Tuesday, December 8, 2009

East Meets Midwest- Bi Bim Bob (Bi Bim Bap)

I love our new digs in Denver, Colorado. Sure, it’s barely December and we’ve had two major snow storms—but every time I drive around town running errands, I’m guaranteed amazing views of the Rockies. But this blog isn’t about the weather or the view.

Let’s face it—I was spoiled in Ann Arbor. I wrote for a food magazine that regularly allowed me to eat well above my station, rubbing elbows with talented chefs and local farmers and culinary artisans. What’s more, my constant cravings for Korean food could be satisfied by driving in any direction.

Not so here in the Mile High City. Here, I am just another underemployed stiff with an eating habit I cannot afford. And Korean restaurants are nowhere near my neighborhood. Though I am carving out a new place in my heart for Vietnamese food, particularly phở, I still need my fix of spicy Korean stews bubbling away in iron pots, cute little bowls of Korean side dishes, and of course, Bi Bim Bap. What’s a girl to do?

She decides to start making her own Korean food at home, that’s what. I am starting with Bi Bim Bap, a dish that basically means “mixed rice.” It’s such a comforting dish, and can be modified to accommodate any picky eater who cringes over the intense heat of many Korean dishes. The real deal is dolsot bibimbap, which is served in a stone pot. The pot is superheated and coated with a bit of oil at the bottom, crisping up the bottom layer of rice…oooh, I shiver with delight. I could survive without the stone pot, but needed to search out some of the more authentic ingredients. On top of that, I combed the web for a recipe closest to what I enjoyed regularly at BeWon, a little Korean restaurant in my old ‘hood. I found my recipe (and a new culinary goddess to worship) on the blog Maangchi. With clear, pleasant instructional videos, this Korean living in New York shares her ability and traditional recipes with all of us wannabes.

I followed her recipe to the letter, with the exception of adding a little Country Bob’s All Purpose sauce to the seasoned meat. The sauce, which I came to love while serving time in Southern Illinois, lent a subtle flavor of Korean Barbecue to the dish, which scored very well with my hubby.

Aside from actually eating the dish, most of the fun came in finding all the ingredients at H-Mart, which is basically the Super Wal-Mart of Asian stores. I’ll say no more because the magic of H-Mart may very well be its own post one of these days. The trickiest ingredient to find was kosari, or dried fern bracken. Sound kind of nasty? Well, it was. While it was fun to experiment with the kosari as directed by Maangchi, the process of reconstituting the bracken in boiling water and soaking it overnight COMPLETELY STUNK UP MY KITCHEN. And not in a good way, either. For roughly twelve hours, my house smelled like a moldy gym sock.

(Kosari dried (left), and after boiling and overnight soaking (right))

But when all the ingredients came together, my kitchen smelled amazing, and the dish was a complete success. It tasted just as complex and well flavored as the B3 that I enjoy out, and even though it was a tad labor intensive I will definitely make it again.

1 comment:

Bruce Harrington said...

I cracked up when I read your blog. I'm a long-time fan of Maangchi (Emily Kim). I was searching for more info on kosari (moldy gym sock), but what cracked me up was the photo with Country Bob's sauce. I was sent several bottles to sample and review on my now inactive blog (http://Iwuzthinking.blogspot.com). I never thought of Country Bob's as even vaguely Korean.

Good luck on your efforts to find or create more Korean food. I suggest helping out Maangchi and buying her book, Cooking Korean Food with Maangchi Volumes I and II (DVD's come with).