Thursday, 26 February 2015

Korean Salmon and Brown Rice Bowl (Bibimbap)

Cue the cabin fever - by this point in February the patience is unfortunately disappearing faster then the snow and ice. Waking up to an extreme cold warning a few mornings in a row induces cravings for something warm and comforting, preferably served in a bowl allowing it to be easily spooned into one's mouth while watching trashy reality TV. Mac and cheese or gnocchi would've been an obvious choice for me, but Bibimbap is certainly up to the challenge. The spicy sauce and soft rice warm from the inside but you also get the nutrient bonus from the veggies, whole grains and good protein. 

Having recently discovered Korean cuisine at a mall food court, I'm obviously an authority on it. After trying the Bibimbap from KIM CHI a few times then ordering it twice in one week from the korean sushi place at the top of our street, I'm convinced that it just might be one of the most flavourful, but still fresh tasting, Westernized Asian food I've ever tasted. I've only ever ordered it with beef bulgogi - and have no idea whether it would ever traditionally be made with baked salmon, but it certainly works. I marinated the salmon in a bulgogi style marinade to imitate the  usual flavour.

The fiery sauce is definitely the key to this dish, which is achieved by using a korean red chili paste called Gochujang. Much to my surprise I couldn't find it at Superstore (not even the one on Pembina with the expansive asian food isle) - but found it easily at the ING Supermarket near the U of M. Using good salmon is also important. I've only recently started enjoying salmon and I find the individually packaged, frozen, farm raised bag of Kirkland salmon from Costco to be the most palatable. Marinating it over night might be excessive to some, but I like the fishy flavour to be completely masked. 

Korean Salmon and Brown Rice Bowl (Bibimbap)
Serves 3-4

Note: the ingredient list looks long but many ingredients are listed in a few spots (sugar, soy sauce, garlic) to make the directions easier to follow (I hope) and many items you likely have on hand. 

2 large pieces salmon
1 asian pear, peeled
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger
2 green onions, diced
2 gloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or other sweetener
3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

cooking spray, olive oil, salt and pepper

4 cups fresh spinach
1-2 cups bean sprouts
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 egg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons gochujang chili paste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha/rooster sauce (if you have it)

sesame seeds

Marinate the salmon the night before. Into a large ziplock, finely grate the asian pear, letting any juice drip into bag. Grate in the ginger, add the green onion, garlic, seasame oil, honey and soy sauce. Squish around and add salmon to the bag (at this point mine were still frozen), squish around again, ensuring salmon is covered in marinade. Marinade (and thaw in my case) overnight in the refrigerator.

The remaining directions can be done in whatever order you see fit - theres a lot of little pieces to prepare - but it's not crucial that anything be served piping hot or that you include all the same veggies as I did. Multi tasking is key here.

Remove salmon from fridge. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a small cookie sheet with tin foil sprayed with cooking oil. Wipe marinade off and pat salmon dry with paper towel. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Discard marinade. 

While oven is preheating, cook brown rice according to package directions. I use vegetable broth instead of water and therefore add any salt or butter. It's fine if the rice is ready before anything else because it will stay warm and get better as it sits covered. 

Bake salmon 5 minutes per half inch of thickness. I cooked mine for 8 minutes and they were perfect. Salmon is done when it's firm to the touch and just starts to flake with pressure. Resist the urge to over cook. My pieces were large to I split each into two after they were cooked for more appropriate serving sizes. 

Rehydrate the shitakke mushrooms by bringing them to a boil in a small sauce pan with soy sauce, water and sugar. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool and then slice thinly, removing any stems that are still woody. 

Blanch spinach by simmering in a boiling pan of water for about 30 seconds. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove into strainer and run under cold water. Squeeze out excess water. Use the same method to blanch and cool the bean sprouts and then the carrots.

Optionally sprinkle the cooled spinach, sprouts and carrots with a bit of vinegar, sugar and sesame seeds, mix with fingers.

Make egg omelette.  Lightly beat egg with soy sauce and sugar. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Pour egg mixture into thin layer in pan. When almost cooked gently use a spoon and fingers to roll up in the pan. Remove to cutting board and julienne into slices.

Make the sauce in a small bowl by whisking gochujang paste, sesame oil, sugar, vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and sriracha together.

Scoop a healthy serving of brown rice into a large wide bowl. Arrange veggies and egg into an aesthetically pleasing pattern around the outside, top with a piece of salmon and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Generously pour sauce over top.

Cuddle into an armchair with the remote and a glass of water close by. Chunk up the salmon and mix everything together. Enjoy the insanely flavourful, guilt free bowl full of comfort by the light of your television. 

Have you tried Bibimbap before? Is it not the most comforting, but still fresh, food ever? Any good variations you've tried?

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