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.
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.
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.
I tossed the raw julienned Korean radish with a little salt, soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil, then placed it on the rice.
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.
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.
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.
Next went a teaspoon or so of gochujang.
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.
Then toasted sesame seeds.
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!
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.
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.
This is incredibly good and not hard at all.
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!!