When I first arrived in Korea in 2009, after my very long flight of over 17 hours, lost luggage and a 3 hour bus ride to reach my “little” town of Cheong-ju. The first of three cities I resided in, while living in Korea for three years. I was picked-up at the bus station, by the manager of the school I would be teaching at for the next year. And from the bus station, our first stop was a Korean BBQ restaurant. Which is where I got my first “schooling” on Korean culture, customs and etiquette. There are many, as Korean’s are very traditional, compared to my American roots.
During this brief, but invaluable lesson, I learned most (If not all) of the customs are out of respect for elders and rank. And it seemed, most revolved around drinking, ha. For example, the seat with the alcohol next to it, is always reserved for the eldest person or when taking a drink, make sure you turn your head or back away from the eldest or higher ranking person.
When someone who is older than you pours a drink for you, hold out your cup with both hands to accept it or when you pour a drink for someone older than you, place your other hand under your pouring hand or under your opposite elbow. If a bottle is on the table, always fill up the eldest persons glass first (only if it is empty) and then pour for everyone else.
And the lesson continued, well into the midnight hour and MANY bottles of Soju (Korea’s most popular and inexpensive, about a $1.50, alcoholic drink). There are far too many to recount in one blog post. However, there is one final custom I would like to leave you with, the most important in my opinion. One that could save your liver and benefit your overall health; when drinking in Korea, don’t finish your drink, leave some in the glass, if you DON’T want a refill. A glass will not be refilled if it is not empty, which is important to remember, as Korea is a drinking culture, Frat houses have nothing on Korea.
So let’s talk Korean food, because it is also a large part of their culture. This is my take on a Korean “classic” Bi Bim Bap (Bi Bim=mixed, Bap=rice), which in its simplest form is rice and vegetables. Bibimbap is served both cold and hot, the latter called “Dolsot BiBimBap.” Dolsot BibimBap is traditionally cooked and served in a granite pot or earthenware pot called “ddukbaegi ” (see image above). I prefer a “ddukbaegi,” as Korean cuisine uses the “ddukbaegi” to serve their soups (called “Tang” in Korean) and stews (called jjigae in Korean) in. So if you are contemplating between “Dolsot” or “ddukbaegi,” I would highly suggest going with the “ddukbaegi,”as it is more versatile and you would get more use out of it. And can be used to make other recipes, not just Korean dishes. This pot can be set directly over the heat source, to cook your ingredients in it.
BiBimBap is not one of my “top 5 favorite Korean dishes, ” but it is good. However, I wouldn’t likely order it at a Korean restaurant, given the price they charge, usually around $15.00 in my area. In Korea this same dish is about $4.00, albeit 3 years ago. BiBimBap is a dish I would prepare at home, opposed to ordering it out. And recently, I had a craving for it, so I decided to make it, but I decided to change it up a bit and put my spin on this classic dish.
First, I decided to use Farro, instead of rice. Farro is a wheat grain, which is used in Italian cooking. I like the texture of Farro, because after it has been cooked it still has a chewy texture, the texture reminds me of arborio rice, which is one of the types of rice used to make risotto.
Next, i decided to make a Korean traditional stock, an anchovy stock. This stock is not used to make Bibimbap, but rather as a base for some Korean soups and stews. I decided to cook the Farro in the anchovy stock, instead of water. This is not a fishy stock, I promise.
The stock calls for Dashima, which is Korean for Kelp or called Kombu in Japanese. I purchased the Dashima/Kombu from my local Korean market, but I’m quite sure it can be found in most supermarkets in the “asian” aisle. I also used dried shiitake mushrooms, which has a more concentrated flavor than fresh mushrooms. Once you buy a bag of these, they last for a long time.
One ingredient that may put you off, but is a key component to the stock are dried anchovies (pictured above – the eyes are staring at you and the photo of the package is in the recipe below). Again, I purchased these at my local Korean market. They come in a very large bag, which I keep in my refrigerator, once they have been opened.
One note, the belly of the anchovy – the bulbous section, below the head, should be removed before using. These are the guts and you can easily remove them with a pinch and pull with your thumb and index finger. The ones in the photo have had the guts removed. This stock can be made in batches and put in the freezer for a later use. However, it only takes 30 minutes to make a fresh batch.
Finally, I decided on vegetables that are currently in season. I decided on mushrooms, a mixture of chanterelle, black trumpet and one more. I also included brussel sprouts and green onion.
A great addition to this recipe would be to serve it with a side of Korean marinated beef, which you can use my Korea Beef Taco recipe or if you would like to stick to tradition, serve with a fried egg. Also for an accompaniment, I made wakame soup (included in main photo) and a cucumber kimchi (not pictured – I sometimes forget ingredients when I’m caught up in my photographs, hahaha).
Ohhh, lets not forget about the sauce, which gives it that uniquely Korean flavor, Gochujang. Gochujang is a fermented red chili paste (picture is in recipe below), which is spicy. Gochujang is the main ingredient for the sauce and has a couple of additional ingredients. Depending on how much spice you can handle, you may want to adjust accordingly. Again, Gochujang was used in my Korean Beef Taco recipe and can be found at a Korean market, Asian market or specialty market.
This is a great recipe, quick and easy. It does require ingredients you may not have in your pantry, but are worth buying and is ultimately cheaper than ordering this dish out.
Although this is not in my “top 5 favorite Korean dishes,” lucky for me I have an intentional 12 hour lay over in Seoul, Korea in just 4 short days….And I will be on a mission to eat my “top 5 favorite Korean dishes” in 12 hours! Well, one of them is actually a Japanese Curry Restaurant that I day dream about periodically…..I hope it is still there 3 years later!
I hope you enjoy my take on BiBimBap.
- 5 cups Cold water
- 3 Dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 sheet of dried kelp, Dashima (in Korean) Kombu (in Japanese)
- ½ inch knob of ginger, sliced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 3 dried anchovies (optional), remove the guts, by pinching the belly, below the head (see photo of package below)
- 1 cup dried farro
- 3 cups stock
- 1 cup mushrooms, I used a variety of mushrooms
- ½ cup brussel sprouts, halved
- ⅓ cup green onions, roughly chopped
- 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- MARINATED BEEF (OPTIONAL)
- Ingredients and directions HERE for the addition of beef
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper paste (Gochujang) - see photo below
- ½ tablespoon honey
- ¼ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1.4 teaspoon garlic chopped
- 1 teaspoon hot water (more if necessary)
- In a large pot, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, remove Dasima/Kombu and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain stock.
- Rinse farro. Place in a pot and add stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cooking time varies, follow package instructions. Drain off any excess water.
- Mushrooms: sauté mushrooms with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.
- Brussel Sprouts: sauté brussel sprouts with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.
- Green Onions: sauté green onions with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.
- Additional vegetables can be added, proceed with the same vegetable oil, sesame oil ratio.
- MARINATED BEEF (OPTIONAL)
- See my Korean Beef Taco recipe for beef directions
- Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat, cook for about 3-4 minutes, until fragrant. Stir constantly, so it doesn’t stick to the pan. If too thick, add additional hot water.
- Plate the farro, place the vegetables on top and mix in the gochujang. Enjoy.
Stock can be made 2 days in advance and can be frozen.
Gochujang can be made 2 days in advance.
Farro can be made 1 day in advance.
ALTERATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS:
1. This recipe can be served hot or at room temparture.
2. This post is made without meat, but I also recommend the addition of beef, especially the marinated beef from my Beef Korean Taco recipe.
3. If you prefer spicier, use more gochujang and for less spicy, use less gochujang.
4. Use any additional vegetables you like.
5. A fried egg can be added.