I am a huge fan of Korean dramas. I think at the moment, South Korea produces the best dramas in Asia, and somehow, despite the fact that some of the core themes and elements get recycled from drama to drama, the actors can covey them differently and the writers find a way to put a spin on a much-used trope. It makes you want to keep watching.
Case in point, the currently airing medical-slash-disaster drama called ‘D-Day’. It comes in the heels of another medical suspense drama from another network, so it’s kind of easy to compare the two and say that at the core they’re both about a bunch of doctors performing surgeries in the most unusual and dire situations.‘Yongpal’ was a huge success and I want to say that it was because the very talented Joo Won (who also happens to be my crush!) starred in it, but not even he could sustain my interest in the show as it reached its almost-halfway point and the love-line started to form. I’m in the camp that simply was not sold on it!
On the other hand, I am shipping the Hye Sung-Ddol Mi couple on ‘D-Day’ so hard it’s not even funny. Their relationship feels more natural to me, and I am seriously going to spazz out if these two don’t get a happy-ever-after ending. It’s the nicest of distractions from all the other sad and bloody images on this show about a major fictional calamity that literally has torn Seoul apart.
I’m actually fairly picky with dramas, but among the currently airing ones I’m rather enjoying ‘She Was Pretty’ as well. I hear it’s quite popular in South Korea at the moment. And can I just say Park Seo Joon is really making a name for himself because not only does he look good, the boy can act! (I am also loving Choi Si Won’s take on his character.) The surprise for me is getting hooked on ‘I Have A Lover’ since I don’t tend to watch heavy melodramas, but dang the emotions on that show is something else!
These dramas, which are like crack to me at times, were the source of my initial interest in South Korea as a whole. I have never been to South Korea but thanks to watching dramas for hours on end I have a grasp on speaking their language already. I have ideas about their culture as well, and most importantly, I developed a real love for their food that goes beyond Korean BBQ. (That seems to be the most popular among non-Koreans when you talk about Korean food.) I’m on a mission to try out all Korean recipes that I can, but let’s start with something basic: BIBIMBAP!
Bibimbap 비빔밥 is a Korean mixed rice dish that is made up of seasoned vegetables, a bit of meat, and this wonderful sauce (plus an egg) that you mix all together until they turn into this lovely reddish hue that to me is just so mouth-watering! The bibimbap that is served in a stone pot is the best kind for me because I like it when my rice gets a little toasty and a little crisp– and of course piping hot!– but even the simplest of bibimbap like this one I’m writing about is good enough in a pinch.
Dude, I want to dive into my computer right now and take a bite!
Since what you do when you make a bibimbap recipe is technically just “constructing” a layered rice dish, there isn’t really any set limitation as to the toppings. But the crowning glory of any bibimbap recipe for me is definitely the gochujang sauce that goes with it. I no longer know how to live without gochujang. Seriously.
The sauce for bibimbap isn’t made entirely of just gochujang though. You season the Korean red pepper paste with some sesame and sugar, plus vinegar and garlic. Mix it all together and you get something so tasty and so perfect with rice and all the bibimbap toppings. It’s spicy and sweet and earthy and tangy all at once! You don’t have to buy the brand of gochujang pictured below by the way. This was what I found in the nearest supermarket so I bought a little brick for myself. I didn’t want to use the tub in our pantry. Yeah, we take our gouchujang stock levels that seriously in this household haha! 😛
I also liked the addition of this seasoned seaweed into my bibimbap. My mother got this from Cartimar and when I saw it I knew it would be perfect as a bibimbap topping. To be honest, a lot of snacking happened with this as I was arranging my bibimbap toppings. The sweet umami taste on these seaweeds makes you want to keep eating and eating… Until you remind yourself you have to serve a bit of this too as a side dish with the bibimbap!
These are the typical toppings for bibimbap, and as you can see they form quite the lovely colour wheel too! I should check out other ways to prepare other types of bibimbap so I can learn about more toppings!
The thing I like about bibimbap is that it’s one complete meal in a bowl. You’ve got carbs, protein, and then a bunch of vegetables too! And it’s not hard to prepare at all! The toppings look so pretty when they’re newly arranged, but once you get the sauce in there you end up mixing everything all together into this red-orange pile of rice with vegetables peaking out here and there.
Mmmmmmmm. Writing this at a late hour was definitely not a smart idea.
Makes 3 to 4 servings
For the bibimbap
- 100 grams minced beef
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 100 grams thinly sliced shiitake mushroom
- 120 grams julienned carrots
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided use
- 3 to 4 cups steamed rice
- 3 to 4 eggs
- Cooking oil
- 250 grams seasoned spinach/sigeumchi namul, plus more for serving
- 350 grams seasoned bean sprouts/kongnamul muchim, plus more for serving
- Seasoned seaweed, optional
For the bibimbap sauce
- 2 Tablespoons gochujang
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1. In a bowl, marinade the minced beef in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and minced garlic. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- 2. Heat oil in a wok and cook the beef at medium high heat about 3 to 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through. Set aside on a plate.
- 3. Add a little oil and cook the shiitake mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt until fully cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside beside the cooked beef.
- 4. Next, add a little oil again and sauté the carrots with the last 1/4 teaspoon of salt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
- 5. Mix all ingredients for bibimbap sauce in a bowl. (If you like a lot of sauce on your rice you can double the recipe.)
- 6. Assemble the bibimbap, starting with rice spread evenly at the bottom. Cover the top with the cooked meat, mushroom, carrots, seasoned spinach and bean sprouts, and the seaweed, if using.
- 7. Fry eggs sunny side up and set on top of assembled bibimbap.
- 8. To eat, pour some bibimbap sauce on top and mix everything together.
To be completely honest, I’ve got a ton of cravings involving Korean food right now, and I’ll think about that as a good thing because it’s also making me want to cook some more dishes right here at home. We’ll see how it goes!