Dolsot Bimbimbap

One of my favourite Korean dishes to make is dolsot bimbimbap. When I lived in Kunsan, there was a little bimbimbap restaurant on the edge of town, and it made bimbimbap with mixed grains instead of just white rice.

Last time I was in Seoul Mart, the Korean store in Regina, I found a bag of mixed grains  and had to get it. This one is a mixture of brown rice, sweet brown rice, black beans,  barley, wild sweet rice, mung beans, and red beans. I started by soaking the mixed  grains in water for a couple of hours. After rinsing it, I put it in my rice cooker to cook.

While the grains were cooking, I got out my dolsots, also purchased at Seoul Mart. A dolsot is a stone bowl that can be placed on direct heat. When you get a new one, you have to go through a lengthy seasoning process to ensure they don’t crack when you use them. The bimbimbap is worth the effort though.

After covering the inside of the dolsot with sesame oil, I prepare the toppings that go on top of the rice in the dolsot. Today, I have carrots and spinach in my fridge, so I start with those. Cutting the carrots into matchsticks, they then get tossed into a hot pan with a little sesame oil, salt, and crushed garlic for a quick fry. After the carrots are done, I do the same with the spinach. For once, I’ve been planning to make bimbimbap and actually remembered to sprout some mung beans, which I prefer over regular bean sprouts. The sprouts get the same treatment as the carrots and spinach.  In the cupboard, I also have some marinated perilla leaves, so I cut those up and add them in for flavour.

I really prefer more of the regular Korean toppings on my bimbimbap (garland chrysanthemum, bellflower root, and bracken fern stems), but my crop of chrysanthemum is done for the season and I forgot to look for the other two items when I was in Regina. Next time.

Once the toppings are ready, I spread some of the grain mixture in the dolsot and arrange the toppings.

The dolsot then goes on the stove for its final cook. About ten minutes at medium-high heat usually does it. The stone bowl gets very hot, so you don’t want to leave it on the stove too for long; the contents will continue to cook once you take the dolsot off the stove.

After the ten minutes, I take the dolsot off the stove, place it on an old wooden board, and crack an egg on top. As you stir the bimbimbap together, the egg will make contact with the sides of the bowl and cook. I usually add a tablespoon of gochujang (hot pepper paste) to spice it up. As I’m stirring, I’m always careful to leave the bottom crust intact because that bottom layer of rice will continue to cook and crisp until the bowl has cooled down. That’s my favourite part–I love that crispy layer of rice at the bottom.

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