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Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Recipes, Vegetarian | 0 comments

Recipe: California Bap-less Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Recipe: California Bap-less Bibimbap (비빔밥)

California is famous around the world for many agricultural products — grapes, olives, avocados, lemons, apples, almonds. One thing that California is not famous for is wheat, but there are those in California who want to change that. The young farmers at Shone Farm in Sonoma County, Calif., have put Sonora wheat berries (kernels) in a couple of my weekly community-supported agriculture boxes — once in the spring and once so far this fall.

I don’t have my own flour mill, so I didn’t really know what to do with these historic pearls. The spring wheat sat in my pantry for several months until the fall wheat came in. I had the idea to cook them in my rice cooker using the same directions as steaming brown rice. My crazy idea was born for Koreafornian 비빔밥 bibimbap (various vegetables and side dishes mixed together in a bowl with cooked rice).

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Here’s what Sonora wheat looks like before cooking. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
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This is Sonora wheat after cooking in a rice cooker on the brown-rice setting. (Jeff Quackenbush photo)

Sonora wheat is “believed to be one of the oldest wheat (varietals) grown in North America,” according to Sustainable Seed Company:

“Brought here by the Native Americans in Mexico.  Can be documented as being brought from Magdalena Mission in Northern Sonora Mexico where it was grown since 1770. In California it followed the missions up the coast in the 1820s and was planted as a staple for making whole wheat tortillas.”

Boldly going without 밥 bap

How can one make bibimbap with out 밥 bap (rice)? Steamed wheat berries are a little chewier than brown rice, but the flavor has more earthy depth than brown rice.

Recently, I realized that pesto is a great way to deal with a regular yet challenging item from the farm: kale. Adding kale pesto to this “비빔 밀 열매 bibim mil yeolmae” (mixture over wheat berries) adds a savory complement to the wheat berries.

Another way to add a savory edge to this dish is to add sautéed 배추김치 baechu kimchi (common cabbage kimchi) in perilla oil. If you’ve made 김치찌개 kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) or kimchi pizza, you likely discovered that cooking kimchi enhances the tang and rounds off the biting edge. The result is a flavor akin to Eastern European hulupkis (cabbage rolls simmered in a savory tomato sauce).

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California bibimbap, before the bibim (mixing)! (Jeff Quackenbush photo)

California “Bibimbap”

Serves:2

1–2 cups wheat berries, steamed
1/4 cup kale pesto
1/4 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup 무생채 mu saengchae (julienned radish kimchi)
1/4 cup 시금치나물 shigeumchi namul (spinach salad)
1/4 cup kimchi, sautéed in perilla oil
1/4 cup ground beef, sauteed in garlic olive oil, salt, ground black pepper
2 fried eggs, each sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon 고추장 gochujang (spicy red chili and fermented soybean and rice paste)

  1. Cook wheat berries the way you would brown rice. (I used the brown rice setting on my rice cooker.) Soaking the berries in water before cooking isn’t necessary.
  2. Put 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked wheat in a bowl.
  3. Arrange the kale pesto, radishi kimchi, spinach namul, sautéed kimchi around the edge of the bowl.
  4. Thoroughly cook ground beef, and place it in the middle of the bowl.
  5. Cover the beef with a fried egg.
  6. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and dollop of gochujang.

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