It started with the kalbi sauce. Traditionally, kalbi is made with short ribs, but I only had chicken breast. So I made kalbi chicken.
That was the beginning of my fall into the bizarro Korean BBQ universe.
You've seen slaws based in mayo, in yogurt, with nothing but vinegar. This sesame seaweed slaw had the familiar, faintly wilted crunch of cabbage, with a wisp of the sea. It also had kale in it. Crazy!
And then instead of sweet potatoes, I made butternut squash with parsnips, sage, and soy sauce. A different kind of sweet, with a different kind of bite. Sage isn't Asian at all, but it gave a welcome Thanksgiving-like warmth to the dish.
Finally, I made wheatberries with gochujang, the Korean red pepper paste. To me, the best part of bibimbap is the toasted rice on the bottom of the bowl. The wheatberries are already nutty by nature. Cooked with gochujang, they are infused from the inside out.
KALBI CHICKEN RECIPE: Cut two large chicken breasts into cubes. Marinate overnight in kalbi sauce. Saute over medium high heat. If the pan gets too watery, spoon it out and reserve. You don't want the chicken to steam. When the chicken is done, reduce the marinade until thick. Add the chicken back for a sweet-salty lacquer.
SESAME SEAWEED SLAW RECIPE: Thinly slice cabbage. Chop kale. Add sheets of torn-up dry seaweed. For dressing, mix grated ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar, black vinegar, honey, and sesame seeds. Toss with vegetables and let sit for an hour so they can wilt.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH, SAGE & SOY SAUCE RECIPE: Saute chopped garlic in a large pot until golden. Add chopped butternut squash, parsnips, half your sage, and a dash of chicken broth. Cover and cook until the squash and parsnips are soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover and add the rest of the sage (Herbs of varied levels of cooked add dimension). Add a glug of soy sauce and stir. Let the squash steam it out a bit. This will concentrate the soy sauce.
GOCHUJANG WHEATBERRIES RECIPE: Add wheatberries to pot of water and bring to boil. Turn off heat and let soak for 3 hours or so. Cook wheatberries for 20 minutes, covered. Lift top if it looks like there's too much liquid. When steam holes show up on the surface, add gochujang. Remain cooking until the wheatberries have the bite you like.