Monday, February 7, 2011

246. Bi Bim Bap, Mix it Up

I love to see what other people around the world are cooking...and exactly why they are doing it. One thing I have found is that everyone has the need to use up leftovers or small amounts of food that they have on hand.

Korean cooks do this with a very popular dish called bi bim bap or bi bim bop. Bi bim means to mix and bap, pronounced bop, is the word for rice. If the words are strung together it roughly translates to “mix it up."

Bi bim bop is essentially a rice bowl that is layered with other food. It’s a great way to make leftovers become something is definitely a ‘kitchen sink’ kind-of meal.

Assembling is the key to this dish's presentation. After placing the rice in the middle of a bowl, the prepared vegetables and meat are placed attractively on the rice. A egg tops the whole creation. In Korea, the egg may be * raw, fried hard or scrambled and cut into strips. Each person stirs their bowlful of ingredients together thoroughly just before eating. Bi bim bop can be served cold or hot. (We like ours hot).

*(I would not advise eating raw egg because of the risk of salmonella contamination)

Some common and uncommon vegetables used in bi bim bop include the following: julienned cucumber, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, and bellflower root, as well as spinach, soybean sprouts, and gosari or bracken fern stems.  For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so that adjacent colors complement each other. Pieces of seasoned and stir-fried chicken, beef or seafood are also usually included after the vegetables have been arranged.

(I have never tasted bellflower root nor gosari...afraid to).

Even though the vegetables are stir-fried individually, it does not take much time for the whole process to be completed. The recipe below features vegetables that I had on hand and wanted to use creative and add any vegetables that you like.

Bi Bim Bop

Serves 2

1 carrot, cleaned and cut into 3 inch pieces; sliced into matchsticks
1/2 pound fresh spinach, stems cut off
2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 large, partially thawed chicken breast, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
Soy or sashimi sauce

2-3 C cooked, long grain or fragrant rice

Group 2
1 C fresh bean sprouts
1/2 C green pepper slices
1/2 C sweet onion, vertical slices
2-3 fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
3 T sushi/sashimi soy sauce
1T sugar (optional)
1T toasted sesame oil (found in oriental grocery stores)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Put Group 2 prepared vegetables in separate dishes and divide marinade among them evenly. Toss and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Put oil in a frying pan on med high heat. Lay chicken on hot oil; coat with a few splashes of  sushi/sashimi soy sauce. Brown quickly, turning as necessary. Add a tsp or so of toasted sesame oil and a tsp of sesame seeds and mix well with the browned chicken. Add more s/s soy sauce if needed. Meat should be lightly coated. The browning process will turn the meat to a lovely color and the sauce will impart a wonderful grilled flavor. Remove the meat to a dish.

Group 1 vegetables - Sauté separately in a little oil until carrots and celery are tender-crisp. The spinach should be just wilted. Remove sautéed vegetables to separate dishes.

Group 2 vegetables - Combine green pepper slices and onions and sauté together until tender crisp. Remove to a separate dish. Sauté bean sprouts quickly until just hot and remove. Sauté mushrooms until tender, remove.

Fry the eggs on one side, flip over and press down slightly to hard fry. Remove.

Put a cup or more of cooked rice in each of 2 large bowls. Place spoonfuls of various vegetables creatively around the rice. Divide chicken between bowls and place on top, in the center. Place hard, fried egg on top of meat.

To eat, mix together all the bowl ingredients with gusto, chopping the egg into bite-sized piece. Enjoy.

(Koreans will add hot bean paste to the mixture to increase the HOT effect...)

Picture above shows the vegetables and chickent on the rice prior to the egg being placed on top.
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