Yesterday was the last day of Vegan Korean food week. We ended it on what I suppose you could call a high note, but one that went squeaky and sharp at the end. Like a child practicing playing the recorder.
Lunch was Bibimbap. Vegan bibimbap, of course. It was delicious, if I do say so myself, and was made from my very own recipe, which I’ll share below. What wasn’t so delicious was the Ginseng tea.
According to my sources, Ginseng is the number one exported product out of Korea, and a staple ingredient in Korean cooking. I have tried it before, but only in the hyper-westernized tea-bags, or flavoured ‘energy’ drinks. I’d never gone to the source before, and bought the real thing.
The recipe I had called for 50g of dried ginseng root, and four dried jujubes, and a large pot of water, boiled for 4 hours. I followed it to the letter, and I was expecting big things- after all, this was the same book I’d folowed blindly to make the persimmon tea, pumpkin porridge, and barbecued seitan, and that had all been delightful. What could go wrong?
At the end of the specified time, I drained it and I added the specified amount of sugar. It looked like tea, it had the aroma of tea, but what did it taste like?
I took a sip and to my surprise… it tasted exactly like ear-wax. I’m not kidding. It was foul, horrible, disgusting stuff. And it wasn’t even amusing, like the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans in Harry Potter. To check I hadn’t somehow inexplicably gotten real ear-wax on the spoon (that’s how uncannily ear-waxy it tasted), i tried another spoon. But alas, the evil flavour remained. So, I got Mr to try it, to ensure it wasn’t just some individual sensory glitch. He made the same faces and used the same curse words that I had.
Apparently, the ginseng tea just wasn’t to be. I don’t whether an inferior ginseng root, a bad recipe, a cooking mistake, or simply our unrefined palates are to blame. I mean no disrespect to either he North or South Koreans (and I will certainly try it again, if I ever come across it being made by someone in the know) but it was just awful.
Has anyone else tried ginseng tea made this way? Is it usually good?
Well, shaking off that unfortunate experience, its time for the vegan bibimbap recipe.
Vegan Bibimbap Recipe
makes enough for two.
150g firm tofu
2 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup uncooked)
3 tbs soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp beef-flavoured stock powder
2 tbs chilli paste (korean if you can find it- I couldn’t)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp shredded dried nori (laver)
1/4 of one large carrot
1/4 of one small daikon
6 spinach leaves
5 shiitake mushrooms
2 small bunches of enoki mushrooms
2 oyster mushrooms
3 tbs bean sprouts
1/2 small cucumber
4x5cm piece red capsicum (bell pepper)
2 tbsp kimchi
Cook the rice
- Chop all vegetables (except enokis and bean sprouts) into thin match sticks, about 4cmlong. Chop tofu into cubes.
- Heat a small amount of sesame oil in a wok, and briefly stir fry each vegetable at a time (i.e. carrots in, carrots out, then spinach in). Add a little salt to the mushrooms, and a little soy sauce to the spinach.When each vegetable is cooked, setitaside on a warm plate. Do not cook the bean sprouts of cucumber.
- Heat remaining oil in the wok and add the tofu. Cook on high stirring constantly, and add the remaining soy sauce and the beef stock powder. Fry until heated through.
- Divide the tofu into two bowls.
- Cover the tofu with the rice, and shape into a mound.
- Sprinkle the sesmae seeds and nori onto the rice, and add spoonfulls of the chilli.
- Arrange the vegetables in bunches on the rice, creating a wheel-effect.
- Spoon the kimchi into the middle of the wheel and serve.