1 November 2014

Dolsot Bibimbap

Last year some colleagues took me to a Korean restaurant in London. It's called Bibimbap and was my first experience in the Korean cuisine and it was brilliant. Since then I've taken both Lundulph and my Sister Bip and they both really enjoyed it.


However, since I no longer work in London, I decided to have a go at this wonderful dish at home and invested in two dolsots. These are large stone bowls in which the bibimbap is made. They are not strictly necessary, but I think make the whole meal a bit more special. They arrived at my doorstep the other day, so I thought I'd try them out straight away.

The first crucial thing to do is to prepare the bowls - they need to be seasoned and oiled. The procedure was a bit curious - fill up with water and add a tbsp of salt, then heat up slowly in the oven. Then you're supposed to put them straight on the hob and let simmer for some time. Now since we had our kitchen re-vamped, we have an induction hob, so absolutely useless with stone. Thus I had to continue with just the oven. At 200 °C the dolsots were hot enough to have a rolling boil of water. Once the time was up, I took the bowls out and wiped them dry. Then I applied sesame oil with a brush and kept doing this until they stopped absorbing it and thus were ready for use. At this point I was wondering if I could also use them for bread baking...

The next thing to do was to get the ingredients and research on how to prepare the bibimbap. As Lundulph is still in his vegetarian week challenge, I had to make sure to get lots of veggies and I opted for carrots, beetroot, courgette, French beans, red and yellow pepper, pak choi and shiitake mushrooms. In addition I sprouted some mung beans and chickpeas for a couple of days. I didn't measure my ingredients, roughly about a handful of each.

Now the first thing to do is to cut everything into julienne strips, this is fairly time consuming and I've decided to invest in a mandolin at the earliest opportunity.


While doing this, boil some rice - preferably the brown short grain variety which takes about 30 minutes. Keeping all julienned vegetables separate, the instructions stated that each should be blanched and then sautéed. A massive piece of work and not entirely healthy. So I decided to just blanch everything except the pak choi and the mushrooms which I sautéed with a little sesame oil. I left the mung beans and chickpeas uncooked. I allowed 4 minutes for the French beans, 3 minutes each for the carrots and beetroot and 2 minutes each for the courgettes and peppers. I used the same water for all of them, making sure to do the beetroot at the end as it released a lot of deep pink colour.

While blanching, I started heating up the dolsots in the oven, some 15 minutes at 75 °C, then a further 10 minutes at 120 °C, 160 °C and 200 ° respectively. Once at the final oven temperature, I added about ½ tbsp of sesame oil to each bowl, swirled it around and gave it a further 5 minutes to heat up. Once the oil is hot I placed the rice at the bottom of each bowl and pressed it down to spread it evenly at the bottom and a little along the sides. This I left to bake for 10 minutes.

Then taking out one bowl at a time, I placed the vegetables around the rim of the bowl, finally cracking an egg in the middle. Then it's ready to serve. The idea is that once on the table, the person eating will stir everything through and thus cook the egg, as the dolsot is sizzling hot. To add a bit of a kick to the whole thing, Lundulph squirted in about a tablespoon of harissa paste. I was more careful with it, but I also added half a teaspoon of smoky chipotle paste.

I'm very pleased with my first attempt, the rice got the desired crust in the oven and was wonderfully crunchy and all the veggies were really nice - cooked, but still crunchy.

Finally the cleaning of the dolsots - again the Internet had answers. Given the preparation treatment, I suspected that dishwasher was out of the question, but I wasn't too keen on just wiping the bowls clean. Actually what you do is to add a tbsp of rock salt, top up with boiling water and then scrub with a bristle brush. Keep detergents away or they might get absorbed into the stone. Allow to air dry, then brush with sesame oil and it's ready for next time.

Now the above may seem like a lot of effort and it was, which is why a mandolin makes sense. But some further reading about the concept of bibimbap noted that in fact any leftovers can be used as toppings. All you need is the rice bit and it would be a good use of leftover rice too. Lundulph seemed very pleased and agreed that the dolsots were a good investment. And as he likes his food piping hot, the stone bowls do keep their heat throughout the whole meal, which is a great bonus.

List of ingredients for two portions

1 large carrot
1 medium courgette
1 large beetroot
130 g French beans
2 sweet pointed peppers - one red and one yellow
5 - 6 large shiitake mushrooms
handful of mung bean sprouts and chickpea sprouts
2 dl brown short grain rice
toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs
harissa paste and/or smoky chipotle paste
salt to taste

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