By Melissa Lee
Have you ever opened your fridge and annoyingly found out you have a little bit of everything and don’t know what to make? By the end of the week you have a bunch of leftovers, a half of an onion, two small and pathetic carrots, one zucchini, and half a bag of spinach leaves. The onion may already be cut into halves. The spinach leaves should be cooked soon, or they will go bad. Have you been there? I hear you!
If you’re my loyal follower, you may have read my blog, “Strawberry Salads and Summertime with Family.” In it, I tell the story about playing the “everything but kitchen sink” game with my friend, Angie. We came up with a “breakfast dinner” theme and used whatever she had in her fridge to make a salad, a frittata, and monkey bread. Our game was a success, and everyone’s tummies were happy with our healthy and fun comfort food!
You can have a lot of fun playing with the many ingredients in your fridge. If you have different kinds of vegetables, even a little bit, you can easily make a delicious and healthy dish with an Asian twist. What’s the dish? Bibimbap!
Bibimbap (비빔밥) or “mixed rice” is a Korean rice dish. The meal consists of a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) or kimchi (traditional fermented vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or doenjang (a fermented soybean paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating. Historically, bibimbap was eaten on the eve of the lunar new year as people wanted to get rid of all of their leftovers before the new year. The solution was to put all of the leftovers in a bowl of rice and to mix them together.
I was on the phone with my BFF, Claire, and we were discussing what we should cook for our kid’s playdate. She had some spinach, a half an onion, and broccoli that were about to plunge past their prime. They would sauté nicely. I had a jar of kimchi and some Kobe-style steaks I got from H Mart. “Bibimbap it is!” I said. Then I hopped in the car with my children and headed to South Boston.
When faced with my Bibimbap’s meat marinate, I had some inspiration. I am a big fan of the movie Chef—a 2014 American film written, co-produced, directed, and starring, Jon Favreau. Jon plays a chef who, after a public altercation with a food critic, quits his job at a popular Los Angeles restaurant to operate a food truck with his young son. Food truck owner and Korean chef, Roy Choi, served as a co-producer and oversaw the menus and food prepared for the film. Recently, the two did a series on Netflix called The Chef Show. Every dish he and Jon created made my mouth water.
For my Bibimbap’s meat marinate, I borrowed from Chef Roy’s “Sweet-and-Salty Korean Barbecued Short Ribs.” You may think, “This is the recipe for short ribs! How can you use it for Bibimbap?”
Why not? The fun part of cooking is being creative and improvising with whatever ingredients you have in the fridge. The marinade usually come in one of two categories—sweet and non-spicy made of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and minced garlic; or spicy with some gochujang. Since I happened to have oranges, onions, and scallions in my fridge, as well as the Asian condiments soy sauce and mirin, I thought it would be fun to “Roy Choiize” my Bibimbap.
Throughout the entire cooking series, I see Chef Roy use fruits such as orange and kiwi in his meat marinates. It’s great to use fruit instead of sugar. Not only does it add depth to the flavor profile, but the enzymes in certain fruits, such as the Korean pear and kiwis, can tenderize the meat. Trust me, don’t limit Chef Roy’s short rib marinate only to short ribs; it goes well with other kinds of meats too!
Last but not least, it’s very important to get the right beef for Bibimbap. I got mine from H Mart. If you have never been to H Mart, I highly recommend exploring this place. Their meat selection is great for a yakiniku or shabu-shabu (Japanese hot pot) party. I also buy raw fish there for sushi parties. If you get intimated shopping in an Asian supermarket or have questions regarding Asian produce, condiments, and spices, book the Market Secrets Tour with me! This is a two-hour foodies’ delight. We tour each aisle, exploring Asian produce, ingredients, sauces, and cookware. Anyone who enjoys cooking Asian food will be overjoyed to get the inside scoop on what to buy in H Mart. Then we go to the food court to learn about iconic comfort foods of Asia and decide on what to enjoy for lunch. During lunch, we do a Q and A.
Meat and meat sauce
1 pound Kobe-style beef slice from H Mart
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
0.6 pounds spinach
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms
2 big carrots
Spinach Seasoning Sauce
1 teaspoon green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or to taste
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons gochujang
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon sugar –
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp vinegar – I used apple vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
3 cups steamed rice
Korean seasoned seaweed salad
First you’ll want to prepare all the different components of the Bibimbap. I’ve broken it down into 7 steps.
- Preparing the marinate and meat
In a blender, make the sweet and salty marinate by pureeing the onion, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, orange juice, mirin, sesame oil, sugar, and sesame seeds until a smooth. Marinate the meat with one cup of marinate for at least thirty minutes. (Save the rest of marinate for other dishes.) I prefer to cover and refrigerate the meat overnight. Bring the beef to room temperature before cooking.
- Cooking the meat
Add some cooking oil into a wok and cook the meat on medium high to high heat. It takes about 3 to 5 mins to thoroughly cook it.
- Making the Bibimbap sauce
Mix the Bibimbap sauce ingredients in a bowl.
- Cooking the vegetables
- Peel and julienne the carrots.
- Sauté the carrots on medium high to high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Shiitake Mushroom
- Soak, wash, and julienne the mushrooms.
- Sauté the mushrooms on medium high to high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Trim the spinach roots (if any) and wash the spinach in cold water thoroughly.
- Boil water in a pot. Add salt. Once the water starts to boil, plunge the spinach into the pot and leave it for 30 seconds.
- Drain the water away and run cold water on the spinach for 1-2 minutes.
- Squeeze the spinach to remove excess water.
- Cut the spinach into 2-3 pieces with a knife. (If you are using baby spinach, you can skip this step.)
- Add the seasoning sauce and mix well with your hands.
- Make rice
- Make sunny side up eggs
- Assemble the Bibimbap
- Put the rice into a bowl and add the meat, assorted vegetables, seaweed salad, Bibimbap sauce, and the egg on top of the rice.
- Mix the ingredients well in the bowl and enjoy!
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