Being that I’m always experimenting with food, I’ve been on a Korean kick lately. Korea’s food obviously has some similar elements to Chinese and Japanese dishes, but as a whole it’s nowhere near the same. Japanese food seems to be more on the minimalist side of things — with simple, clean flavors — while Chinese cooking (in most regions) uses many ingredients and flavors. Korean cooking lies somewhere in the middle.
Korean cuisine is based on vegetables, meat and rice, and often includes garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, sesame oil, black pepper, vinegars, doenjang (fermented bean paste) and gochujang (fermented red chili paste) — yielding an array of tangy, savory and sometimes spicy dishes.
For my experiment, I took inspiration from two popular Korean dishes: bulgogi and bibimbap. Bulgogi is traditionally thinly sliced beef sirloin that has been marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and other ingredients. It is then quickly grilled or stir-fried and served with lettuce (to wrap the meat in) and a dipping sauce.
Bibimbap is a staple of Korean cooking comprised of a bowl filled with rice and topped with meat, usually beef, gochujang, varying combinations of vegetables and a fried egg. The contents in the bowl are typically mixed together while being eaten, which is very fitting as the word bibimbap in Korean literally translates to “mixed meal.”
Put the two dishes together and you get this Korean barbecue beef and rice bowl with bok choy. (See recipe below.) I didn’t have any gochujang on hand, so I substituted red pepper flakes in the marinade. As for the beef, I used the flat iron cut, which is a thinner piece of meat cut from the shoulder section, similar to skirt or flank steak. Flat iron, or “top blade,” steak is a tender, flavorful and inexpensive cut that takes well to marinating and should be cooked quickly over fairly high heat. Don’t go much past medium or it will become tough.
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