So in case you didn't know, we here at the Sweet Home kitchen absolutely, positively, LOVE Korean food. Yes, Korean food. How, you ask, did we get to know and love this perhaps (undeservedly) lesser-known of foreign foods here in the Midwest? Well, let me tell you.
Before Papa and I were, well, a mama and a papa, we did a year-long English teaching stint in Daegu, South Korea, or The Land of the Morning Calm (so named for its "spellbinding natural beauty of picturesque high mountains and clear waters and its splendid tranquillity, particularly in the morning"). The description is quite accurate; Korea is a breathtaking country and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
But again, I digress. This post is supposed to be about delicious Korean FOOD! So you see that picture up there? That's a dish called "bibimbap" and it's one of my favorites. It literally means "mixed rice," but really it means, "mixed rice and vegetables with beef, chili pepper paste, and a fried egg on top." It's one of the first meals you'll have if you visit Korea, whether it's served on the plane ride there (thank you, Korean Air!) or at one of the gazillion Korean restaurants that serve it as part of their regular menu. It's a popular, easy-to-handle dish for both natives and foreigners, and can be wonderfully customized for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike!
My favorite version includes shitake mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, and carrots (all sauteed separately), ground beef, and a sunny-side-up egg, all mixed in a sizzling stone pot (like you can see in the picture above). This version is called "dolsot bibimbap" which means "bibimbap in a sizzling stone bowl." The great thing about dolsot bibimbap is that the bowl is so hot when you serve it that once you put the egg on top and start mixing, the rest of the egg actually fries inside the pot and the rice gets all crispy crunchy on the bottom. Delicious!
Because they had just opened up Shin's Korean Restaurant in our home town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan literally within months of us coming home--weird, we didn't really have a need to learn to cook Korean food ourselves for a couple of years. Here in Grand Blanc, though, sadly there is no Korean restaurant in sight. There is, however, a great little Korean grocer less than ten miles from our home and an AWESOME Korean cooking website with all of the recipes we know and love!
After first trying her recipe for japchae and having wild success, I returned to Maangchi's Korean cooking website in search of her bibimbap recipe. To make sure you're able to properly cook authentic and delicious Korean dishes, Maangchi posts detailed ingredient lists, clear instructions, great photos, and short videos with each recipe to make sure your meals turn out just as great as hers. Once I found the recipe I was looking for, I set out for Seoul Oriental Market in Flint to gather the ingredients.
You should be able to find most of the ingredients at a regular grocery store (I was able to get the rice, eggs, zucchini, garlic, ground beef, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, sesame oil, and soy sauce at our local Meijer), but some of them, like the gochujang (red hot pepper paste) and kim (seaweed), might be tough to find in some areas. I would recommend visiting a Korean grocery store simply because a) there are a ton of great things you can buy there (Korean rice cakes, plum juice drinks, and sweet red bean pastries for starters) and b) Koreans are great to talk to! (I'm not trying to generalize...it's just that I've honestly never had a bad experience in the hundreds of Koreans I've spoken to.)
In any case, I followed Maangchi's recipe and the bibimbap was a huge success! It was definitely a lot of work (if I could chop veggies half as quickly as Maangchi I'd have finished a lot sooner), but it was well worth it once I tasted the results and saw the satisfied look on Papa Blond's face. Score!
So if you're feeling adventurous and want to give Korean cooking a try, I suggest you check out Maangchi.com and give it a whirl!
Until next time,
Sweet Home à la Mama
Have you tried Korean food? If so, what's your favorite? Have you made it at home? Feel free to leave a comment and share your story if you've successfully (or unsuccessfully!) tried any Korean dishes yourself--I'd love to hear about your experience!