Rice bowls have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Whether that is because of their instragramable appearance, their healthiness (content dependent of course) or even just because they are an easy meal which can be eaten hot or cold I do not know, but whatever the reason they are a fab dish to have in your culinary repertoire. As rice bowls only consist of a variety of toppings laid out over rice, they really aren’t that different from a standard rice dish but what sets them apart is how they look. The brightness and variety of toppings contrast with the neutral base colour of the rice, resulting in a dish which is beautiful and (if done properly) delicious to eat. I am not quite sure where the western notion of rice bowls came from but I would assume that it evolved from the Japanese dish donburi, where meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and then served over a bowl of rice, but this is entirely conjecture on my behalf.
The toppings on your rice bowl are a completely personal thing. Common toppings involve cooked meats (which are often roasted, glazed or fried in sauce), cooked or raw fish, tofu, cooked and raw vegetables, salad and often some sort of pickle to cut through the richness of the rest of the toppings. Beans can be used to help bulk out the dish so you end up with neither too much rice nor too much of the main topping – too much of anything can get boring and you want to enjoy your meal. I have also seen many rice bowl recipes which are topped with a fried egg where the yolk can be cut into and the runny insides mixed into the rest of the dish – almost like a ricey carbonara.
The topping which I am giving the recipe for this week is fried minced beef with onion, garlic, soy and lots of chili. If you can get your hands on Gochujang – a fermented, spicy Korean chili paste – I would fully recommend using it for the chili in this dish as this is what will give you the best flavour and is possibly the only thing that makes this “Korean Beef” as opposed to “Asian Style Beef”. Failing that, any hot chili sauce will work and if you want an extra hit of spice, adding fresh chili is a good way to go about that.
One of the best things about this dish is that you can eat it cold and it still tastes great. The one thing to remember is that when it is cooling, the sauce will separate, the fats and oils into one layer and the water based ingredients into another. A lot of this fat will have come out of the beef when cooking so do not be alarmed by the quantity and what it looks like when it has set – this can appear rather unappealing – but make sure to give everything a good stir when the meat has cooled as this will bring the sauce back together and ensure that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the dish. Try to avoid pouring off the fat as it contains a lot of the beefy flavour and it would be a shame to waste it.
Korean Chilli Beef
Time: 20 minutes
400g beef mince
1 medium onion
4 spring onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
60ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce
50g (1/4cup) brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (gochujang/sriracha)
1 hot red chilli – finely chopped
Pepper to taste
Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Finely chop the onion and spring onion and set aside the green section of the spring onion for later.
Heat a large frying pan with the oil and add the onions.
Sautee until the onion turns translucent.
Add the beef, breaking it up in the pan with a wooden spoon.
Fry for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until most of the beef has turned from red to brown and the fat has started being released.
Add the sauce. The pan will be hot so the sauce should bubble on contact.
Stir to coat everything with the sauce.
Continue to cook for another 3 minutes to make sure the garlic and chilli are both cooked through.
If the sauce is still quite runny, you can add a little cornflour mixed with water to thicken it up (breadcrumbs and matzah meal also work).
Once the sauce has thickened, stir through the chopped green section of the spring onions and remove the beef from the heat.
The beef can be served both hot and cold on top or rice, just remember to give it a thorough stirring if you let it cool as the sauce will separate and you will want to mix the fats/oils back into the sauce.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe! If you are a fan of Asian style foods, check out my recipes for ginger tofu and sticky salmon. If the salmon piques your interest, you should definitely check out Yanmin over at Yan and the Yums, she taught it to me several years ago and is a stunningly good chef with some fab recipes.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious chocolatey treat.