Warming Up in the Twin Cities with Hot Stone Bowls (Dolsot) and Be Bim Bap

Korean Stone Bowls

Korean Stone Bowl (Dolsot)

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN (the Twin Cities), one of my favorite Midwestern cities, has always intrigued me for its ethnic diversity. I can understand why the Swedes and Norwegians settled there — lots of ice, snow and long winters.  You can see why they would enjoy the popular Minnesota winter sports:  cross-country skiing (which I love), ice-fishing (which I find bewildering), and curling (which I find fascinating and will be the subject of a later post).

But why do the frigid Twin Cities host the largest U.S. population of Somalis – people from a country that straddles the equator?  Or the 2nd largest U.S. population of Hmongs — immigrants from a region north of, but near, the equator?  And why is 5% of the Twin Cities population Asian – many also from warm locations?  I do not know, but they are there.  And, most important (to me), they have brought their fascinating cuisines with them.

On my recent visit, I had a chance to dig into some traditional Korean fare at an out-of-the-way Minneapolis restaurant, Sole Cafe.  While the space won’t win any awards for ambiance, the service and food were exceptional.  Intrigued by the Dolsat Bi Bim Bap, a Korean one-dish-meal of mixed rice (Bi Bim Bap) served in a scorching stone bowl (Dolsot), it did not disappoint.  The vegetables were fresh, the rice crisp, the meat delicious and the Bi Bim Bap pepper sauce homemade.   The only non-traditional element was the fried rather than raw egg on top (I can only assume that the owners had tired of complaints about raw eggs).

Notably, the Dolsot (stone bowl) kept the meal piping hot until the last bite – which was quite welcome considering the -10 F temperatures outside.   At least now I understand how the Koreans survive in MN.  Not only are they accustomed to harsh winters (unlike many Twin Cities immigrants), but they have their stone bowls to keep them warm!

Dolsat Bi Bim Bap

Dolsot Bi Bim Bap (Rice with Vegetables, Bulgogi and Raw Egg)

Dolsot Bi Bim Bap
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Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 2

2 stone bowls, or a cast iron pan
Bulgogi, (recipe for 2 servings below)
1 sheet nori, cut into strips
3 cups rice, sticky, cooked
6 ounces mushrooms, shitake, fresh or dried
8 ounces spinach, or bok choy
1 small squash, yellow, julienned
1 small squash, zucchini, julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons oil, canola
2 eggs, raw
Pepper paste (Gochujang)

Directions:

1. Seasoned Korean stone bowls are best for this dish.  If you do not have Korean Dolsot (stone bowls), you can substitute a cast iron pan.   

Seasoning Stone Bowls (Note Light Porous Appearance)

Seasoning New Stone Bowls (Note Light Porous Appearance Compared to Glossy Dark Appearance in Top Photo of Seasoned Bowl)

  • TO SEASON STONE BOWLS:  If using stone bowls for the first time, they should be scrubbed with salt, rinsed and then placed on the stove top over medium heat.  Fill bowls half full with water and let the water slowly evaporate.  When nearly dry, carefully (bowls are very hot) drain remaining water, and dry the bowls.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  While bowls are still warm, brush the interior with sesame oil and place in oven.  Bake bowls for 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove from oven and your bowls are ready to use!

2. Make Bulgogi (seasoned Korean beef).  Set aside.   I like to place the Bulgogi in a microwavable bowl so I can reheat before assembling the Bi Bim Bap.  However, this is not essential as the stone bowl will reheat all ingredients at service time.

3. Cut nori into strips.  Toast first if desired, but this is not essential. Set aside.

Prepared Nori (Seaweed)

Prepared Nori (Seaweed)

4. Cook your rice.  I prefer a rice cooker, which will keep the rice warm when cooked, but stove-top cooking works as well.  One cup of dry sticky rice = about 2 cups cooked rice.

Rice Cooker

Rice Cooker

5. Prepare vegetables shown in this recipe or substitute your own favorites.

You may cook vegetables or leave uncooked.  I prefer to cook all my vegetables, but vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers can be julienned fine and used in Bi Bim Bap uncooked.

To prepare vegetables for cooking, cut into thin strips.  If using dried shitakes, you must soak in water first and drain before removing stems and cutting into strips. For greens (spinach or bok choy), cut if pieces are large.

6. Before you begin cooking vegetables, brush the interior of each of your stone bowls lightly with a very small amount of sesame oil.   Place stone bowls over medium heat on the stove top.

7. While bowls are heating, heat vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry vegetables – doing each batch separately.

As vegetables are cooked, set aside in a bowl or platter.   Cover to keep warm.

Prepared Vegetables, Bulgogi and Raw Eggs

Prepared Vegetables, Bulgogi and Raw Eggs

8. You are now ready to assemble your Dolsat Bi Bop Bap!

You should have ready:

  • Very hot stone bowls (test these by pressing a bit of rice in the bowl to see if it sizzles).  For flavor, I add a bit more sesame oil (about 1 T) before removing bowls from the heat. If you add too much sesame oil early on in the heating process, it will start to smoke when the bowls get very hot.
  • Cooked rice
  • Bulgogi
  • Prepared vegetables (cooked or raw, depending on the vegetable)
  • Prepared nori
  • Raw eggs
  • Korean pepper paste (Gochujang)

9. Press rice (about 1 1/2 cups) into each bowl.  You should hear it sizzle.

Heated Stone Bowls with Rice Pressed Into Bottom

Heated Stone Bowls with Rice Pressed Into Bottom

Arrange Bulgogi, vegetables and nori in a circle around the edges of the rice.
Crack a raw egg into the center of the bowl.

