Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bibimbap: Korean Deliciousness

The thing I love most about bibimbap is that there are only two constants: steamed rice and gochujang.  The name translates as "mixed meal" or "mixed rice" (depending on who you ask), and that's exactly what it is.  Essentially, the dish is a bowl of rice topped with a variety of separately cooked vegetables seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, whatever protein suits you - often bulgogi or grilled chicken, a fried egg with a runny yolk or just a raw yolk, and some rich tangy sauce to tie everything together.  Recipes always include the rice and sauce, but the rest is left up to interpretation.    

First, let's address the rice: it's super important so we might as well get it out of the way now.  Make sure to use a medium grain rice or rice mixture.  You can use brown or white rice, though white is the most traditional.  The reason for using medium grain rice is the texture; it's a bit tacky after cooking and holds up to all of the garnishes you place on top.  Allow about 1/3 cup of dry rice per person.

Next, the garnishes!  You can use any vegetables you have laying around; raw shredded carrots, raw or sauteed bean sprouts, some sauteed or steamed greens (spinach and bok choy are good options), steamed broccoli, and sauteed zucchini are all common and tasty.  After steaming or sauteing, I like to drizzle a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce over the veggies to give them a bit of flavor.  As far as protein goes, beef and chicken are the most typical.  They are usually marinated, thinly sliced, in a sesame-soy-garlic-ginger mixture and then grilled over hot coals.  You could also apply this treatment to firm tofu or seafood if you were so inclined.  A sunny side up fried egg, or a raw yolk, is a necessity- the runny yolk makes a fabulous sauce when mixed with the gochujang condiment

Gochujang Condimentmakes about 1/4 cup

1 tablespoon Korean red pepper paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Once you have all of the components cooked and ready, it's time to plate.  You have three options here- you can serve it chilled, you can serve it hot, or you can serve it hot in a pre-heated stone bowl, which will crisp the rice wherever it touches the stone.  The last is called dolsot bibimbap, and is my favorite.  So far I've only had it in restaurants; I ought to invest in some stone bowls...

To assemble, place a mound of rice in each bowl, arranging the meat and each type of vegetable like the spokes of a wheel.  Choose one or two vegetables to sprinkle decoratively with sesame seeds.  Top with a fried egg/yolk and about a tablespoon of the condiment.  After arranging everything so beautifully, serve each person and allow them to mix everything together before digging in!

**this meal can be adapted to just about any dietary restriction, so it's great for dinner parties where you have guests with preferences 

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