Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bibimbap, fit for a king or a farmer?

What can I say more about Bibimbap? It is one of the most well known Korean dish, and I never met anyone yet who doesn't like it. I know I should zip up my lips and go straight to the tutorials, but I gotta put my personal opinion on this dish.
I don't like chunks of meat added in my Bibimbap. I am not a vegetarian nor a rabbit but I like my Bibimbap to be herbivore worthy, except a tiny bit of ground beef melted in the sauce which recipe I posted just a few days ago.

Nobody is exactly sure how or where this dish was originated. Some says it was served to the kings as simple lunch in the palace (not so simple work for the royal cooks), the others believe it was for farmers who had to eat their lunch at rice field, mixing everything in a bowl for a quick meal, in order to return to the field.
There are other theories as well, but whichever story is right, whether Bibimbap was for the kings or farmers, it has continued its heritage all the way.

Every region in Korea have developed their versions by using variety of vegetable dishes called "namool (나물)".  Each seasoned separately to bring their unique flavors.

I used 6 vegetables this time. From the red color to clockwise, radish, shitake mushroom, zucchini, mungbean sprouts, fern, cucumber. You can always choose other types of vegetables such as spinach, carrot, lettuce, soy bean sprouts, eggplants, squash, etc. Color is important in the dish. Eat with eyes before eat with mouth. Think of contrast in vegetable colors.
If you want to impress your family and friends, serve Bibimbap for lunch. I occasionally serve this dish to my guests and they all loved it. The good news is that you can prepare these vegetables a day advance so all you need to do on the day of luncheon is to cook rice and fry some eggs if you like.
The dish can feed lots of people depends on how much vegetable you use. No need to worry about other dishes to go with.  This is one dish meal. It takes some time to prepare but impressive yet healthy and delicious.
For the sauce, I recommend to use my chili bibim sauce. And a fried egg on top is an optional which I didn't use this time. (Real authentic bibimbap use raw egg yolk only and I get nervous sometimes when I am not sure of the freshness of eggs I have)

The hardest part of my job is trying to list everyone in the photo. I won't name this time. If you have been following me, you know my cooking crew by now.  Contact me if you have questions on the ingredients. The long brown thingy next to the radish is fern.

고사리(gosari) is dried wild fern. Very typical vegetable in traditional Bibimbap dish. If you can't find it, then forget about it.

Soak mushrooms and ferns in the water. Mushrooms can get out of water in 2-3 hours but the fern has to stay in overnight. They are very, very dehydrated.

Now, it is time to make loads of Namool!

Peel the radish. Slice thinly and cut into 1/8" sticks.

Add 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp sugar. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

You will see some moisture has been extracted. Rinse and drain the radish.

 Add 1 Tbsp anchovy sauce, garlic, chili flakes, sesame seeds, chopped green onions(optional).

 Toss well with hand. Set aside. #1 done!

Cook mung bean sprout in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain. Toss with salt, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, Korean soy sauce and shrimp powder (optional). Set aside. #2 done!

Slice the cucumber very thinly.

Sprinkle some salt and let it sit to wilt for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Saute in a little bit of oil, add pinch salt and sesame seeds. Make sure you keep their vibrant green color.  #3 done!

Cut zucchinis into 2" logs and peel the green part of the skin carefully from the side. Discard the white part. 

 Slice them into about 1/4" sticks. If you are not comfortable peeling off the skin, just slice the whole zucchini into whatever size you like.

 Saute them in oil, add salt, garlic, sesame oil, and sesame seeds until they get softened yet still green. #4 done!

Remove the stem of mushrooms and slice them into strips.

Saute them in oil with 1 tsp Korean soy sauce, garlic, sesame seeds and some chopped green onion. #5 done!

Once the ferns are re-hydrated, you need to cook them in simmering water for 40 minutes to soften.
Drain and cut off about 2" off from the stem ends part. They are too woody!

Place them in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp Korean soy sauce, garlic, and shrimp powder (optional), and sesame oil. Toss them well with hand.

Saute them as well until slightly tender. Add some green onion and sesame seeds. #6 done!

Whew!!!! That's all for the vegetables. You can make these ahead of time and store in the fridge. Just bring to the room temperature before you serve.
Don't forget to make the "Chili bibim sauce" to go with!

To assemble: Place hot rice in a individual serving bowl, then arrange Namools in contrasting color manner. Dot with sauce, and put fried egg on top if you like.

Tip #1: If you would like to eat as Dolsot Bibimbap (the sizzling hot stone pot), use any individual stove proof cast iron, stone, or clay pot. Just grease the pot with some oil, assemble the dish, and place on the high heat. You will hear the sound of rice sizzling in it. Remove from heat and serve asap.

