Sunday, November 20, 2011

Playdate Special: Be Bim Bop

Have you ever thought  about rice? It's present in almost every cuisine of the world, and is the main ingredient for many delicious meals. That's why it was chosen to represent the sense of unity of most cultures at my kid's school cooking club's classes. So the first dish to be prepared at the Cooking Club this year was a colorful dish from Korea, Bi Bim Bop.

I first fell in love with this idea when I saw a kid's book in my local library, called Bee-Bim Bop!, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee, few years ago. Later I had the chance of trying some of the original plate in a Korean bowl place in Palo Alto.

The book is amazing — so cute and so full of rhymes that it turns the task of preparing the dish into almost a musical experience. After four rounds of making the dish with kids at school, I finally got to invite our playgroup to make it, this time using beef instead of tofu.

The key element to get the school kids and our playgroup involved was reading the book before cooking, and getting them used to the idea of "chop chop chop," as in the book,  with a  safe (plastic) knife. Then, the process used with the school kids: While kids at one table were prepping the vegetables, kids at another table were cutting tofu and preparing the marinade. The third table's kids were working with the eggs for the egg pancakes.

The final result was amazing and put together the work of every kid: after watching us cook the veggies and tofu on the griddle, they all had a colorful bowl full of rice to be mixed. For many kids it was the first time to try some different vegetables, tofu, and soy sauce. And some of them were just following what the book suggested — mix mix mix — and eat!

Be Bim Bop

Any rice will do a great job here. If choosing beef, put the fresh steak in the freezer for about 15 minutes to help with the slicing. This recipe is adapted from Linda Sue Park's and also has some inspiration from recipes around the Web. If you are really daring to try something else, you can add a recipe of kimchi (as in this good recipe here).  

Cooked rice
1 English cucumber, peeled
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 pound aduki bean sprouts or alfalfa
4 medium shitake mushroom (optional)
4 medium white mushrooms (optional)
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups fresh organic baby spinach, chopped
Extra-firm organic tofu, diced (or 8 oz. sirloin steak, finely sliced)

Marinade for tofu or beef:
6 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil
Sesame seeds (optional)
4 drops sesame oil (optional)
2 stalks spring onions (scallions)

Preheat electric griddle to 370F. (You also can use a large skillet, over medium-high heat.) Chop the vegetables and set aside, each in a different bowl. Mix ingredients for the marinade in another bowl. Add the tofu or beef to the marinade.

Beat the eggs lightly and prepare mini-egg pancakes in the griddle. When done, set them aside on a plate to cool down. Add carrots and tofu (or beef) to the griddle and keep an eye on them, turning periodically.

Cut egg pancakes into half-inch strips and set aside on a plate. Now add mushrooms, bean sprouts, and spinach to the griddle, keeping them separated. At the last minute add cucumber. When the carrots are cooked but still al dente, start removing vegetables, transferring each type to its own bowl. Removed the beef or tofu from the griddle.

Serve all ingredients over a bowl of rice, to be mixed by the person being served. 

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