For time crunch weeknight dinners, nothing pleases me more than having all my ingredients washed, cut, and ready to cook. This is especially true for dishes that require meticulous prep involving long list of ingredients. Last weekend I spent a leisurely afternoon slicing up a storm and the result was not one, but two different dinners that satisfied my cravings for Korean food.
I never really thought about it but bibimbap and japchae are remarkably similar. One is rice bowl topped with rainbow of toppings and the other stir fried sweet potato noodles tossed with the same spectrum of colours. I think this is the best way to describe my streamlined dinners:
Aside from cutting so many different ingredients to matchsticks, it is also time consuming to stir fry them all separately so nothing is overcooked. Some I season simply with toasted sesame oil and salt, others I like to add pinches of chilli for a bit of heat. Of course I can cut down on the number of toppings but part of the appeal is the party of textures and tastes with every mouthful. The good thing was that once all the toppings are prepared, it takes no time at all to put everything together.
Traditionally, dolsot bibimbap is served in a hot stone bowl which toasts the bottom layer of rice to crispy goodness. I do not have any stone bowls at home so I came up with the idea to toast some rice in my toaster oven. I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread a layer of steamed rice evenly on top. While keeping a close watch, I placed the pan of rice in the toaster oven until it started to take on a bit of colour. Toasty crispy rice without stone bowl!
I spooned some toasted rice and some fresh steamed rice into each oversize bowl. To serve, I simply arranged all the different toppings over the rice with a big dollop of gochujang in the centre and garnished with toasted sesame seeds. The spicy sweet chilli sauce was tossed with everything in the bowl. What a simple yet nourishing dinner!
Making japchae was a little bit more work but not overly so. I cooked a 12oz package of sweet potato noodles according to package instruction and rinsed under cold water. I sautéed sliced onions, garlic, and crimini mushrooms in a large frying pan until tender. I tossed in the same toppings I used for bibimbap and heat them up just enough. Everything including the cooked noodles went into a large mixing bowl and I dressed them with 1/2 cup of tamari soy sauce, 1/4 cup of mirin, and generous pour of toasted sesame oil. I made enough noodles for 4 to 6 people which worked out well. Japchae can be enjoyed warm, room temperature, or cold which means leftovers can be served for quick dinner directly from the fridge. Did I mention both dishes are gluten free if you omit the fish cake?