The cold winds in the air are telling us that Winter is coming, and there’s nothing like snuggling into the depths of a warm bed and binge-watching some movies and TV with a hot bowl of hearty, home-made food. This winter dream can only come true with a few go-to dishes under our belts, and luckily for Sydney-siders, the Korean Cultural Office is running Hands-on Cooking Classes that include one of my top Winter food picks – Dolsot Bibimbap.
So what is Dolsot Bibimbap? Bibimbap is a salty, sweet, and spicy mix of rice, beef bulgogi (marinated beef) and vegetables cooked with garlic, chives and sesame oil, topped with a raw egg and generous amounts of gochujang (Korean chilli paste). The ingredients are cooked separately, arranged on a bed of rice in a stone bowl, called a Dolsot, and heated until the bottom of the rice becomes golden and crispy. The fun part is mixing everything together and eating it in huge spoonfuls. Because of the process of Dolsot Bibimbap, I also learnt how to make marinated beef bulgogi and classic bibimbap – it’s three dishes in one! Not to mention that each of the toppings themselves can also be used as side dishes.
The classes are taught by Chef Heather Jeong, who’s all smiles until the look of focus she gets immediately when cooking. Her culinary history goes further than sharing Korean culture and delicacies on SBS Kitchen Conversation to her grandmother who cooked for the Seoul imperial court around the turn of the century. With an intimate group of 8 per class, Heather is free to roam around and taste-test everyone’s progress as we followed her demonstrations, with all ingredients and instructions provided and an eat-what-you-cook mentality. Other Korean favourites you can learn here are Daeji bulgogi, Bindae tteok, Bul dak, Janchi guksoo, Tteok bokki, and Kimpab. Here’s a rough rundown of my cooking experience!
We were welcomed into the small learning space with fresh ingredients and hot cups of green tea. Heather introduced herself and we spent a little time getting to know each other – I noticed a couple of regulars there! We were equipped with our own copy of the recipes, chopping boards, a knife, various ingredients we needed to prepare, and some plates to house our ingredients.
We started by julienning radish and re-hydrated shitake mushrooms – the thinner the better!
Heather told us about a method that Korean cooks traditionally use to pull the water from elements like zucchini and spinach so that they don’t get too soggy in the rice: by mixing them with a bit of salt! This also added a bit of flavour to them.
The garlic was minced finely and the chives chopped, these ingredients would season the Bibimbap toppings as we cooked them.
The beef bulgogi was marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, and pepper to taste. I also added spring onion because I like the flavour.
The tables were cleared somewhat, and placed in front of us were personal stoves and frying pans, which we doused with sesame oil to cook our ingredients.
Heather first showed us the classic Bibimbap, where the ingredients were arranged in a bowl and topped with the perfect sunny side up egg.
We happily passed around the bowl and tried a few bites each.
But of course the dish of the day was Dolsot Bibimbap, which we started compiling by adding a few drops of sesame oil into our stone pots and adding a layer of rice. I spread mine around the pot to maximise the surface area and get as much crispy rice as I could!
We then topped it with the elements we made from scratch, including carrots, pickled radishes and zucchini, spinach, cooked bean sprouts, and tender beef bulgogi. These are the classic ingredients of Bibimbap, but of course you have free reign to be as innovative as you’d like!
The final touch was added with a sprinkling of chilli powder and a huge dollop of gochujang chilli paste. For my first time making Dolsot Bibimbap, I think it looked quite presentable! We were also welcomed to try our fill of some classic Korean sides like Kimchi and Korean pancake.
Korean Cooking Classes are $50/session for members and $70/session for non-members. They are run on Term schedules to cycle through the different dishes. Term 3 will run on Tuesdays August 5-26 (11am-1:30pm or 6pm-8:30pm) and you can book here.
Korean Cultural Office
255 Elizabeth St, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 8267 3400
I Ate My Way Through attended the Korean Cooking Class as guests of the Korean Cultural Office.