middle and a teaspoon (or more if desired) of gochujang to the side.
The first thing we noticed about this meal was THE DISHES. All of those components that had to be ‘set aside’ had to be set in or on something, and so we ended up with a mountain of dishes to wash once we’d finished eating – which is never a way to endear us to a recipe. However, that said, we did enjoy eating it. The flavours all worked together well, and there wasn’t too much sesame oil, despite our fears as we kept adding it and adding it whilst preparing all the ingredients. The only question is: was it really that much better than if we’d just tossed all of the ingredients into a wok and fried them in some sesame oil? Probably slightly so, but not enough for us to create that amount of washing up again for what is essentially rice with bits in. If a restaurant’s kitchen staff were doing the dishes, though, and serving it up in a dolsot? Yes please!