Sunday, May 25, 2008
I am in a state of deep depression. My favorite Korean restaurant has closed for good. It’s been a couple of months since I learned the terrible news, and I still can’t quite come to terms with it. It was a humble, tiny place hidden away in the back of a Korean market.
They served home-style food loaded with spicy chiles. We liked everything on the menu, especially the bibimbap. Bibimbap, as fun to say as it is to eat, is a dish of sticky rice topped with a variety of colorful vegetables, egg, and seasoned meat. My absolute favorite was the dolsot bibimbap, which arrived to the table in a super-hot stone bowl and would continue to sizzle for many minutes. The heat of the bowl was so intense that it would crisp the bottom layer of rice and cook the runny yolk of the sunny-side-up egg. Many layers of clothing would be stripped off during the course of a meal. They served the bibimbap with an endless variety of side dishes, including kimchee, of course, and a bowl of mild broth.
Bibimbap withdrawal is a terrible thing, but it led to the creation of the following recipe.
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
¼ cup sliced green onions
1 ¼ pounds thinly sliced boneless beef short ribs, julienned
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups sticky rice
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced on a bias, and blanched
1 carrot, julienned and blanched
8 ounces mung bean sprouts, blanched
8 ounces spinach, bok choy, choy sum, or other similar leafy greens, coarsely chopped and blanched
½ cup shredded nori
Gochujang, for serving
Heat 4 Korean stone bowls in a 425ºF oven.
Combine the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and green onions in a medium bowl. Add the beef and stir to coat. Season to taste with pepper and marinate for about half an hour.
Combine the rice, 1 quart water, and a generous pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook without disturbing for 19 to 21 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Combine the shiitakes and ½ cup hot water in a small bowl and let soak for 10 to 12 minutes, or until rehydrated and pliable. Remove the shiitakes to a cutting board, trim off and discard the stems, and thinly slice the caps.
Heat a wok over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the wok. Add half of the beef mixture and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining beef in the same manner. Stir in the sesame seeds.
Cook the eggs sunny side up with the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil in a nonstick pan.
Carefully transfer the stone bowls from the oven to trivets. Using a heatproof brush, coat each bowl with 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil. Immediately divide the rice among the bowls. Arrange the zucchini, carrot, bean sprouts, greens, shiitakes, beef mixture, and eggs decoratively atop the rice. Drizzle with the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil, top with the nori, and serve immediately. Pass a small bowl of gochujang on the side.
Serves 4. Of course bibimbap can be served in regular rice bowls—although the rice won’t have the golden crunchy crust, it will still be tasty and delicious. (Do not coat regular rice bowls with sesame oil.) Any thinly sliced beef steak can be substituted for the short ribs. Gochujang is fermented sweet chile paste. Stone bowls with matching trivets, thinly sliced boneless beef short ribs, and gochujang are all available in Korean markets.
Add as much chile paste as you like, stir it all together, and dig in.