Tip #2: I know some people have trouble mixing the dish. Use chopsticks to toss all the vegetables and sauce with rice together first. Then use a spoon to finish up.

 I ate it all, every single one...  and I ate it again for dinner with my family. I ate it next day as well for lunch. And I still crave my bibimbap.

Who says America is a big melting pot?
I say she is like a big bowl of Bibimbap.
The rice is like the constitution.
It becomes the foundation to support each vegetable.
The vegetables represent each of us.
With unique diverse cultural backgrounds and social values,
it is hard to harmonize into one.
That's why we need a good sauce to bind the vegetables.
It is the leadership,
inspired and motivated with correct vision for the future...

Blah, blah, blah...
 Just random words of the day.

I happened to eat my Bibimbap when I was watching TV news.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of victims of Arizona gun shootings.
My heart was aching to hear the death of a 9 yr old girl.
She happened to have the same birthday as mine.

Longing for the peaceful world to live in...
The End!


(비빔밥,  rice with mixed vegetables in spicy sauce)
serves 6-8

#1 : 1 1/2 lb Korean radish (moowoo)
2 Tbsp Korean chili flakes + 1 Tbsp anchovy sauce + 1 tsp chopped garlic + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion (optional) + 1 tsp sesame seeds

#2 : 1 lb mung bean sprouts (sookju-namool)
2 tsp Korean say sauce + 1/4 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp garlic + 1/4 tsp shrimp powder (optional) + 1/2 tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp sesame seeds

#3 : 1 English cucumber
2 tsp oil + pinch salt + 1/2 tsp sesame seeds

#4 : 2-3 zucchini or 1 if whole piece is used
2 tsp oil + 1/2 tsp shrimp powder or shrimp sauce (optional) + 1 tsp Korean say sauce + 1tsp garlic + 1/2 tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp sesame seeds

#5 : 8-10 dried shitake mushrooms, need to soak in water for 2-3 hours
1 Tbsp oil + 2tsp Korean soy sauce + 1/2 tsp sesame oil + 1/2 tsp sesame seeds + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion

#6 : 3 oz dried wild fern (gosari), need to soak in water overnight
1 Tbsp Korean soy sauce + 1tsp garlic + 1/2 tsp sesame oil + 1/2 tsp sesame seeds + 1 Tbsp oil + 1 Tbsp chopped green onion
Freshly cooked short grain rice (Korean or Japanese) : about 1 cup per serving 
6-8 eggs (optional) :  fried, sunny side up

Chili Bibim Sauce : about 1 Tbsp or more per serving

#1 : Peel radish, slice thin and cut them into 1/8" sticks. Place them in a mixing bowl, add 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp sugar. Toss and let it sit for 10 minutes. You will see some liquid extracted. Rinse the radish with water once and drain well. Place them back in the bowl and add its seasoning ingredients. Toss well and set aside.

#2 : Cook the mung bean sprouts in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and place in a mixing bowl. Add the seasoning ingredients and toss. Set aside.

#3 : Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice each half very thin half moon shape. Place them in a bowl and add 1 tsp salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse with water once, drain and squeeze out a little. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and stir quick, sprinkle salt and sesame seeds, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

#4 : Cut zucchini into 2" logs. Using a knife cut off the green part around the zucchini from the side, discard the white part. (If you are not comfortable of doing this cutting, just use 1 whole zucchini) Slice the green part of zucchini into 1/4" sticks. Heat oil, add zucchini and stir fry for 1 minutes. Add the seasonings and fry until it gets soften keeping the green color.

#5 : Soak the mushrooms in water for 2-3 hours. Remove from water and squeeze out excess water. Slice them thin and cook in the oil with its seasoning until soft,  about 3 minutes. Set aside.

#6 : Soak the fern in water overnight. Cook them in a simmering water for 40 minutes until it gets re-hydrated. Drain and rinse. Cut off the woody end part (about 2-3") and discard. Cut the fern 2" slices. Place the fern in a bowl and add Korean say sauce, garlic, sesame oil. Toss with a hand. Heat oil in a skillet, add seasoned fern and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add sesame seeds and green onion. Set aside.

To serve, place rice in individual serving bowl or pot. Arrange vegetables contrast in color manner on top of the rice. Place fried eggs on top and dot with sauce. When ready to eat, mix like crazy!

Note: You can prepare each vegetables ahead of time and keep in the fridge. Bring to the room temperature before you serve.

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