Bibimbap or not?

A story of rice bowls

The time was late – far past my bedtime, yet I was huddled under the covers watching food video after food video. A caption caught my eye — bibimbap. I clicked. I found myself watching a video of a man making bibimbap. Maybe it was the potatoes that set me off, maybe it was the lack of respect for a culture’s food, but I found myself reeling as fried potatoes were substituted for rice, cheese was mixed in and the typical egg was traded for a handful of salad greens, producing what he deemed, “an authentically delicious bibimbap”. This wasn’t the bibimbap I was familiar with — in fact, did it even count? I wasn’t sure.

Over the next few days, the question of authenticity teased me. Having grown up in an American town where the only Chinese restaurant was run by a White couple, I struggled with this idea of authenticity and fusion. Mostly:

  • What makes a food authentic, and is authentic food necessary for an authentic experience?
  • Does authentic food need to be cooked by a person of that specific culture?
  • And if not, who qualifies to cook the food of a culture that isn’t American?
  • What is fusion food?

No, I don’t have the answers (I do have thoughts, which I’ll explore in later posts) — and I really don’t think anyone has the “right answer”. These questions are meant to create a conversation around an action that we all have to do to survive (eat) and what we’re choosing to put in our mouths.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I can’t help admitting that the sudden rise in popularity of Asian food leaves me disgruntled and with a sour taste in my mouth. Not because I don’t love not having to bring only a PB&J sandwich to lunch or that there are finally more Asian restaurants in my area than I have fingers and toes, but because it all feels like a fad. A fad of chasing “Instagrammable” bubble teas, or Snapchatting the making of hand-pulled noodles. And on the chef’s end, jumping on to the train of Gochujang this, or ube that, because those ingredients are the ones that are hip, even when the ingredients don’t necessarily belong. Am I afraid that one day America will wake up and we’ll be obsolete? Maybe a little bit, but I’m more afraid that this increased interest with Asian cuisine isn’t accompanied by the same increased interest in the people and culture of that cuisine.

It seems as if America has snatched up Asian food and left the people behind, left their stories, their hardships and their culture. And that breaks my heart. I really do believe that understanding the stories and history of a culture is key in accepting and understanding communities different than our own. So, let’s learn about the history of mooncakes and the legend and lore surrounding the Mid-Autumn Festival. Let’s understand why many Asian dishes are braised and stewed instead of fried (or why the fried dishes are so prized). Let’s take a moment to talk to our friends about the history or story behind a dish. I promise you what you learn, will only make your meal richer.

And speaking of meal, let’s get to the star of the show – bibimbap. We’re making it today because it was the meal that sparked this conversation. And while I may not be Korean, it has come to be one of my favorite foods. Bibimbap wasn’t always called bibimbap, but it’s been around for thousands of years. The Royal family would often dine on bibimbap for lunch or dinner, and it wasn’t until much later that it transitioned to more of a humble everyday dish. I find that bibimbap, literally meaning “to mix” + “rice” reminds me of home, in a way that only a bowl of rice can do.

*What you choose to mix into your bibimbap can vary. I’ve followed a more traditional list of vegetables and proteins to mix in, but if you’re more familiar with Korean cuisine or have allergies, by all means, substitute away!

BIBIMBAP | Makes 2 bowls

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups rice (white, brown or purple is all fine)
  • 1 cup julienne carrots
  • 1 cup julienne zucchini
  • 2 cups spinach or Asian leafy greens
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup julienne burdock root
  • 1 block of firm/medium firm tofu – cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • White sesame seeds (for sprinkling)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Soy sauce (to taste)
  • Sesame oil (to taste)
  • Gochujang (to taste)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Over medium heat, saute carrots until soft to bite. Season with salt and sesame oil to taste.
  2. Over high heat, repeat process sauteing zucchini, spinach and mushrooms individually until tender. Season each vegetable with salt and sesame oil to taste.
  3. Heat frying pan until very hot. Once pan is hot, saute burdock root for 1-2 minutes, then pour in 1/4 cup of water and place lid of saucepan on to steam burdock roots. Once water has evaporated, test burdock root for tenderness. If it is not soft enough, repeat the steaming process. If it is tender enough for your liking, season with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  4. In a frying pan, heat up 2 tbsp of oil until the pan is very hot. Add tofu and pan-fry until sides are golden. Season with salt and sesame oil to taste.
  5. In a fry pan, cook 2 eggs sunny-side up (I prefer my eggs fully cooked, in which case I was just cook eggs over-hard).
  6. Divide rice evenly into two bowls. Arrange vegetables and tofu on top of rice. Place one egg on each bibimbap bowl.
  7. At this point, you may add as much or as little gochujang as you prefer. I often top my bibimbap with an additional drizzle of sesame oil or soy sauce.

