Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A South Korean Rice Bowl

I was a little intimidated for my South Korean meal. They are known for intricate meals with a ton of different side dishes, or banchan. Tonight's meal sure did have a lot of components, but I found them to not be very complicated. Simplicity was key, and everything came together to make a delicious bowl of Korea.

Korean cuisine is dominated by kimchi and rice, two staples served at every meal. My dad has been t South Korea for work a few times, and he loves it. Unlike their very communist northern neighbor, the South Koreans are part of a republic. My dad was shocked by the amount of Christians there were. East Asian countries are not typically known for being believers. When my dad looked out of his hotel window at night, he said he could see churches lit up everywhere. This is an encouraging light in the mostly dark area of the world Korea is in. Maybe that's why South Korea has the highest emigration rate in the world. The Koreans are also very smart. They have the highest average IQ in the world, the most sophisticated IT infrastructure, and many leading automobile companies are from South Korea. The Koreans are pretty cool.

 
I have a friend here on campus who is from South Korea. She gave me a couple of suggestions as to what I should try out for my Korean meal. She recommended kimbap (Korea's version of sushi), bibimbap ("mixed rice" with egg and chili pepper paste), and bulgolgi (Korean barbeque). I followed my friend's suggestions by making the bulgolgi and a form of bibimbap called heotjesbap. It made for one great meal.

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The difference between bibimbap and heotjesabap is that the latter does not have gochujang (chili pepper paste). Instead soy sauce is used to season it. Since my Kroger down here in TN lacks a lot of international foods (the reason I did not have any kimchi), I had to opt to make the heotjesabap. Don't let the long name or long list of steps required to make it scare you away. All the namul, or sautéed vegetable sides are piled on top of a bed of rice along with some meat, a fried egg, and your toppings of choice.

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All the ingredients are stirred together right before eating, making a flavorful and filling meal.

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Heotjesabap
serves 6
6 cups cooked rice
2 medium zucchini, cut into strips
1- 12 ounce package frozen cut spinach, thawed
¼ cup minced garlic
1-14 ounce can of mung bean sprouts
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
8 ounces shitake mushrooms
dak bulgolgi (recipe follows)
¼ cup sesame oil
6 fried eggs
2 green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
toasted sesame seeds, to serve
soy sauce, to serve

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drain and rinse the mung bean sprouts, and add them to the boiling water. Cook for 4 minutes, drain, and toss with 1 tablespoon each of sesame oil and garlic, the white parts of the green onion, and sesame seeds. Allow the sprouts to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil over medium heat along with 1 tablespoon of garlic. Add the zucchini and cook until both sides are nice and golden, about 5 minutes per side. Top with sesame seeds. Repeat this exact same process with both the spinach and mushrooms.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

To assemble, give everyone a cup of rice. Top with the various veggies and the dak bulgolgi. Finish it off with the fried egg, sesame seeds, green onion, and soy sauce to taste.

 
 

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Bulgolgi is the typical Korean barbeque meal that everyone seems to love. I understand why This stuff is delicious! I made dak bulgolgi, the chicken version.

Dak Bulgolgi
makes 3 large servings or 6 side servings
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1” cubes
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp. honey
½ tbsp vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
3 tbsp sliced green onion

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil. Coat the chicken with this mixture and refrigerate for 2 hours. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken, cooking each side for a couple of minutes until it is completely done. Serve topped with the sesame seeds and green onion.


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Once again, I learned with South Korea that spinach is a favorite among many cultures all around the world. I thought I didn't like spinach, but I haven't had it cooked away that I did not like since I started. Maybe I should give the green stuff a second chance.

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Another country down, another great meal. Unfortunately I did not get to try any kimchi to make my meal even more authentic, but I did love the Korean barbeque and rice bowl. All the side dishes produced a lot of dishes, but that's my only complaint. I loved South Korea!

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