Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sundays with Sparky: Bi Bim Bap (Korean Mixed-Up Rice, American Style)


Every culture has a dish that's all about digging into the bottom of your food stores and making do with what you have.  Korea is no exception.  I am guessing that bits of Banchan, the small vegetable dishes served with meals, must multiply in Korean fridges just like bits of produce does in mine.  Enter Bi Bim Bap (Bap means rice, and Bi and Bim are both forms of the verb mix) - in America we might call it Everything But The Kitchen Sink Rice.  Basically, leftovers are arranged on hot leftover rice (sometimes twice-cooked until it has a crispy bottom) with maybe a small portion of meat, the whole thing is topped with a lightly fried egg, seasoned with a chili-miso seasoning called gochujang, and vigorously mixed all together so the egg yolk and gochujang make a sauce.  Mmmm.

Even though gochujang is less spicy than some chili pastes, it's a nonstarter for Sparky, so I usually sub hoisin (or doenjang, if I'm shopping at H-Mart)  I also don't typically have any banchan in my fridge (I am the only person in my family who loves kimchi.  Sniff.) so our version has become a clean-out-the-crisper-drawer thing.  Most banchan is either pickled or cooked in some way, but instead we just put raw vegetables over the rice, although it's also a great way to get rid of leftover sauteed greens or the odd cooked green bean.  In fact, saute up any greens that are still good but you wouldn't eat raw - salad greens work just as well as spinach.  Don't worry about the details - the idea is to use whatever you've got.

006So, first, I started out doing the cooking parts of the dish: loosely following this recipe for sushi rice, I dumped well-rinsed and drained rice in my cast-iron skillet with water, tightly covered it, and brought it to a boil.  I then turned it down to low, left it for 10 minutes, turned off the heat and let it sit for another 10 - amazing, perfect rice!  I'm sold on this technique, so go to the terrific blog Just Hungry and check it out.  If you use a nonstick skillet you will have to fuss with the temperature - but cast iron retains heat nicely.

015Then I had Sparky scoop the cooked rice into a hot Dolsot I had seasoned with some sesame oil.  It's basically a pot made of pizza stone, and it gives the rice a lovely crispy-fried crust that is out of this world.  An extra step, yes, but totally worth it.  We covered the rice and left it on high to crisp up as we cut vegetables.

016Sparky did the heavy lifting: this dish is all about vegetable prep-work, making them small to mix easily into the rice.  He sliced snowpeas, cut cucumbers into rounds, and peppers into strips.

028He then used a vegetable peeler to make a huge pile of carrot shavings.  (We also cheated and used a precut cole slaw mix.)  The more veggies, the better.

029I browned some ground beef in a skillet, and splashed it with a bit of soy sauce and apple juice.  As that was cooking, I put some sesame oil in my nonstick skillet and fried an egg for each person.

033Sparky mixed the crispy bits into the rice and scooped it onto large plates (Bi bim bap is usually served in large bowls; ours are just too small.)  He then arranged all the vegetables and meat carefully over the rice, making a pattern where each topping had a colorful neighbor.

I slid a fried egg over the top of each serving and then decorated it with some hoisin - and we all dug in.

A delicious way to get your vegetables for the day!  Enjoy!

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