Friday, May 9, 2008

Bi Bim Bap - my version

It's like a warm rice salad served in an extra large bowl to accommodate tossing the ingredients which includes, but not limited to: steamed rice, fried egg, bul go gi (broiled slices of beef with garlic soy marinade), gochu jang, and assorted marinated vegetables, such as cooked sesame spinach, soy bean sprouts and sauteed fern braken. The rice, beef and egg are served hot and the other ingredients are usually cold or room temp. This was the easy meal at my house growing up, all we needed was cooked rice, eggs and leftovers. We used to get excited when we had some namul (seasoned vegetables) leftover from a dinner party because that meant bi bim bap the next day.

To this day, my parent's are dumbfounded when I order bi bim bap at a restaurant but little do they know that this is the dish that has introduced so many people to Korean food. I've met so many non-Koreans whose first taste of Korean food is bi bim bap at a family run cafe in a college town. Back then, for $5 a bowl it was a bargain, filling, tasty and good for you with a nice balance of grains, protein and vegetables, almost always served with a complimentary side of kim chee and a small cup of broth. This is truly my comfort food.

Gochu jang is a staple pantry item in Korean kitchens, used in making dips, marinades, soup bases and sauces. A fermented red chili paste with the consistancy of tomato paste. I haven't seen this product sold outside of Korean markets so it may be hard to obtain outside of large metropolitan areas.

Since I don't have a lot of leftovers of namul for a quick bi bim bap, my family has improvised new versions. It's always morphing, the constant base is steamed white rice, gochu jang and fried egg. We've tried it using all raw vegetables like grated carrots, mung bean sprouts, chopped spinach to slightly different yet tasty results.

This is my latest version of bi bim bap inspired by the vegetables I bought at my last outing to the farmer’s market: baby carrots, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions and farm fresh eggs. But as with any recipe, don’t let this one limit you, look in your frig and see what’s inside: broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, asparagus, peas…

(Not so traditional) Bi Bim Bap Recipe:
3 cups of short grain rice or brown rice
4 cups of julienned shiitakes mushrooms
3 cups of julienned carrots
2 cups of green onions cut 1" long
1-2 T minced ginger
1-2 T minced garlic
2 T soy sauce
2 cups bean sprouts
2 T sesame oil
2 T crushed sesame seeds
4 cups of chopped fresh spinach
4 each eggs
4 T Go Chu Jang
1 T Lite Soy Sauce
1 T rice vinegar
Cook the rice: rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is not so cloudy with starch. If using an electric rice cooker, there are measuring points of the appropriate water lever. If cooking on the stove top, add water to be about 1/2" to 3/4" above the rice. Over a medium high heat, bring to a gentle boil, lower heat to a very gentle simmer and cover tightly. It's the steam that'll cook the rice so don't open the lid until the rice is done. Let it gently simmer for 15 minutes and turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes longer. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon to fluff.

In a hot saute pan, drizzle canola oil and saute mushrooms, stirring once in awhile for about 3 minutes over med hi heat. Season with salt.

Add the carrots and green onions and sautee for about 2 more minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add soy sauce, sesame oil and bean sprouts, toss for 1 minute. Turn off heat.
Taste and adjust seasoning, add more salt if needed.
Pan fry the eggs in a non stick pan with butter or canola oil, I prefer it sunny side up but over easy is fine as well.
Mix together the go chu jang with the lite soy sauce and vinegar.
Arrange each large bowl with fresh spinach as a bed, scoop of rice, the sauteed vegetables, fried eggs and a dollop of go chu jang.

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