Enjoy!

Dairy-free Blueberry and Cream Scones

 I think scones are one of the funnest baked goods to make. When I first started out making scones, they were rock-hard, dry and as tough as nails.  Instead of getting discouraged, my inability to make a perfect scone challenged me to create a recipe that is essentially fail proof AND dairy-free.  Scones are one of those desserts where butter is pretty much a mandatory component for it to even be called a scone. I pretty much thought so as well until a craving for scones hit SO bad, it didn’t go away for weeks.  I’m usually one of those people with enough will-power to keep cravings that might kill my digestive system at bay since I’m lactose intolerant, but nope, this one just wouldn’t go away!


I’m not going to pretend that this recipe is healthier just because it doesn’t contain butter, but I can definitely promise you that it is extremely low-sugar (only 1 tablespoon!) and 100% dairy-free while still delicious and moist.  If dairy-free scones aren’t your thing, and you want the real deal, try out my raspberry almond and white chocolate scones, instead! Alright, if you’re still on board, here we go. 


Since coconut oil is similar to butter in terms of its consistency (solid at room-temperature), I figured that it would be a good substitute to use for scones.  However, as I quickly found out, coconut oil melts far more easily then butter and super quick at any temperatures over normal room temperature making for a gooey mess.  The key to successful scones in this case, is to keep your coconut oil cold (I ensure this by place measured out coconut oil in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before using) and keep your measuring bowl cool as well (if possible!).


I love scones because they’re super customizable.  Hate blueberries? Use raspberries! Don’t have white chocolate on hand? Use dark chocolate, chop up nuts, or just leave it out altogether! Super easy, right? As long as you don’t mess with the dry ingredient to wet ingredient ratio, the add-ins are pretty much up to you.  One thing that I will note, is that, all fruits that you want to incorporate into this recipe should be frozen fruit!  Frozen fruit maintains its shape, doesn’t make the scone too soggy when baked, and honestly helps keep the coconut oil cool when you’re mixing, ha!


While you can make your scones any shape you want, I would recommend patting the mixture into a large round circle and cutting into 8 triangles, much like you would a cake (cutting before baking the scones ensures that the scones are allowed to rise and get super fluffy!).  This is much faster than individually portioning out scone mounds, and makes sure that the scones themselves are virtually identical triangles after baking. When you bake them as a large circle, it also helps keep the scone moist inside and not dry out too quickly. If you prefer scones that are more crust than fluff, then maybe individually portioning out scones might be what you want to go with.


I don’t know about you, but I’m savoring up the last few weeks of summer like nobody’s business. These berry-licious scones are best eaten with tea and under the summer-y blue sky.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about them! Let’s get to it!

DAIRY-FREE BLUEBERRY AND CREAM SCONES | Makes 8 scones

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp more for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil – chilled in the fridge before using
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut cream + 2 tbsp more for brushing
  • 1 egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (F).
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Add in coconut oil and using hands a fork incorporate coconut oil into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse sand.
  4. Add in frozen blueberries taking care to separate any blueberries in frozen chunks.
  5. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine coconut cream, vanilla extract and egg, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into the well.
  7. Using spatula, fold wet and dry ingredients together until a wet, shaggy dough forms.  DO NOT overwork dough.
  8. Place dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat into an 8″ circle.
  9. Brush top with coconut cream and sprinkle with sugar. Then cut circle into 8 pieces to help scones rise more easily in oven.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are just starting to turn golden brown and the tips of the scones feel firm to the touch.

Enjoy!

