Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Korean Week 1 - Bi Bim Bap

UPDATE: For searchers looking for a bi bim bap (bee-bim bop) recipe, this is the post, but I also have some pictures at this post.

In honor of finishing the main draft of the Korean apologies paper, I am declaring this "Korean week". I was an Asian Studies major back in college, focusing upon China. Every once in a while I branched out to Japan or SE Asia a bit, but poor little Korea was always completely ignored by my college. So I learned nothing. I still know very little, but that's not going to stop me. The only thing better than ignoring a nation is spreading misinformation about it. (Actually, as you will see, this isn't going to be really much of a lecture about Korea at all, but let's run with the idea, okay?)

First up, we have one of my favorite dishes - Bi Bim Bap Paca-Style.

I borrowed this picture from a guy who seems to do a food blog in NY and loves this place in midtown. I think Ello is a new yorker, so maybe she can fill us in on whether this guy's completely muddle-headed.

Now, actually, the recipe I am about to give isn't true Bi Bim Bap. It's a sorta fusion American version. The difference between my version and a real one is that most of the true Korean vegies will be replaced by whatever vegies I have on hand that I can make Korean-esque. I'd add the real thing from my Korean cookbook, but N's asleep and I can't turn a light on.

Bap just means rice and Bi Bim Bap means a variety of things on rice. At least I think it does, not speaking any Korean, other than how to apologize 5 different ways.

The gist:

Cook rice
Cook vegies and little bits of meat
Place vegies and meat on rice, then add a fried egg
Add a bit of sauce.

Step One: Rice

Cook enough rice for all of your guests. One cup of uncooked rice usually makes about 3 cups of cooked. I do 1 cup of uncooked to a about 1.75 cups of water. I always do this first because rice can sit in a pot warmly quite well. Don't burn it and keep the lid on.

Step Two: Prepare the Variety of Things

I truly do use whatever I have in the fridge. That typically includes cabbage/bokchoi kimchee from the store in a jar, zucchini, yellow onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and green onion. What you will eventually do is place them in little piles in a circle around the rice in a large bowl. So you need to estimate how much to cook to make a little pile of each vegetable for your number of guests. Here's a guess from me:

Half a yellow onion, chopped fine
5 green onions, with the white chopped fine and the green to about 2" lengths. (Green onion is hard to chop actually. Slice across the green with a good knife and then pull the other side, so that it comes free. Move down the length.)
Half a large zucchini, julienned. (Julienne: thin lengths about 2", too.)
6 oz. of white mushrooms, stems removed and sliced.
Half an onion, chopped into pieces about 2" too as you can. Just don't dice.
Pull a couple handfuls of the bean sprouts out of a bag and rinse them. You could chop in half if super long.
Place the kimchee on the table and take the top off. Ooh, the easy part!

Now, take some kind of beef and slice it as thin as you can. Maybe half a pound? A trick to slicing thin meat is to freeze the meat partially, so that it's quite firm.

Slice all these things up and have them in little bowls ready to add in as you cook. Mise en place, I think, if I can speaka le francais.

Step Three: Gather things for flavoring the food while you cook it.

Garlic powder, salt, pepper, sesame seeds, vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce.

Step Four: Cook things.

I typically take the largest skillet we have and attempt to cook about three things at once, since it's all little piles. Whenever you finish something, take it off and put it in a bowl to put on the table. I used to worry so much about keeping things warm, but I finally realized that about half the vegetables on real bi bim bap in a restaurant are cold and they get heated up in the warm rice. So don't be like me; it turns out alright if the first couple things are lukewarm by the time you are done.

Pour a bit of canola oil (vegetable oil) in each part of the big skillet. Add a bit of sesame, too. The let the skillet heat up. Put the onion in one corner of the skillet. Place the zucchini in another. And the mushroom in a third, naturally wherever you placed the oil. Cook up and try not to mix the various items as much as you can. Honestly, I make up exactly what the spices will be each time. I figure onion doesn't need much. Perhaps a little garlic on the mushrooms. Maybe some sesame seeds and soy in with the zucchini. Oh, and a little salt, too. You don't need to go crazy with seasonings.

As things get done, move them out, and move new things in, such as bean sprouts and green onion. I like a little soy again on the bean sprouts. Pepper on the green onion.

Move everything out when done and it's beef time. Again, vegetable oil and sesame oil in the center of the skillet this time. Get it pretty hot so things cook fast. Toss the beef in and pseudo-stirfry. Salt, pepper, and sesame seeds again for me. Cook just enough so that they are a little pink on the inside and remove.

Turn the skillet down to low, but leave it on, and finish preparing the table. Scoop some rice into bowls for each person. I usually leave all the vegetables in their bowls and let people grab whatever they wish. N doesn't really like onion on hers for instance, while I do. However, you may also prepare the bowls for everyone which looks much better. Again, take a bit of each cooked vegie and put a little bit of it on top of the rice in one side. Then move around until you have a nice circle of yummy things. Place some of the beef in the center.

Now, run back over and turn the skillet up again. Cook up a fried egg, preferably runny but know your guests here, and then as they are done, place it right on the middle of the bowl on top of everything.

You are done.

Step Five: Completion.

To reveal the truth, I like bi bim bap because it gives me an excuse to use kochu jang paste, which is a chili bean paste. It's worth finding. If you don't like spicy just put a little. If you do like spicy, put a lot.

Step Six: Stir and Eat

Now that you've done all this work with little piles and circles to impress everyone visually, the most common thing for the guest to do now is stir it all together and eat. You are not required to stir it all into one mess, but you are required to eat it.

And that's my version of bibimbap.

Here are a couple other entries about bi bim bap I found through Google:
A short recipe for the dish
Bi Bim Bap and C.S. Lewis in one post! If he was a girl, I'd be smitten.


moonrat said...

i like dolsot bibimbap, which comes in a hot cast iron pot, so the rice continues to burn on the bottom as you eat. then at the end you have nice burnt rice. yummmm.

there's this ROCKING place on 32nd street and 5th avenue. it's called Kunjip. you have to go there when you go to new york. they give you a HUGE assortment of appetizers at the beginning.

Robin S. said...

Sounds so good! The hot opaste, too.I ove hot food - I put jalapenos on cheese sandwiches.

When are you having us over to dinner?

Ello said...

You know it is so funny, but when I go home to see the folks and we go out for korean food, I just go to 32nd street and walk into the places my friends tell me are good at the time and I just eat. I never remember the names.

Paca - you are hard core! I admit to being a lazy cook and so I go down to the korean market and purchase all the vegetables premade as well as some bulgogi premarinated. Then I go home heat up a big pot, chop up some kimchee, heat my veges in a little sesame oil, throw in my rice and lots of kochuchang sauce and voila = hot bibimbop, premixed for all the guests = and I fry an egg for anyone who wants one. It's like dolsot bibbimbpab but without the burnt rice on the bottom. If I had to make all the vegetabls first, I think I would be eating bibimbap out all the times. That picture looks like a carry out of bibimbop - see I could do that! :o)

Awesome that you did this recipe! You have to tell me if the korean restaurants in Hawaii are really good. Have you ever had chajangmyun? the black noodle dish that is a mix of korean and chinese?

SzélsőFa said...

I'm so glad you're covering recipes as well!
(I often post entries about meals I do...)
I think this is something I make, well, what I do is not exactly Korean, but something similar. I have rice, and sauteéd veggies, sauce.
I cook them separately, like you advise here and eat them all together...
and adding a fried egg on top - why not?

Church Lady said...

I've only eaten Korean food twice (at a fancy restaurant) and loved it both times.
Thanks for the recipes!