When it comes to food, Chris and I used to have the bad habit of letting the pefect become the enemy of the good.
Handmade pasta made from scratch? Totally in our repertoire. Vietnamese fresh spring rolls? A regular go-to Chez Dumm party dish. Homemade dumplings? A regular feature in our house.
But a simple 30 minute dinner for a Tuesday night, oooh now that felt intimidating.
More often than I’d care to admit, we’d take a half-hearted look in our fridge in D.C., then head for The Diner to eat salads and burgers that we probably could have made just as well at home.
Here is China though, things are slowly changing. Partially because we both want to make better, healthier, and more economic choices.
Partially because, well, if we aren’t cooking at home the options are a bit more limited: Chinese food, Chinese food or, you guessed it, Chinese food.
So far this week, I’ve been proud of our dinners at home, if nothing else because we didn’t let the perfect become the enemy of a good home-cooked meal.
AND we actually ate the leftovers instead of allowing them to languish in the fridge and turn into inedible biohazards of yuck.
Our big attempt this week was homemade bibimbap.
I swear it tasted better than it looks and please ignore the heinous fish decorations. People in China tend to have a….unique…design aesthetic when it comes to home goods.
Anyways, the bibimbap was tasty but not perfect. The recipe needs a little bit of tweaking and I’d like to get my hands on some dolsots before I post it up here on Hot Pot.
In spite of the imperfections though, there were 2 specific highlights to the dish that kept us coming back for more, and more, and leftovers the next day:
This ubiquitous Korean condiment (the above being an inferior Chinese version, I believe) gives bibimbap it’s spicy savory kick as well as contributes to the dish’s great texture. I firmly believe that as long as you use copious amounts of red pepper paste, you can do no wrong.
#2: The garlic sesame paste sauce.
The sauce I used for the vegetables before they were mixed in with the rice was delicious and really helped to make the dish sing. It’s savory and salty and full of those garlicy, sesame-y umami flavors.
I think it would be good on just about any vegetable side dish, as a marinade for thinly sliced, stir-fried beef, or maybe even as an Asian-style salad dressing.
I can’t take credit for inventing this mixture–it’s easy to make and probably made by billions of people in this part of the world, with hundreds of thousands of variations floating around. Below are the ratios that I most enjoy but please feel free to tinker until you come up with something that perfectly suits your palate.
Garlic Sesame Paste Sauce
Ingredients & Preparation:
2 Tablespoons finely minced garlic (or the garlic from about 7 or 8 gloves, about 1/2 a head of garlic-we like garlic around here so feel free to dial this back)
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Sesame Paste or ground sesame seeds (peanut butter can be substituted here for a similarly delicious sauce though natural peanut butter is probably better than Jiffy style which has a lot of added sugar)
1/4 Cup Sesame Oil
Pinch of Salt or to taste (keeping in mind that the soy sauce will render this mixture saltier over time)
Combine ingredients in small bowl and whisk or stir to blend. Use to top stir-fried vegetables and meat dishes or in any other way you can imagine.
Super simple right? Sometimes its the little things that make a dish good, no matter how many other imperfections there might be.
Until next time, happy cooking.