I have a long-standing love affair with Korean food. It started in college, where I met loads of Korean-Ams and they used to have Korean food fests in the dorm. Almost inevitably, someone's mother would pack him a large ziplock bag of bulgogi and the entire dorm would frequently permeate with this amazing fried garlic smell as he stir-fried it all up. Other friends would bring huge bottles of pickled vegetables (one guy even had a bottle of pickled whole garlic bulbs! eeow) and then all and sundry would huddle round a small rice cooker and gobble up freshly steamed rice with strips of seaweed and pickled veggies. It sure beat the sloppy joes and the jello in the cafeteria!
I also picked up a taste for Korean food from the most unexpected source. A small ice cream shop near my Uni, called J K Sweets, was a popular hangout for us college kids. One day, we started noticing strange hand-written signs being hung on the window - "Bee Bim Bap, $4.00". Coming in from the stern cold winter, I ordered my first "Bee Bim Bap" in that shop and I still remember it till this day. It very quickly became my favourite place for Asian food. Gradually, the shop owners, who were Korean, added more items to their "under the table" menu - Galbi (Korean pork ribs) and Tonkatsu were also my favourites.
But, back to Bee Bim Bap. While I learnt how to make Bulgogi from a Korean friend, and while I learnt through trial and error how to make Japchae and Korean pancakes, I didn't make Bee Bim Bap until recently. I guess it's because the taste of J K Sweets' Bee Bim Bap will always be the 'real thing' to me and I felt I could not possibly compete with it.
Anyway, I've yakked enough. ^__^ SY came over for dinner this past week & it was a great time to catch up with an old friend. I guess subconsciously, because she's an old friend, I felt like making something that also reminded me of old times - and what better thing to make than good ol Bee Bim Bap? My husband had been begging me to cook it again, since I made it for him shortly after we got married. So here it is:
As I make this dish from memory and agar-ration (I never really had a recipe), I'll have to apologise if the measurements given below seem a bit out of the ordinary. But the good thing about cooking is it's all about estimation and personal taste. So, don't let the weird-ness stop you from making this lovely dish!
Bee Bim Bap (makes 3 bowls, 1 bowl per person)
3 fistfuls of beansprouts
3 fistfuls of chinese spinach (cut and washed)
4 fistfuls of shitake mushrooms, with caps removed and thinly sliced
2 medium steak medallions
1 large white onion, chopped into rings or half rings.
1 tb soya sauce
10 garlic, thinly chopped
1 tb sugar
1 - 2 tb toasted sesame seeds
3 tb green onion shoots
2 tb sesame oil
Steamed jasmine rice, enough for 3 persons
1. Start with the beef as that needs the most work. Slice across the grain, into thin slices, as thin as possible.
2. To the beef, add the soya sauce, garlic, sugar, sesame seed and onion shoots. Mix well and place in fridge for at least 20 minutes.
3. Using boiling hot water, blanch the beansprouts and then, the chinese spinach and remove. Separately, add 1tb of sesame oil to the beansprouts and the spinach. You can also add a bit of soya sauce to taste. Set aside.
4. Heat oil in a wok and fry the onions till translucent and fragrant. Bunch them to the side of the wok and lower heat.
5. With fire still going, add strips of beef to the wok. Think of it as a BBQ pit, so, it's best to add the beef in batches, covering the wok with only one layer of beef at a time.
6. The key is to fry the beef very very quickly. Turning each strip individually and then removing quickly. The beef should taste tender, sweet and garlic-y. (You have just made bulgogi beef! Yay!)
7. After removing the beef and onions (which by now are amazingly fragrant and soft), stirfry the shitake mushrooms. Keep heating the mushrooms till you see them releasing water and decreasing in size. Stir fry a bit longer, remove and add a bit of soya sauce to taste.
8. Spoon rice into 3 separate bowls. On top of each rice bed, arrange the beansprouts, chinese spinach, onions, shitake mushrooms, bulgogi beef as in picture, leaving the middle portion empty.
9. Make three sunny-side up eggs and add one each to the middle portion.
10. Serve with Korean hot sauce!*
* This is not really a must. But Korean hot sauce does complement Bee Bim Bap tremendously! You can get Korean hot sauce from Koreana, a Korean supermarket behind Amara Hotel. Let me know if you need more info! They sell really cool Korean stuff there. But, if you're lazy, like me, you can eat the Bee Bim Bap without the sauce. In fact, I've never had the sauce before as I don't like spicy stuff. My husband loves it though!