Taco night was one of my favorites as a child. Not just because we got to eat with our hands or consume copious amounts of shredded cheese and spicy ground beef, I loved taco night because it meant in some small way I was in charge of what I ate. Set in the center of the table, the lazy susan offered up topping choice like green onions, salsa, shredded cheese, black olives, tomatoes, and IMO (we had yet to discover sour cream), once mom would fill our shells with meat, we were given free reign. If I wanted an all cheese taco, then so be it. Green onion and IMO? You bet. If I got to the black olives before Jamie, then tough luck little sis,- it’s survival of the fittest on Taco night.
Not that any of these creations were profound in flavor development, but it was mine, just the way I wanted it. And as an ornery 8 year-old who felt totally oppressed by her parents- No, you can not wear your bathing suit to the dinner table. No, you can not dress up the cat. Yes, you must eat your sautÃ©ed mushrooms. This taco handiwork of mine gave me just a kiss of power. Mary-Elizabeth 1, Parents 0.
Though I donâ€™t have a lazy susan of my own, Kevin and I took pleasure in a build your own Hwae Dap Bop earlier this week. I didnâ€™t intend it, but as I chopped and sliced our veggies, the piles building up on the cutting board looked too lovely to disrupt. Iâ€™d like to think I wanted to give Kev the option of building his dinner just the way he liked it, the right combination of creamy avocado and crispy cool cucumber, but really, I just wanted to hoard all the avocado for myself. I didnâ€™t. But I thought about it.
Hwae Dap Bap is raw fish, atop a variety of raw vegetables, on a bed of rice with seasoned chili sauce. In Korea we generally ate this for lunch or a light dinner. While in composition it can appear quite simple- it spans a variety of textures: the crunch of cabbage and carrot, the buttery-ness of raw fish, and the gentle toothsome-ness of short grain rice. The dish also lends itself well to creativity. The variety of vegetables used can play on a theme; spring greens: asparagus, pea vines, radishes, and radish sprouts or Northwest foraged: fiddlehead ferns, sea beans, sauteed nettles and wood sorrel.
In Seoul we noshed on white flat fish or tuna, but back home Iâ€™m a sucker for salmon. I like to sear it on either side, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, before cutting into a large dice. Traditionally, Hwae dap bap is served with a spicy chili sauce, a mixture of gochujang, sesame oil, and soy sauce, punctuated with garlic and green onion.
Hwae Dap Bap
This dish is a fantastic vehicle for creativity. We like to throw in a fried egg. Try changing out the rice for a grain: quinoa, bulgur, or brown rice. Use seasonal vegetables picked up at the farmerâ€™s market. Serving the dish in individual portions is more traditional, but if you have a lazy susan, why not enjoy a build your own hwae dap bap night?
1 cup short grain white rice
1/2 lb fillet salmon, skin removed.
1 carrot, julienned
1/4 head red or green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 avocado, cut into medium pieces
1 cup packed sprouts
1/2 cup cucumber, seeds removed, cut into small pieces
Seasoned Chili Sauce
3 TBSP gochujang
2 TBSP water
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 tsp sugar or mool yut (Korean Malt Syrup)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds (to toast sesame seeds, place seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Stir, or shake the skillet, continuously until seeds are brown and smell nutty, about 3 minutes)
Mandolin (for the carrots and cabbage)
Medium SautÃ© Pan
1. If you have a rice cooker, cook rice to your rice cookerâ€™s specifications. If not, consider getting one. Theyâ€™re great, really. You can even get ones that you can leave the rice inâ€™em for, like, 2-3 days. Imagine, having rice any time you wanted. Amazing. Right. Back to you and your uncooked rice. Place rice in a medium saucepan and add 1 1/4th cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff rice with a fork. Cover, and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
2. After you have the rice started, heat your sautÃ© pan over high heat. While you are waiting for the pan to heat, season both sides of the salmon with kosher salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, hot, hot, (Iâ€™m not joking, you want this thing hot as the famed Texan sidewalk that cooked an egg) add the salmon and sear for 1-2 minutes. We arenâ€™t cooking the fish through, just getting a delicious crusty side. Flip the fish over and repeat. Remove fish from pan and set on the cutting board, and rest for a few minutes for no other reason than trying to cut the fish now will probably burn the tips of your fingers and make you grouchy. Once the fish is cool enough to handle, cut into nice 1/2 inch cubes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the gochujang, water, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sesame seeds. Gochujang is incredibly thick, and even with the addition of soy sauce and sesame oil, the sauce is still too thick. Add enough water (starting with the 2 TBSP), stirring constantly, until you get the thickness you want. I like it akin to Hersheyâ€™s Chocolate Syrup. You may like it thicker or thinner. Itâ€™s your call.
4. To serve, place 1/4 to 1/3 cup rice in the bottom of each bowl (you could use more, but I donâ€™t want you filling up on all that rice). Place a tablespoon or so of each vegetable and fish on top of the rice in a circular pattern (or as much that will fit). Crown it all off with a healthy dose of chili paste.