Perhaps you are too young to have grooved to the beats of rock-a-billy pioneer Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula, which was a huge hit in 1956. But you might have caught the song later, when Elvis Presley, John Lennon, the Stray Cats, and even a middle-aged Paul McCartney reprised the song. (None of them had Gene Vincent’s edginess, though.)
I loved those nonsense syllables that punctuated the music of the Fabulous Fifties. Little Richard’s memorable lyric “A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!” from his hit song Tutti Frutti. And what about Sh-Boom, by the fabulous Coasters?
But I digress.
What I really want to write about today is what could be the Korean national dish, Dolsat Bi Bim Bap, which although not a lyric from the fifties, is rather lyrical: a luscious rice dish-in-a-bowl, smothered with an array of vegetables, grilled meat and crowned with a raw egg yolk. Sound good? What makes it really special, is that you press the cooked rice into a searing stone dolsat bowl or a hot cast iron pan, so the rice can get crunchy on the bottom.
The dolsat bowl is a thing of beauty. Here is a picture. If you do not have some, I would recommend that you purchase some from my friend Kevin Strel at www.spiceberry.com.
The trick is having everything done ahead of time. It sounds complicated and it takes some sautéing and grilling ahead of time, but it makes for a nice presentation. First, wipe your oven proof bowls or cast iron pan with sesame oil and stick them into a hot oven, say 400 degrees.
Now make the sauce by combining two or three tablespoons of gochujang paste (found in Asian grocery stores or in the Asian section of your grocery store) with a couple tablespoons of mirin, 2 teaspoons of sugar, a handful of sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
Then, artfully arrange in separate piles, an array of vegetables on a large platter. You might sauté bean sprouts, julienned carrots, julienned zucchini, sliced onions or spinach in a little sesame oil. Sauté two cups of shitake mushrooms with a little soy sauce, sugar and mirin until the liquid is absorbed. So yummy.
On another platter, arrange your grilled meat and keep it warm. The other night I served bi bim bap with grilled kalbi (Korean short ribs) and giant prawns (see photo above). They were lovely. But you could use grilled chicken, grilled fish, tofu, or anything you fancy.
Then, put an egg yolk into as many little bowls as you have guests.
Your bowls will be damn hot by now, and you can make then even hotter by putting them directly on your burner. Press a good amount of rice into each bowl (or into a single cast iron pan) and bring them sizzling to the table, being careful to neither burn yourself or the table. Demonstrate to your guests how to arrange the veggies and protein on top of the rice, and nestle the yolk atop it all. Pour a little of the gochujang sauce over it all.
Don’t forget to serve kimchee on the side! (See my previous blog Fermentation Forment)
And put on a little Gene Vincent, and marvel at the fact that so many lyrics from the Fifties sound like the names of Korean food.