Today we are traveling to the Korean peninsula to taste some Korean cuisine. Korea is an East Asian territory that was divided into two sovereign states; North Korea and South Korea. This is one cuisine I decided I was going to do the moment the theme for this marathon was finalized and even before I confirmed my participation in this marathon. The fact I over looked was which Korea I was going to do; North or the South and for which alphabet, ‘N’ or ‘S’. The cuisine of both the countries are referred to as Korean cuisine that I completely over looked the country and listed Korea for K in my spreadsheet that I created to keep track of my marathon progress. Also, even the Korean bloggers refer to their cuisine as Korean and do not differentiate between South Korean and North Korean cuisine. I eventually decided I would stick to Korea for alphabet K, as I had initially planned.
Korean food is rice based with lots of vegetables and meats. Korean meal has many side dishes known as banchan. These side dishes are either steamed, blanched or fermented vegetables. Kimchi is one of the most known side dishes of this cuisine which is fermented cabbage. Kimchi is also prepared with Korean radish and cucumbers though cabbage is more popular. Kimchi is national dish of Korea. Another signature dish of Korea is bibimbap, which is mixed rice served with assorted vegetables and meat. There are many variations in bibimbap depending on how it is served. Dolsot bibimbap is one variation where it is served in stone bowl. Sesame oil is applied to the bottom of the bowl, heated and then rice is served in it. The bowl is usually so hot that the bottom layer of the rice becomes brown and crisp. The bowl is so hot that the food sizzles for some time. Sesame oil, sesame seeds, soya sauce, gochujang are some common ingredients in the cuisine.
Korean cuisine is one of our favorite cuisines and I wanted to cook something for this marathon. There is a Korean barbecue restaurant Don’s Bogam near Korea Town that we visit regularly. Our order there is always fixed; japchae (sautéed glass noodles), shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings) and fried mandu (pork dumplings) for appetizers, spicy short ribs and couple of pork dishes for main course that are grilled in front of us and dolsot bibimbap. We do not order all these but depending on how many of us go and how hungry we are, we order some of these. I normally do not prefer beef but at this place, I go there only for beef spicy short ribs. Below is the collage of some of the pictures I took when we dined there and few more on my photo blog.
When it came to cooking for this country, I was going back and forth with spicy short ribs and bibimbap. I do not cook beef at home and decided to do minced pork bibimbap. I made bibimbap few years ago and do not even remember which recipe I followed. I used chili paste and the taste was average and was not close to bibimbap we eat at Don’s Bogam. The key to a good bibimbap is gochujang, a Korean chili paste. This time I wanted to keep the recipe as original as possible and bought gochujang and I am glad I did. Bibimbap turned out pretty good and I made it again upon U’s request. He did not comment much on the taste but he said despite eating 2 servings, he felt light. He wants me to make it once in a while. For this dish, I made seasoned spinach and bean sprouts to add to the rice but these also be served as side dishes. Links to these two side dishes are in the ingredients list. I also made spicy cucumber salad and served it as a side dish. If one wishes to add it to bibimbap, make it less spicy.
Source: My Korean Kitchen
Total Time: 25 minutes (excludes time required to prepare seasoned spinach and sprouts)
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 3 – 4
- ½ lb. Ground Pork (can use beef)
- 2 tbsp. Soya Sauce (I used dark soya sauce)
- 2 tbsp. Sesame Oil
- 2 tsp. Sugar (I left it out)
- 1 – 1 ½ tsp. minced Garlic
- 5 oz. 140 grams (approx.) mildly seasoned Spinach
- 7 oz. or 200grams seasoned bean Sprouts
- 3.5 oz. Shitake Mushrooms
- 1 small Carrot
- 1 tsp. Salt (½ tsp. each for shitake and carrots)
- 1 cup uncooked Rice
- 3 – 4 Eggs (I used 2 as I did not want any)
- Korean Seasoned Seaweed (opt. I forgot to added it)
- 2 tbsp. Gochujang
- 1 tbsp. Sesame Oil
- 1 tbsp. Sugar (I skipped it)
- 1 tbsp. Water
- 1 tbsp. Roasted Sesame Seeds
- 1 tsp. Vinegar (I used Apple Cider Vinegar)
- 1 – 2 tsp. minced Garlic (adjust to taste. We like garlic so added 2 tsp.)
- Wash and cook rice.
- Marinate the pork with the ingredients listed under meat. If time permits, marinate the pork for ½ hour to enhance the flavor. I let the pork marinate and went ahead with rest of the preparation.
- Follow these recipes to prepare seasoned spinach and sprouts.
- Clean, wash and slice the shitake mushrooms. Add ½ teaspoon – 1 tsp. oil and cook the mushrooms on medium high to high flame until mushrooms are cooked. This takes about 3 – 4 minutes.
- Peel, wash and cut the carrots into long strips. Add ½ tsp. of oil, ½ tsp. of salt and cook carrots on medium high to high flame until carrots are cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
- Lastly, cook the pork. Add some oil into a pan and cook the pork on medium high to high flame. It takes about 5 minutes for the pork to cook and turn light brown.
- Make fried eggs and keep aside. Usually sunny side up is used but made regular fried eggs.
- Prepare bibimbap sauce by mixing together all the ingredients listed under bibimbap sauce.
- Take cooked rice in a serving bowl, add pork, vegetables, fried eggs, bibimbap sauce and serve. Mix everything up and dig in. Or mix up everything together and serve in bowls topped with fried eggs. Or you can do what I did. I heated a cast iron pan, turned off the heat and spread cooked rice on it. Add pork, vegetables, bibimbap sauce and mixed it all together. I served it in individual bowls with fried eggs on the side.
- Pork can be substituted with chicken or beef. Use half the neat if one prefers less meat and more vegetables. If using half the minced pork, don't forgot to scale down the other ingredients listed under meat.
- For vegetarian version, pork can be substituted with tofu or just use more vegetables.
- I left I could have used more seasoned spinach in bibimbap. Since my spinach packet was 5oz., I used it as it is. If one does not mind more spinach, I would recommend 1 ½ to 2 times the listed quantity.
- I made a fried egg but traditionally sunny side up is used. Egg can be skipped if one doesn't like it. I had mine with out eggs and made just 2 eggs for Mr.U.
- Depending on how spicy you want the bibimbap, adjust bibimbap sauce. If you have noticed, gochujang is the only spice that does into this dish. The first time I made bibimbap, I served it in 3 different bowls; one for Mr.U who was very hungry and did not want to wait until I finished my photo shoot, one in the cast iron pan for the photo shoot and the third one for myself. I added some bibimbap sauce to all three bowls and still had some left over sauce. Bibimbap was good but the second time I made it, mixed up everything on bowl and added all the sauce. We liked it better the second time when I used up all the sauce.