The skies are a dismal shade of grey today and my energy has been flagging big time. I’m kind of out of sorts, I’ve tons of stuff to do, my sleep cycle’s gone haywire, and it’s just so darned cold in here! Throw in the fact that the city is reeling from the impact of Typhoon Basyang (International Name: Conson), this girl is in need of some serious sustenance.
Meat, in this particular case, doesn’t really have to take center stage as far as comfort food is concerned. One needs pepping up, so additional energy can grab some extra energy from a properly done bowl of rice and veg – but this ain’t an ordinary bowl of gummy rice and soggy veg, this is a dolsot bibimbap.
The dolsot bibimbap at Kaya is one favorite I keep returning to because it’s just so consistently good. Served in a superheated dolsot (granite / stone bowl), you get sticky rice topped with sesame beef and a gorgeous assortment of fresh veg: mung bean sprouts, tangles of spinach, shredded daikon radish and carrot, and shredded cucumber. A generous sprinkle of nori and a raw egg complete your bowl.
To whet your appetite for such a glorious meal, I suggest that you skip the standard issue bok choy or radish kimchi and opt to have sikeumchi (cold spinach flavored with sesame seeds and a touch of sesame oil), instead. If you’re not a major spinach fan, I’m pretty darned sure this will convert you as it’s crunchy and deliciously nutty with a faintly bitter edge that’s bound to get your tastebuds ready for the bowl-ful of joy to come.
Kochujang – the incendiary red pepper paste that is one of the hallmarks of Korean cuisine – is a traditional component of bibimbap, but is classically served on the side so that each diner can spice up his or her bowl to taste. Personally, since Kaya’s kochujang is more fruity with mild heat rather than fiery, I suggest that you use the whole bowl. Why? The savor it adds is just plain unbeatable. However, if you’ve a rather tender tongue, there’s always a bowl of clear soup with egg ribbons to soothe you.
Once you blend the pepper paste into your bowl, be sure to mix it up very well and scrape the toasty-tasting nurungji (tutong in Filipino) that forms on the bottom.
At the end of the meal, I felt much better and ready to face any storm that comes flying my way. (But, alas, not even such a savory bowl can keep me from missing a certain boy who looks good reading restaurant menus and looks particularly smashing with messy hair, a sleepy look on his face, and his snuggly little baby niece in his arms. Sigh…)