Korean Short Rib Bibimbap with Rachel Yang
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MATT MORNICK
“If you are going to break the rules, you better know the rules,” says Rachel Yang, chef owner of Joule, Revel, and Trove restaurants. Rachel and her husband, Seif Chirchi, have risen in Seattle’s culinary scene by, among many things, honoring authentic cuisine through reinvention. I sat down with Rachel to discuss a dish close to her heart – Korean bibimbap – to understand how she integrates creativity and tradition.
“If you do not fully understand why authentic cuisine holds up, it is unlikely you can create something new that makes sense,” she explains. “Just because it is creative doesn’t mean it is good. Intention must be well-defined when you depart from an original recipe. A new dish is good because of the balance of flavors. To start, we wanted to create a bibimbap around the Korean short rib.”
Short ribs are most commonly braised and cooked in American cuisine. Koreans, however, use a sweet and savory marinade before grilling the meat. “The fatty, sweet, salty, and charred short ribs can take on many different flavors, which is essential for this dish,” Rachel says.
Korean bibimbap is a one-bowl wonder of meat, fresh seasonal vegetables, and an egg elegantly laid over a bowl of steamed rice. The name means “mixed rice.” Bibimbap was inevitable in Korea, a country with a long-standing agricultural history. Historians and scientists point to the middle of the 10th century Koryo dynasty, when the custom of eating at a table – the bapsang culture – first began. The traditional meal was characterized by individual settings of rice, soup, side dishes, and red-pepper paste on a table. Today, all the ingredients are presented in one bowl.
Rachel marinates short ribs in a sweet and savory red wine marinade and prepares it two ways: grilled medium rare and tartare style. The different texture of the short ribs create contrast with the smoky-flavored charred greens, and the salted, spicy, pickled sambal daikon mixture.
Instead of making a Korean daikon kimchi, Rachel uses a fermented in-house sambal, which yields lighter flavors than traditional kimchi. This gives the dish a refreshing finish. Add charred bitter greens, an egg, and an array of sauces, and the story is complete.
The short rib rice bowl does not depart too far from the flavors of authentic bibimbap, but the way Rachel composes the flavors makes the dish wonderfully distinct.
“I got into this work to be creative,” she says. “Of course, many restaurants provide traditional, authentic food, and they do it exceedingly well. Traditional flavor profiles withstand the test of time because they are balanced and complete. Yet if you tell me to cook the same recipe the same way for 30 years, I would go crazy. Understanding why these dishes work and striving to create something routed in their success is how you create something that sort of follows the rule, but in a way breaks the rule. That is where creativity really hits.
“This dish is best when everything is mixed up,” she continues. “Break the egg yolk, mix it among the ingredients, try it with different sauces and then it comes to life. It is unpretentious. Food has to be fun. It needs to feed your body and your soul. It does not need to be serious.
“In the end,” she concludes, “no matter what kind of food, cuisine, style, or process, the final dish has to taste good. Having something taste good is subjective. But it is also universal. Food is so important because it is a medium in which people from any culture can arrive to the same understanding that food – whether from your culture or another’s, authentic or created with a twist – is delicious. You don’t need to speak the same language, know the background or history. If it tastes good, it is good. People understand good food.”
Rachel recommends the Fremont Brewery Universale Pale Ale to complement the short rib rice bowl.
Revel is located at 403 N 36th St, 98103. Visit www.revelseattle.com or call 206-547-2040.
Trove is located at 500 East Pike Street, 98122. Call 206-457-4622.
Joule is located at 3506 Stone Way North, 98103. Call 206-632-5685.
West Coast photographer Matt Mornick specializes in photographing food, people, and travel. His portfolio is available at mornick.com.
Short rib rice bowl, winter greens, sambal daikon
Serves 4/ 60 minutes active time, 4 hours inactive time
There are four main components with five steps to build this rice bowl. The four components are braised short rib, short rib tartare, charred winter greens, and sambal daikon. You will be braising, grilling, pickling, curing, and marinating.
For braised short rib
24 ounces short ribs, 2-3 inch rib on the bone, braised on the bone
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup Aji-Mirin Kikkoman
1 cup red wine, either Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah (dark fruit)
1 cup water
1 kombu, cut 8” x 5” sheet in half, using 4” x 5” (common in Asian grocery stores)
2 ounces Whole peeled daikon
1 each Whole Korean green chili peppers
In a thick-bottomed pot, add all ingredients over medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover and braise for about 60 minutes over low heat until meat is fork tender. Keep short ribs in liquid on stove top while assembling rice bowl to keep them warm.
For short rib tartare
4 ounces short rib meat, chopped or small diced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
½ teaspoon Korean coarse chili powder
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon Asian pear, finely diced
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard seeds
In a bowl, mix all ingredients right before serving.
For winter greens
1 bunch lacinato kale, leaves only, cut into bite size
1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves only, cut into bite size
1 bunch collard greens, leaves only, cut into bite size
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the grill to about 400°F. Toss the kale, chard, and collard greens with oil and salt. Char them quickly on the grill over medium high heat. Or quickly sauté the greens in a skillet on a stove top. Reserve the greens.
For sambal daikon
2 pounds daikon, peeled, cut into large diced pieces, 1” x 1”
1 pint rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup sambal oelek
In a small pot, bring rice vinegar, sugar, water, and salt together to a boil. Once to a boil, pour over daikon. Let it sit for 60 minutes in the fridge. Strain the pickling liquid once cooled. Toss with sambal oelek and set aside.
For egg yolk
1 cup soy sauce (do not use low sodium soy sauce)
4 each egg yolk
Cure the egg yolks in soy sauce for 4 hours in a refrigerator.
4 cups cooked white rice
To assemble the rice bowl, place 1 cup of rice in each of the 4 bowls. Slice the braised short rib, and divide equally into the 4 bowls. Add the beef tartare, charred winter greens, and sambal daikon. Place the cured egg yolk in the middle of each rice bowl. Enjoy them with house sauces, such as seasoned soy sauce, spicy chili sauce, savory bean paste, or nam phrik sauce.