One of my breakthroughs was bringing attention to Korean food in the UK back in about 2007. While working as a chef in NYC, I’d hit Koreatown in my downtime with my mates, drink ice-cold beers and eat Korean fried chicken. Koreatown was open late, and you could go from restaurant to karaoke bar eating and drinking yourself into a stupor. I fell in love with Korean food there, and fell in love with the culture 5 years later when I first visited Korea, later moving there to film my TV show Seoul Food.
I’m certain that the popular ‘buddha bowl’ has Korean culinary heritage, as it’s similar to a dish called ‘bibimbap’. In a bibimbap bowl, rice is topped with vegetables, meat (optional), egg yolk and a spicy sauce. It is quite refined -you can’t say that about a lot of Korean food – and is cooked in a searing hot cast-iron pot which is oiled before adding the rice; the vegetables and egg (and meat, if using) are swiftly put on top. By the time the rice gets to the table it has a fantastic caramelised crust that you peel away from the pot and you stir-fry everything at the table. It’s real theatre. Fear not if you don’t have cast-iron pots -you can eat it like Hawaiian poke, in a bowl with hot rice. Bibimbap is delicious, healthy and a great way to tackle a fridge forage. I’ve used traditional toppings, but do play around with seafood, tofu and different veg: the only mainstays are the rice, egg yolk and sauce.
Preparation time 45 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
200g sushi rice
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 courgette, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, finely julienned
6 spring onions, shredded
100g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 corn on the cob
2 free-range egg yolks
300g rump steak, finely chopped sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp black or white toasted sesame seeds, to serve
FOR THE SAUCE
6 tbsp gochujang
2 tbsp Korean or Japanese soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
1½ tbsp caster sugar
Put the rice and water in a large saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Take off the heat and steam (lid on) for 10 minutes.
Gently heat the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan until emulsified. Set aside.
Mix together the sesame and sunflower oils. Heat a large wok or frying pan over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil mix and add half the spinach with a pinch of salt. Cook briefly until wilted, then remove and drain on kitchen paper, squeezing out any liquid. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Add another splash of oil and briefly fry the courgette until golden. Remove and set aside. Repeat this process with the carrot, beansprouts, spring onions and shiitake mushrooms. Rub the sweetcorn cob with oil, salt and pepper, then brown in the pan until the kernels start to char.
Heat two stone bibimbap dishes or a wok on the hob until smoking hot. Place the stone dishes on a heatproof surface (if using). Brush the insides of the dishes (or hot wok) with the remaining oil and add the rice. Group vegetables around the edge, put the raw meat in the middle, then the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the sauce for each serving. Top with sesame seeds. Mix the sauce into the rice at the table with a spoon.
Recipe taken from Restore by Gizzi Erskine, available now (£25, HQ)’. Photography credit – c. Issy Croker
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