Kimchee Bok-keum Bahp – Korean Cafe Food at Home

kimchee bok-keum bahp
Japanese people don’t eat sushi and tempura every night for dinner. Chinese moms don’t make all types of dim sum each morning to serve their families for breakfast and make kung pao chicken and mushu pork for dinner at night. And when it comes to Korean food, galbee (marinated short ribs) and bulgogi (marinated thinly sliced steak) cooked on a tabletop grill, lots of little tiny bowls and plates of bahn-chan (various marinated or seasoned vegetables and meats), and maybe a jji-gae (hot pot) or naeng-myun (cold buckwheat noodles) to round out the meal isn’t an every night dinner. In fact, that kind of meal might not even be eaten once a week. Unless you’re the King of Korea, that is.

The food we eat at home doesn’t always make it onto the menus at the big Korean restaurants. It’s similar to the way tuna casserole doesn’t make it onto the menu at American restaurants – it’s just home cooking. Well, actually, there is that trend of retro home-style comfort foods, so I wouldn’t put it past someone to come up with a $45 “ooh, fancy” tuna casserole – homemade papardalle and seared Ahi tuna in creamy white cheddar sauce.

No, Korean home cooking is just the simple stuff that can be cooked quickly and cheaply, and sometimes it does make it onto the menus at Korean cafés, which serve simpler, much more casual foods. Like an osteria. Like bistro foods. Like a bar. It’s not exactly chicken wings and french fries (though both usually are found on Korean cafe menus), but many things with rice, tofu, and kimchee. Like kimchee-dooboo at Bohemian – which I will make someday, but better

Kimchee bok-keum bahp is a home-style and café food. Usually at home, it’s a way to use up kimchee before it gets too ripe to eat (at which time, it get dumped into a big pot and turned into kimchee jji-gae). Bok-keum means sauteed or fried and bahp is bahp and that is steamed rice if you’re only halfway through Korean 101. ;) So essentially, kimchee bok-keum bahp is fried rice with kimchee, and yes, all those stories about Asian restaurants – today’s leftover rice is tomorrow’s fried rice – is totally true and totally applies here.

This poor little jar of kimchee in my fridge is really about two days from fermenting into spicy cabbage wine, so thank god for kimchee bok-keum bahp. Here’s a nasty little sercret – kimchee bokkeum bahp tastes infinitely better when cooked with *gasp!* chopped Spam, but since I didn’t already have Spam on hand and the point of kimchee bokkeum bahp is to use leftovers, I got to use frozen leftover galbee. *phew*

Meat and chopped kimchee sautéed together along with any other vegetables that may be occupying refrigerator real estate (I had none, not even onions, because, well, I haven’t been to the market in days!), then some day old (at least) rice added, a dash or more of soy sauce for seasoning, additional kimchee “juice” from the jar – and “kimchee juice” just sounds so nasty but it tastes great :). I always add an egg – I’m not sure why. The egg doesn’t do much, but that’s what Mom did, so I do it to. Push all the rice to the side of the pan, scramble the egg right there next to the rice, then stir it in. At the very end, it has to be hit with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Of course, like all foods of that sort of function like fried rice, omelettes, and casseroles, there are infinite variations (like bacon or tofu – don’t ask me, that’s only what I’ve heard) but this is the Delicious version!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike July 11, 2005 at 2:49 am

Hey, no knockin’ the Spam! I was just nibbling on a Spam musubi from L&L earlier today — yum!

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2 Kirk July 11, 2005 at 4:56 am

Sarah – Sounds and looks yummy! I agree that it would have been better with that all important food group spam….. Did you know that they tried putting spam at the top of the food pyramid but it started tipping over???

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3 sarah July 11, 2005 at 6:13 am

you know, methinks that Spam just may deserve its very own post here at the delicious life one day. :) who knows, perhaps we will have a world-wide bloggers’ spam appreciation day!

and a few weeks ago, i was reading archives of la weekly i think, and the filipino chef at YI CUISINE did a whole spam tasting menu ;) i’m kinda simultaneously repulsed and wanting to try it. LOL!

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4 plentyo'moxie July 11, 2005 at 12:36 pm

Any reccomendations for Korean cookbooks for us gringos? I’d actually like the home cooking variety, v. fancy special food.

And I think you inadvertently inspired me with that seared ahi parpadelle reference.

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5 sarah July 12, 2005 at 3:53 pm

hm, i have a few korean cookbooks, but they were all small publications done by friends of my mom, etc. and i’ve never seen them in bookstores anywhere. the ones i have seen are okay, but nothing outstanding.

LOL! and if you DO make seared ahi with creamy pappardalle aka tuna noodle casserole, you will be genius in my book!

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6 Anonymous July 12, 2005 at 4:07 pm

The kimchee bokkeum bahp photo looks great! Do you think you could approximate a recipe with measurements for the home audience?

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7 sarah July 13, 2005 at 6:00 pm

hm, perhaps i will give it another go ’round this weekend and pay more atention to the proportions :) will post it up next week. thanks so much for asking!

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8 Anonymous July 14, 2005 at 9:15 pm

Kimchi bokkumbap so good, and so easy to make. But its too hot now to turn on the stove argh so kimchi and rice for me this week. Sarah your picture of the bokkumbap is making me crazy and I do have kimchi to use. *sigh* decisions decisions.

Milgwimper

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9 Jo July 14, 2005 at 10:17 pm

Greetings Sarah! I followed a link here posted by Kirk at MMM-YoSo. I like your view of BiBimBap (pardon the spelling but I’s jest a white gal). I’m used to stiring it in the bowl rather than the pan and the egg is fried rather than scrambled. Love the variation! One of the things that attracted me to this dish was the fried egg cause it reminded me one of my favorite dinners (from Spain) which is fresh rice (boiled with olive oil and whole cloves of peeled garlic) covered in fresh tomato sauce, and topped with (::laughing:: duh!) FRIED EGG!

Milgwimper ::waves:: has and is teaching me most of what I know about Korean food. She gave me a book I’ve found really useful (HEADS UP PLENTYO’MOXIE) “Eating Korean” by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. The recipes are simple enough that I don’t shy away from them and the anecdotal portions are very informative and give significant insight to some of the “whys” of Korean/Amercan society. I found it fascinating and after a couple read throughs was able to put together a full meal, centered around simmered tofu. That first attempt was a bit on the salty side (just ask Mils!) but I’ve gotten MUCH better since.

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10 Jo July 14, 2005 at 10:19 pm

OH YEA! Before I forget, GO FOR THE SPAM! I make Spam pie, Spam burgers, fried Spam w/ rice & eggs, fried Spam sandwiches… My favorite, Spam pie with cauliflower & brocoli!

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11 sarah j. gim July 15, 2005 at 3:34 am

hey jo! thanks for stopping by! the rice dish you speak of, the bi-bim-bahp – is that the same as this? –> look here.

that is different from bok-keum-bahp. bi-bim means to mix and mush it all together and usually it is done in your own bowl, and bokkeum means stirfried in a pan. :)

regular bokkeumbahp is basically fried rice, kimchee bokkeumbahp is fried rice with kimchee.

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12 Annie December 29, 2008 at 7:46 am

I love kim chee fried rice, almost as much as I love kim chee jigae. I think the best thing is to not use up the whole jar on the fried rice, and let the rest go all the way to jigae ripeness

Nice save with the kalbi, but why don’t you have at least one can of Spam in the house?

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13 gaga December 31, 2008 at 5:31 am

I think kimchi fried rice really works best with spam too, but galbee is always good too.

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