A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Bibimbap (literally means "mixed rice" or "mixed meal" ) is one of most popular dish in Korea - a simple yet highly nutritious meal incorporating a variety of different vegetables along with beef and egg. In many parts of Korea, they also serve a vegetarian version, as well as another variation called dolsot bibimbap ("dolsot" meaning "stone pot" ) - served in an iron or stone pot or bowl with a raw egg on top of it. The bottom of the pot is then coated with sesame oil making the layer of the rice touching the bowl golden brown and crispy.
My Korean friend Sol-Yi, who introduced me to Gochujang Bulgoki, also prepared Bibimbap for my Japanese friend Yumi and I for lunch in her tiny student apartment. It was simple yet filling, nutritious and delicious. Both of us loved this dish immediately. Since then, I have made it a few times at home and as I change the ingredients, each time the taste of my Bibimbap is unique and different.
Hehehe... when you mix it up, it really doesn't look that appetizing but it is truly delicious. Normally I always put some bean sprouts in my Bibimbap but this time, I decided to try out with the bell pepper. It gives a different taste but still delicious. I have yet to try it with mushrooms and other chinese vegetables.
What I like about this dish is its versatility - you can use any type of vegetables. You can turn this dish into totally vegetarian or you can include some meat. Some of the vegetables commonly used in bibimbap include julienned cucumber, zucchini, carrot, mu (white radish), mushrooms, doraji(bellflower root), and nori, as well as spinach, bean sprouts, and gosari (bracken fern stems). Dubu (tofu), either plain or sauteed, or a leaf of lettuce may also be added, and beef can be substituted with chicken or seafood.
This very simple yet very delicious and flavourful plat was introduced to me by my Korean friend, Jung Sol-yi whom I met in 2002 at SUEFLE, Nantes University. I remember back then, how we often had to use gestures and pictures to express ourselves when our limited French and dictionary failed us. Or how all of us (Yumi, Zhang Ying and I) squeezed into Sol-yi's tiny one-bedroom student apartment for lunch. How she cooked for us our 1st Korean meal just outside her bedroom door at the corridor using a portable stove she borrowed from her next door neighbour. How each of us took turns to introduce our country food - Yumi cooked Japanese while Ying cooked Szechuan food and I cooked Chicken curry and stir-fried noodles. It was the most beautiful 2 semesters we had together and when our long lasting friendship was formed. Whenever I made this dish, it always brings back those sweet memories of my friends whom I miss so much.
Sol-yi's Special Sauce (Optional)
Mix both together till well blended.
How to eat it Korean style?
mmm... it tasted still as good like the time I made it together with Sol-yi. Pierre likes it too. His only critic is that I made it a bit too spicy for him. Hehehe... I was happily adding spoonful after spoonful of Gochujang to the pork mixture before I remembered that Pierre can't take as spicy as me. Oops! Too late. Well, the poor guy still happily finished his spicy Bulgoki and even had a second helping.
This dish can be eaten with plain ordinary steam rice or with round/Japanese rice. Pierre prefers his with plain Basmati rice while I prefer to eat mine the Korean way.
Gochujan (Korean chilli paste) is quite spicy so remember to go easy with it when adding it to your marinated mixture. It is better to put less in the marinate if you aren't sure how spicy it would be when cooked. You can always add more in during cooking stage if it is not spicy enough for you.
And also it might be better to test taste it (dab your finger on the marinated mixture) to check if it is salty enough before adding a 3rd spoonful of soya sauce, as it will make it taste saltier.
Regarding Korean soya sauce, for those who don't have it, you can replace it with Chinese light soya sauce. In this case, you have to add less because Chinese soya sauce tends to be saltier. I have made this dish before using Chinese light soya sauce and it still tastes as good.