bibimbap

My friend Lindsay tipped me off that 1004 Mart, a Korean grocer in Dubai, sells water spinach.  Being a water spinach fiend and all, I rushed there today, picked up a couple packs, and enjoyed a little peruse around the shop.  I couldn’t leave without a container of gochujang (red chili paste) and the exciting prospect of making my own bibimbap for dinner tonight.

Bibimbap has been dear to my heart since I first tried it years ago.  I love that it’s served in a hot stone bowl, which makes the bottom of the rice all crunchy.  I have had my eye out for a couple of those stone bowls for a long time, but haven’t come across any in Dubai.  So I improvised with a cast iron pan.

I recall reading somewhere that all you have to have for bibimbap is the chili paste and the egg.  Whatever else you top your rice with is up to you.  I decided on some red cabbage, shitake mushrooms, daikon (Korean radish), green onion, water spinach, and sesame seeds.

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I brought a small pot of water up to a boil, heated some vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat, and put a nonstick skillet on low heat for the egg.  Then I prepped my veg.

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Before cooking and seasoning the vegetables, I smoothed a layer of cooked rice (I used Egyptian calrose rice since I had it on hand and figured the short, somewhat sticky grains would do well in bibimbap) in my small cast-iron pan.

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I tossed the raw julienned Korean radish with a little salt, soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil, then placed it on the rice.

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To prepare the water spinach, I blanched it and wrung some of the water out afterwards… burning my hand in the process.  I’m still waiting on the arrival of my “I’ve burned my hands so many times that they are now immune to heat!” hands.  Ahem.  Although!  The woman doing my nails the other week asked “Madam, you cook?”  I had a nice little swell of pride from that.  When I told Simon he said “Why because you had food under your fingernails?”  Um, no… because I have lots of scars from all the times I’ve cut and burned and grated my fingers over the years, Simon.

I know I may OCCASIONALLY have food stuck in my teeth and maybe some of those times I am in public, but dear god, to arrive at the nail salon with literal food under one’s nails?  Why I never!

Just when I thought this was going to be a straight “Yo, this is how I made this thing” blog post.  Sorrrrrrrry.  Where was I?  Oh, so after blanching the spinach, I tossed it with the same dressing I used on the radish (salt, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil).  Then it too went, on top of ol’ pan of rice.

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I blanched the carrot while I fried the mushrooms in hot oil for a minute or so, then I dressed both in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar.

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Then I blanched the bulb part of the green onion (is that just called “an onion”?) and fried the red cabbage.  I dressed the cabbage in the salt/soy sauce/garlic/sesame oil dressing and just let the onion be all regular.

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Next went a teaspoon or so of gochujang.

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Then, the mandatory sunny-side up fried egg.  I’ve been served bibimbap in restaurants topped with just a raw egg yolk, and I love that… but when you’re making it at home, you’re sorta like “What am I going to do with one egg white?” so yeah.

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Then toasted sesame seeds.

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Next was the most important step ever… to heat the pan until the rice started to crisp up on the bottom.  That also ensures that when you stir it all together, everything will be piping hot, and as such, will cook that egg yolk!

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At first I thought that I should take the pan off the heat once I heard the rice starting to sizzle, but that proved to be too soon.  I’d say it’s sort of like popcorn.  The rice starts to sizzle, then it sizzles way more and then even more.  I think you just have to use your ears and nose for this step.  Take it off the heat before it sounds and smells like burning.  I don’t know how to explain that better.

I topped it with some green onion.

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Then you just have to stir everything together and mix it all up, being careful to make sure you don’t end up with 75% of that chili paste in one bite.

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This is incredibly good and not hard at all.

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That said, this does not mean that bibimbap bowls are off my wish list!  Does anyone know where you can get them in Dubai?  I’ve even tried asking Korean restaurants here if I can have them order me a couple.

Bibimbap guidance from here.  And thank you Lindsay!!

honeymoon food

Last year was pretty crazy.  Simon and I got engaged, went to Florida to look at houses, legally tied the knot, bought a house, and started the paperwork to get Simon a green card.  Here and there we planned a holiday together.  It wasn’t until shortly before we left that we realized that this trip was sort of our honeymoon.