Warn your guests that bowls are EXTREMELY HOT, and serve your Dolsot Bi Bim Bap.   Place stone bowls on heat proof plates (can be purchased with bowls).

Serve with Korean pepper paste (Gochujang).   (I like about a teaspoon in my bowl; if you use too much, you will overwhelm the other flavors).

Once served, it is time to mix everything together.  Be sure to stir the raw egg in so it cooks.  Scrape rice up from the bottom of bowl, replacing it with other ingredients, which will, in turn be warmed by the hot bowl.  Take your time eating; the food will stay hot while you savor the flavors…

Dolsat Bi Bim Bap, Mixed with a Garnish of Red Pepper Sauce

Dolsot Bi Bim Bap, Mixed with a Garnish of Red Pepper Paste (Gochujang)

10. DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:   Dolsot Bi Bim Bap is, of course, best if prepared fresh.  However, if you are time constrained, the ingredients for Dolsot Bi Bim Bap can be prepared a few hours or a day ahead and refrigerated.   Bring ingredients to room temperature (or warmer) before assembly.   This dish is an excellent use for leftover cooked rice.

11. VEGETARIAN DIRECTIONS:  Substitute tofu for Bulgogi or simply omit the Bulgogi.

12. GLUTEN-FREE DIRECTIONS:  Substitute gluten-free soy sauce in the Bulgogi recipe as most traditional brands of soy sauce contain gluten. Omit the Gochujang, which is not gluten free.

FINDING BOWLS AND INGREDIENTS:   The Korean stone bowls can be ordered via the internet if you do not have a local Asian market that carries them.  Asian vegetables can be substituted with other vegetables (e.g. white mushrooms for shitakes).   Gochujang Korean Red Pepper Sauce can be found in Asian markets or ordered via the internet.

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Bulgogi (Seasoned Korean Beef)
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Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 2

1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon oil, sesame
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, fresh, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon pepper, black
1 pound beef, flank, sirloin tip or tenderloin, trimmed and sliced into strips
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:

1. For the marinade, mix all ingredients except beef and toasted sesame seeds. Set aside.

Trim fat from beef and cut against the grain into strips no more than 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches long.

2. Add beef to marinade mixture.  Let beef marinade at least an hour and up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

3. Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a wok.  Remove beef from marinade.  Fry beef without crowding – until just cooked through.

4. Sprinkle sesame over beef.  Serve bulgogi with rice or as part of Bee Bim Bap dish.

5. DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:  Bulgogi is best served fresh.  However, it can be made a few hours or a day ahead and reheated (stovetop or microwave).

28 thoughts on “Warming Up in the Twin Cities with Hot Stone Bowls (Dolsot) and Be Bim Bap

  1. it’s such a long time since the last time I had Bi Bim Bap, your post really made me miss it. Anw, your Bi Bim Bap looks amazing, colorful and delicious 😉

      • thank you for stopping by, the thing is I’m Asian so that’s why I know a little bit more about Asian cuisine, I hope you will find my blog helpful 😉

  2. Even warm bowls are struggling with this cold snap! I am bookmarking the restaurant for the next time we’re in that neck of the woods (perhaps when my boys and I head down for our annual State Fair trip!), as usually business brings me down to the other half of the Twin Cities. The recipe looks delish! ~ Kat

    • We didn’t see temps much above zero when I was there. Hopefully, it is warmer now. If you go to Sole Cafe, I would absolutely recommend this dish and their pepper paste. They make their own homemade version, bottle and sell it but were out when I was there.

  3. I LOVE Bi Bim Bap! And love it even more that you cooked/served this in the stone pot, which is very authentic! It gives the rice that lovely crunchy-ness which I just love! Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  4. Very envious of those stone bowls. However, all three of the Korean restaurants that I have visited over the years have been utterly depressing spaces. The food, on the other hand, was great. I had the Bulgogi served on a conical metal frame on which the thin strips of beef had been cooked.

    • It does seem to be a consistent pattern with the Korean places I’ve been to as well. The Bulgogi frame sounds intriguing. I wonder if I could put the meat in my fish rack and grill it in the summer….

  5. This looks so very good but, I hate to admit, I’ve never had bi bim bop. I know. I’ve led such a sheltered life. I just don’t make it to Korean restaurants, preferring to go to Japanese, Thai, and Chinese restaurants, all well within walking distance of my home. As a result, Korean cuisine gets ignored. I need to change that. If I find that I like bi bim bop, I’ll may very well come back here for the recipe. It would be great to master a recipe like this one. Thanks for writing such thorough, clearly written instructions.

  6. This is just great! I love bi bim bap, it is one of my faves. You may already know… in one of the Japanese cuisines, they use a thick, flat, smooth block of stone which they heat very hot. It remains super hot for at least 30+ minutes. Greasing the stone block a little and put meats and vegetables to cook and dip in sauce and eat. Something like sukiyaki style. 😀 Fae.

    • The stone block sounds like fun to cook with as well. I’ve never cooked with stone until I got the Korean bowls and think it is a marvelous material – stovetop, oven, table – and it keeps everything so warm. However, I think I’ll stick with the Korean bowls for now as they aren’t easy to store in the kitchen 🙂 But I will look for the Japanese stone in restaurants….

  7. Just bookmarked this recipe because I really love Korean beef. I bought a ready-made Bulgogi marinade and although I really loved it, the hubby gave it a lukewarm reception because he found it too sweet. Got to make the marinade myself to control the sweetness. 😉

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