I am always looking for different ethnic foods to try, and yes, on these food adventures, I like to drag along my daughters and any grandkids that are brave enough to dine outside their comfort zone. This was one that took some convincing. I have been driving on 1960 in Atascocita and kept seeing the sign for “A Taste of Korea.” Sadly I’m always on my way somewhere else, but always planning to stop and try it. Recently, I made a point of going to this restaurant to check out the menu.
In the past, my experience with Korean foods started and ended with a dish I love, Korean barbecue. This time I wanted to sample a few house specialties or dishes suggested by the server or owners. I visited with one of the Taste of Korea owners, Mr. June, who is also a server and a wonderfully gracious host. Before opening and to ensure the success of their restaurant, June and his wife, Michelle, also the chef, took a trip to South Korea. They stayed about a month and gleaned local recipes from restaurants around the country. They came back to Atascocita and began preparing and serving authentic Korean dishes. The sizzling hot stone bowl was suggested to me by June. It was absolutely fantastic, served tableside in an extremely hot bowl. Once served, June broke open the egg on top, and using two oversized forks carefully flipped the entire contents of the bowl upside down while keeping it in the bowl. I have never tasted anything like this before. The closest to the crunch of this rice is a Persian dish I once had a few years ago that I didn’t attempt to recreate, but this Korean dish I was sure I could make by using a cast-iron skillet.
As I began scouring through cookbooks, researching recipes online and watching YouTube videos, I realized bibimbap, one of the more well-known Korean dishes, is almost identical to the sizzling hot stone bowl dish at A Taste of Korea. It too is served in a sizzling hot stone bowl. Here is my version as quick and easy as I could make it … Please Join Our Table as we go “krazy” for Korean food!
Easy Sizzling Hot Cast-Iron Rice Bowl
2 1/2 cups store-bought kimchi or make the pickle recipe below
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large English cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin on bias
2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup gochujang find it in your grocery store, it is available on Amazon)
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 cups short-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
6 green onions, minced (white parts only)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)
10 ounces julienned organic carrots (approx. 2 cups)
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, sliced thin
1 10-ounce bag baby-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 large eggs
1 large 12-inch cast-iron skillet or pot
The day before, make the pickles, chile sauce and vegetables and keep in refrigerator.
Pickles: Whisk vinegar, sugar and salt together in medium bowl. Add cucumber and bean sprouts and toss to combine. Gently press on vegetables to submerge. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Chile sauce: Whisk gochujang, water, oil and sugar together in small bowl. Cover and set aside or place in fridge overnight.
Vegetables: Stir together water, scallions, soy sauce, garlic and sugar. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a deep fry pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add carrots and stir until coated. Add 1/3 cup scallion mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are slightly softened and moisture has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer carrots to small bowl. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in now-empty pot until shimmering. Add mushrooms and stir until coated with oil. Add 1/3 cup scallion mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender and liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, move mushrooms to a second small bowl. Heat remaining oil in now-empty pot, add spinach and remaining scallion mixture and stir to coat spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted but still bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs or slotted spoon, place spinach in a third small bowl. Throw away remaining liquid and wipe out pot with paper towel. The next day, remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature, then heat the vegetables in the microwave before adding them to the rice.
Rice: Bring rice, water and salt to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove rice from heat and let sit covered for 20 minutes.
Bibimbap: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sesame oil in 12-inch cast-iron skillet or pot over high heat until shimmering. Carefully add cooked rice and gently press into even layer. Cook, without stirring, until rice begins to form crust on bottom of pot, about 2 and 1/2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move carrots, spinach and mushrooms to the skillet and arrange in piles around the rice. Reduce heat to low. While rice crust is cooking, heat remaining vegetable oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Crack eggs and place into skillet, cover and cook (about 2 1/2 minutes for soft-set yolks, or 3 minutes for hard yolks). Carefully slide eggs onto vegetables in pot. (Do not touch pot; it is hot!)
Drizzle 2 tablespoons chile sauce over eggs. Without mashing up the crust, use a large serving spoon or heavy metal spatula to carefully scrape large pieces of crust from bottom of pot and stir into rice. Serve in individual bowls; pass pickles and extra chili sauce. Makes about 6 servings. Note: this isn’t a hard dish, just a lot of prep work!