Today was a relatively easy day for me. I didn’t have to go into work. I got up late. I was about as lazy as a guy could ask for. After I’d determined I wasn’t working and I’d have a nights worth of uninterrupted cooking time I hit the store. Stores actually. Errands aside I got to making some Bibimbap. I discovered this dish one night out at Kimchi Bistro. It’s a “hot-pot” meal, meaning it’s served in a stone bowl that’s heated to some 400 degrees. I think the restaurant’s menu puts it best:
This was the only item so worded in the entirety of the menu. Clearly you can see why I needed to order it. So taken in fact, I decided to give it a go at home.
I’ve never made anything Korean before. No idea what I’m doing. I couldn’t even tell you if the dish I had out was technically good Korean food. I can only tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I researched a bit and quickly found that this dish centers on its versatility. There’s certain items which are staples, but you can take off wildly in different directions. This one ends up a fairly traditional recipe but is by no means a definitive one. It’ll feed two people with a decent bit leftover. This keeps very well and is still good reheated.
Unfortunately it isn’t a quick recipe either. If I’m being honest, I could have saved twenty minutes cutting up cucumber and carrots had I not thought to use my new food processor 3/4 of the way through slicing. Oh well. Less to clean. There are quite a few steps but aside from some waiting around, things move pretty quickly.
Your protein is the first choice you need to make. I can see this being very good with chicken or Tofu, if you wanted to be all vegetarian about it. I used beef. I don’t eat a ton of beef so why not. From what I gather, thinly sliced beef is the way to go here. It wasn’t happening for me, I went to two stores and wasn’t willing to make a longish drive though traffic to the right store. Instead I got a good cut of beef and made some smaller cubes. Job done. For two of us I used just under a pound of meat. More than enough.
The beef needs to marinate for about two hours in the fridge. Anything less and you’re probably wasting your time. So make sure you budget that time in. Even better, make it the night before and let it soak for a day. Show that meat who’s boss.
Cube the steak – I went something around 1/4 to 1/2 inch sized cubes; something that cooks quickly and is bite sized. Mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/8 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup chopped green onion in a bowl or freezer bag with the meat. Season with pepper. The soy sauce has enough salt in it that you shouldn’t need to add anymore to the mix. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 2, and up to 24 hours.
We’ll assume that you’ve returned with your meat nicely marinated at this point. If not just play along. You should get the rice cooking at this point. Whether it’s by rice cooker or in a pot on the stove, follow whatever directions you may have. I use a medium grain “sticky rice” and follow the directions on my rice cooker with a few small adjustments. Just for point of reference, my routine is 2 cups dry rice, 3 and 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup low sodium soy, and 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir, cover, and walk away. It’s quite good and reliably repeatable which is nice. However you arrive there, you want two cups of uncooked rice.
Start chopping your veggies. As I said. had I decided to use the slicer on my new food processor I could have saved myself a lot of time here. Making matchstick cuts of cucumber and carrots is thankless work. I filled two small bowls, probably a cup and half to two cups each of cucumber and carrot. Zucchini works just as nicely.
I bought some not particularly inexpensive Shiitake mushrooms at the store because that’s what everyone uses. I wasn’t taken enough with the taste that I wouldn’t recommend some pre-sliced baby Portobella mushrooms instead. Cheaper and less work. Whatever fungi you choose, slice them and start them cooking in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Stir until they’ve reduced quite a bit. Five to ten minutes depending on the size and cut of the mushrooms. Set aside.
It’d probably be a good idea to set your oven to 400 degrees F at this point. You’ll need to make a decision about what you’re going to use for the hot stone bowls. More on that later but whatever you decide to use – now’s the time to put it in. You want it nice and hot by the time you want to eat.
I used one pan for the whole operation but you’re welcome to use as many as you like. Boil enough water to cook the spinach. It shrinks considerably when cooking. I bought a package of baby spinach and used half of it. That was a fine amount for us. Neither of us loves it. Blanch it in the boiling water for one to two minutes. Just long enough for the leaves to begin to wilt. Remove and shock with cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
Dry pan and return to heat, this time medium-high. Add another tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add carrots and cucumber. Allow to cook for about two minutes or so. Stir to prevent any browning or sticking. When they’re just started to soften remove from pan and set aside.
Add steak and marinade to the pan and cook. Allow marinade to reduce a bit. I had to remove the meat a minute before the marinade to make that all work out properly. Four or five minutes all told. Set aside.
I didn’t clean the pan before the next step. I just added a good tablespoon of butter. As soon as it was hot I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle away. By now all the other items are cooked. The rice is warming in the cooker. And the hot bowl is rocket hot in the oven.
I had thought of using my Pyrex mixing bowls and letting them got scorching hot in the oven. The idea is that the bowl continues to cook the food a little bit because it’s so hot. I wasn’t keen on testing the thermal limits of Pyrex mixing bowls so I opted to make a “family size” dish that we both ate out of in a small 8×8 baking dish. I didn’t have to flinch at cranking the oven way up.
As soon as the baking dish came out of the oven I poured a little sesame oil on the inside and spread it around with a paper towel. Layer the bottom with a packed layer of rice. Get everything right and the rice will sizzle on the bottom of the bowl. If you don’t oil the surface, it won’t give up any sizzle.
Arrange the other items over the top of the rice. If I were making this for myself I’d most certainly add some mung beans to the party. I love me some mung beans but my other half finds them unsatisfactory. Being a shared dish I couldn’t force the issue. I usually put the meat in the middle and ladle the sauce all over the rice. Top with the two over easy eggs you just cooked (one per bowl or two or more in a shared dish.) If you’re into Nori (seaweed) you can crumble a few sheets over the top.
Typically this is served with a variety of sides and kimchi based toppings. Barring a desire or real need to go there you can get yourself some chili bean paste (Kochujang.) It’s hot stuff, feel free to substitute with some sort of hot sauce or Sriracha.
So how did it compare with my first experience with the dish? Quite favorably. We’d both thought it was too sweet so we adjusted the sugar quite a bit – this recipe reflects those revisions and it’s still sweet, just no longer almost sickeningly so. Despite the work involved I’d definitely make it again, which is certainly saying something.
For two people and some leftovers you’ll need the following:
- 2 Cups Uncooked Medium Grain Rice – Rinsed
- 3 1/4 Cups Water
- 1/4 Cups Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
- 1/8 Cup White Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Green Onion
- 2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Seeds
- 3/4 Pound Rib-eye Steak or Likewise, Sliced Thin or Cubed
- Salt and Pepper To Taste
- Shiitake Mushrooms – (I used about 10 caps – that was plenty for us.)
- 1/2 Package Baby Spinach, Washed and Chopped
- 1 and 1/2 Cup Medium Cucumber – Julienned
- 1 and 1/2 Cups Carrots – Julienned
- Sesame Oil
- 1 Cup Fresh Bean Sprouts
- Two Eggs
- 2 Sheets Nori, Crumbled
- 1/4 Cup Chili Bean Paste (Kochujang) – Optional