We went to Hong Kong, Hanoi, Sapa, and Siem Reap.  To me, this trip was the culinary trip of a lifetime!  I thought about dim sum and wontons and noodles and pho for weeks before we left.  I posted in forums asking the kind residents of each city what interesting cooking tools I might find to bring home with me.  Simon and I watched Anthony Bourdain eat his way through Asia.

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{Mak’s Noodle Hong Kong}

Simon surprised me on our trip.  He willingly ate everywhere I dragged him to, without complaint.  He’s not a fan of “different” food, and usually (happily) subsists on food from the local Irish pub wherever we go.  I’m the annoying person who tries to “help” him by nagging him to try local delicacies.

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{teeny tiny peanut in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong}

So, to reiterate… I guess this was our honeymoon, and my husband was amazing the whole time.  I could not have been happier, and I mean that.  I remember thinking that I finally understood all that “If I could only be half as happy as I am now, that would be good enough for me!” sort of stuff.  That’s how I really felt… Like I was binging on happiness and that I would be lucky and satisfied with half that amount of happiness in my day-to-day life.

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{the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant -Tim Ho Wan’s- Hong Kong}

The very small thorn in my rose was the fact that the only camera we brought s u c k e d at taking pictures for this here blog.  I felt guilty for feeling disgruntled about not being able to BLOG about something properly, but also mad that I didn’t bring my phone as a backup camera.

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{street food sausages, Hanoi}

But the rage-y feeling passed, and I didn’t ruin everything with a violent mood swing.  Simon is clearly a lucky man.

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{first bowl of phở in Hanoi}

Seriously, could you imagine everything being perfect and wonderful and full of happiness, only to have your significant other pout that she won’t be able to show the world her ten readers a decent picture of noodles she ate?

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{?????, Hanoi}

Me either.

Sorry for the picture quality, is what I’m trying to say.

Onwards.

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{best phở ever, Hanoi}

Our first night in Sapa (Vietnam) we stayed in a homestay.  The women of the family let me help make rice paper spring rolls!

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Dinner was a huge, delicious feast.

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With a LOT of “happy water”.

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One of us didn’t feel so well the next day… And it wasn’t 75-years-old, travels-the-world-alone John.  I don’t need to point out which one  John is, do I?

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Since our new friend didn’t feel well enough to pose with the group for a picture, we brought the group to her.

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That’s way better than any food shot I could have taken anyway.

puffy pancakes

I filed “make puffed pancakes” somewhere in my brain many years ago.  I was pleased that it surfaced one Friday morning afternoon when I thought about making regular pancakes because I hadn’t gone grocery shopping so there was nothing else to make for breakfast lunch.

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Then, instead of using my KitchenAid mixer, I decided to manually mix the ingredients because that would mean using my new heavy whisk and my new heavy round-bottomed mixing bowl.

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I had purchased said whisk and bowl after I was reprimanded in that chocolate cooking class.  “Whoa, whoa whoa!  You’re not making meringue!” said co-head chef Nick.  It was then that I realized that whisking eggs and things could be fun, if you had the right equipment.

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I whisked flour, eggs, and milk together with a pinch of salt.  Then I added some everlasting vanilla extract (it’s been going strong for 2 years) because I like vanilla.

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As you can tell from the first picture, I melted the butter in the oven.  No, I do not know why I take such pictures.

Then I smeared it all around with a basting brush.  Then I zoned out and forgot what I was doing.  Because it’s relaxing to paint butter on glass.

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I should take up painting again.  (No I should not.)

Simon walked into the kitchen as I was pouring the batter into the pan of melted butter and said “Yorkshires!”.

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I chucked.  Yes, chuckled, and said “No Simon, it’s a puffed pancake.”  Then I proceeded to hand-whip the cream.

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Whilst whisking, I smugly told Simon how I “was really starting to develop cooking instincts.”

Then I took the puffed pancake out of the oven.

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Again, Simon said “Yorkshires!”

Then I stared at the puffed pancake and remembered the ingredient list and realized I did in fact just make one giant Yorkshire pudding.

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I’ve made Yorkshire puddings dozens of times before!  Still, I did not notice that’s what I was doing.

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So much for “cooking instincts”.

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Simon said his childhood friend’s mother would make giant Yorkshire puddings like this and serve the roast dinner inside them.  Hat tip to you, Simon’s childhood friend’s mother!

(The puffy pancake was really good.  Recipe from here, I just added some vanilla extract into the batter.)

OH!  How rude of me… Happy New Year!

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