Mini Homemade Strawberry Poptarts

 I don’t know about you, but for me, childhood screams poptarts. Those shortcrust filled pastries that at the time seemed filled with delicious jams and topped with insane amounts of icing. There’s no way they could have ever been good for you, but bless my mom’s heart, she still bought it for us EVERY time that my two sisters and I would ask for them when at the grocery store. I swear, my mom has THE biggest heart in the whole wide world. I’m sure everyone thinks that their mom is the best, but I’m pretty sure that my mom is the best. As a child, she would spend hours upon hours everyday in the library reading to me as my older sister when to kindergarten the street over. My dad was gone a lot for my childhood, so she effectively raised three rambunctious children on her own, amazing, right?


Even now, she still never fails to love the three of us with all her heart – like, she’s coming to New York with me to help me find an apartment and get settled in before grad school AFTER spending 2.5 months in Taiwan accompanying my sister as she teaches English in a remote Taiwanese village!!! Anyway, these poptarts are officially dedicated to her. But not the store-bought, come in an aluminum package, warm up in the microwave type.  More like the melt-in-your-mouth, crammed too full of berries, and topped with just the right amount of royal icing kind.


Speaking of moving to New York, I have put off finishing this post 2,752 times because I’ve been so busy packing and saying goodbye to all my friends.  Never in my mind did I imagine how hard it would be to say goodbye to everyone that I love.  I mean yes, I will be back to visit, but it’s crazy that in less than two days, I’ll be in the Big Apple and all my friends will be back at home.  WAAHHHH I’m tearing up just thinking about it now. Before I start getting really sappy, I’m just going to continue with this poptart recipe. They’re perfect, they really are….BUT, maybe you should make them just to be sure 🙂

PRO TIP: If you have plastic wrap, the easiest way to roll the dough out is to sandwich the dough between two large pieces of plastic wrap and roll out the dough on top of the plastic wrap.  That way it doesn’t stick to the counter, the rolling pin and is easy to remove!

 MINI STRAWBERRY POPTARTS | Makes 16-18 depending on size
INGREDIENTS
for crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup strawberry jam or preserves
  • 1 egg + 2 tbsp water for egg wash

for icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt – mix well.
  2. Add in butter cubes and using hands or pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse sand.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together egg and milk.
  4. Create a small well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour egg and milk mixture into well. 
  5. Gently fold the liquid into the dry ingredients until a shaggy dough forms.  Knead the dough a couple of times until dough is smooth.
  6. Refrigerate dough until firm (~ 1 hour).
  7. Preheat oven to 350 (F).
  8. Flour surface and roll dough to 1/8″ thick rectangle (see note above for easy way to do this!).
  9. Cut dough into 2×4″ rectangles making sure that you end up with an even number of rectangles so each will have a top and bottom piece.
  10. Place about 2 teaspoons of strawberry jelly on half the dough pieces. 
  11. Place a dough piece on top of the rectangle already filled with jam and seal edges by using a fork to press down along the edge.
  12. Place in freezer for 15 minutes to help keep the poptarts from losing their shape in the oven. Just before placing in oven, brush tops of poptarts with egg wash to give it a nice golden color. 
  13. Bake poptarts for 15-20 minutes and cool completely before icing.
  14. Mix powdered sugar and milk together until a smooth icing is formed. Spoon your desired amount of icing over each poptart and wait until icing solidifies before storing in an air-tight container.

Enjoy!

Mushroom and Spinach Quiche

 Flaky buttery crust, creamy and eggy filling, it can only be a quiche. To be honest, I really love quiche, it can basically be customized depending on your mood and the custard that forms from milk and eggs cooking is just heavenly.  I’m mostly given up on eating dairy when I can cause I’m lactose intolerant, but quiche is one of those things that I haven’t been able to let go.


This recipe has been in use since my high school days of helping my mom host brunch parties, and believe it or not, it can be customized to be completely dairy-free.  Hooray!! Yes, I’ll admit that it’s not as good without the buttery crust, but heck, the quiche filling is still as creamy and glorious when made with soy milk or almond milk…just make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavored…trust me, vanilla flavored quiche is just NOT good.
I would not try and tweak the egg to liquid ratio – I’ve tested so many ratios and found that 1 egg to 1/2 cup of liquid produces the best results. With this ratio, the egg proteins hold just the right amount of liquid and you get a really creamy and soft, but not liquid-y custard.


You can make the quiche in either a sloped pie pan or a straight-edged cake pan, really it doesn’t matter! If you want to be fancy, traditional quiches were made with straight-edged pans, but I always find that the crust tends to shrink away from the edges while the sloped-edges of the pie pan holds the crust in place better. It really is up to personal preference though!
This recipe calls for spinach and mushroom, but you can fill it with anything you want: peppers, bacon pieces, cheese, the list goes on and on. With vegetables that exude a lot of liquid, just make sure to cook most of that liquid out first. I made this quiche for my food science lab friends and if it means anything, it was gone in less than 10 minutes. The most important thing is to make sure you chill the crust so that the gluten proteins have time to relax and you don’t end up with a tough and doughy crust. Other than that, it really is a fool-proof recipe! Seriously, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

SPINACH & MUSHROOM QUICHE | Makes 8-10 slices
INGREDIENTS


for filling

  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms – sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk/cream (any type works, the lower the fat content, the less creamy, soy or almond milk works too! Just make sure it’s unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

for crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted COLD butter – in 1/2″ cubes
  • 3-5 tbsp cold water

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium skillet, cook mushrooms on high heat until golden brown.  Salt and pepper to taste then remove from pan.  Cook spinach until wilted on medium heat.  Salt and pepper to taste as well. Set mushrooms and spinach mixture aside.
  2. In a separate large bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, baking powder and butter.  Pulse until butter is in small pea-sized pieces.  Then, with food processor running, drizzle in water a tablespoon at a time until a dough ball forms.  Pat dough into a flat circle to make rolling out the dough easier and refrigerate until firm (~1hr).***If using hands, cut cold butter into flour until mixture resembles fine sand.  Then add water a tablespoon at a time until mixture forms dough.  DO NOT OVERWORK DOUGH.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 (F).
  5. Once dough is firm , roll out into circular crust about 1/8in thick and 12-14 inches depending on size of your pan. Place crust over pan and crimp edges to form a raised crust.
  6. Spread mushroom and spinach mixture evenly on top of crust before pouring egg mixture on top (make sure to whisk again before mixing to make sure salt and pepper is evenly distributed).
  7. Bake quiche at 425 (F) for 10 minutes to prevent crust from getting soggy before reducing temperature down to 350 (F) and baking an additional 15-20 minutes until quiche is set.  Quiche will be done when it wobbles ever so slightly when shaken gently.
  8. Cool before slicing. Quiche will stay fresh up to 2 days in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Spring pea + carrot frittata

 I don’t know about you, but even as a morning person, mornings suck. Part of the job as a baker means that I’m up before the crack of dawn and covered up to my knees in flour and sugar before most of the population has hit rush hour traffic. Did I mention I also get hangry every two seconds if I don’t eat breakfast? I try and prep food the night before so that when I roll out of bed in the morning, I can dump things into a pan, pop it into the oven and forget about it for the next 10 minutes while I get ready. This one pan wonder has easily become my go-to breakfast, and makes a spectacular lunch (no reheating required!), or dinner.


It’s not only super duper easy to make, but also extremely versatile.  If I’m feeling something light, mushrooms and spinach make a delicious combo, and if I want something more hearty, I will throw in some smoked salmon (mine is courtesy of Trader Joe’s), you really can’t go wrong! I make mine in a cast iron, but basically anything that is oven-safe and non-stick will work perfectly fine (think cake or pie pan, if you want to get creative!). Having company over for brunch? This recipe can be doubled or tripled or even quadrupled to keep everyone happy.


SPRING PEA & CARROT FRITTATA | Serves 2


INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup unflavored soymilk, almond milk, or regular milk (optional)
  • 1 tbsp unflavored oil
  • 1 large (or 2 small) carrot shaved (a vegetable peeler works really well to make shavings)
  • 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Non-stick, oven-safe pan

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 350 ° F
  2. Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk thoroughly until air bubbles form on the surface
  3. Add in salt, pepper, and milk (optional) and mix well
  4. Once pan is heated, add oil to the pan along with the carrots and peas. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes until carrots are softened and peas are cooked through.
  5. Spread vegetables out on pan and pour egg mixture over.
  6. Let the pan sit over medium heat for 2 minutes before transferring into the oven for an additional 6-8 minutes (if you like your eggs on the soft side, take them out closer to 4-5 minutes)

Enjoy!