Korean Short Rib Bibimbap with Rachel Yang

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“If you are going to break the rules, you better know the rules,” says Rachel Yang, chef owner of Revelry. Rachel and her husband, Seif Chirchi, have risen in Portland’s culinary scene by, among many things, honoring authentic cuisine through reinvention. I sat down with Rachel to discuss a dish close to her heart — Korean bibimbap — to better understand how she integrates creativity and tradition.

“If you do not fully understand why authentic cuisine holds up, it is unlikely you can create something new that makes sense,” she explains. “Just because it is creative doesn’t mean it is good. Intention must be well-defined when you depart from an original recipe. A new dish is good because of the balance of flavors. To start, we wanted to create a bibimbap around the Korean short rib.”

Short rib is most commonly braised and cooked in American cuisine. Koreans, however, use a sweet and savory marinade before grilling the meat. Rachel explains “the fatty, sweet, salty, and charred short rib can take on many different flavors, which is essential for this dish.”

Korean bibimbap is a one-bowl wonder of meat, fresh seasonal vegetables, and an egg elegantly laid over a bowl of steamed rice. The name means “mixed rice.” Bibimbap was inevitable in Korea, a country with a long-standing agricultural history. Historians and scientists point to the middle of the 10th century Koryo dynasty, when the custom of eating at a table – the bapsang culture – first began. The traditional meal was characterized by individual settings of rice, soup, side dishes, and red-pepper paste on a table. Today, all the ingredients are presented in one bowl.

Rachel marinates the short rib in a sweet and savory red wine marinade and prepares it two ways: grilled medium rare and tartare style. The different texture of the short ribs create contrast with the smoky-flavored charred greens, and the salted, spicy, pickled sambal daikon mixture.

Instead of making a Korean daikon kimchi, Rachel uses a fermented in-house sambal, which yields lighter flavors than traditional kimchi. This gives the dish a refreshing finish. Add charred bitter greens, an egg, and an array of sauces, and the story is complete.

The short rib rice bowl does not depart too far from the flavors of authentic bibimbap, however the way Rachel composes the flavors makes it wonderfully distinct.

“I got into this work to be creative. Of course, many restaurants provide traditional authentic food, and they do it exceedingly well. Traditional flavor profiles withstand the test of time because they are balanced and complete. Yet if you tell me to cook the same recipe the same way for 30 years, I would go crazy. Understanding why these dishes work, and striving to create something routed in their success is how you create something that sort of follows the rule, but in a way breaks the rule. That is where creativity really hits.

“This dish is best when everything is mixed up,” she continues. “Break the egg yolk, mix it among the ingredients, try it with different sauces and then it comes to life. It is unpretentious. Food has to be fun. It needs to feed your body and your soul. It does not need to be serious.”

“In the end,” she concludes, “no matter what kind of food, cuisine, style, or process, the final dish has to taste good. Having something taste good is subjective. But it is also universal. Food is so important because it is a medium in which people from any culture can arrive to the same understanding that food – whether from your culture or another’s, authentic or created with a twist – is delicious. You don’t need to speak the same language, know the background or history. If it tastes good, it is good. People understand good food.”

210 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
971-339-3693 • relayrestaurantgroup.com

Short rib rice bowl with winter greens and sambal daikon

Serves 4 | 60 minutes active time, 4 hours inactive time

For egg yolk
1 cup soy sauce (not low sodium)
4 egg yolks

Pour soy sauce into a medium sized bowl, separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks into the soy sauce, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

For pickled sambal daikon
2 pounds daikon, peeled, cut into large dice, 1” x 1”
2 cups rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup sambal oelek (Revel makes house fermented sambal.)

Place daikon in a medium sized heat proof bowl. In a small pot, whisk together rice vinegar, sugar, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the daikon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 60 minutes. Remove daikon from the refrigerator, strain, put daikon back into bowl, toss with sambal oelek and set aside until ready to serve.

For braised short rib
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup aji-mirin
1 cup red wine
1 cup cool water
2 ounces daikon, peeled
1 Korean green chili diced, or serrano chili
½ of a 8” x 5” sheet of kombu
16 ounces short rib

In a thick-bottomed pot, combine the soy sauce, mirin, red wine, water, daikon, and chili. Add the ½ sheet of kombu and place the short ribs on top. Let the mixture come to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and cook the meat on a low simmer for 60 or until fork tender.

For winter greens
1 bunch kale, lacinato, leaves only
1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves only
1 bunch collard green, leaves only
2 tablespoon canola oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided

Heat the grill to about 400°F. Rise and dry the kale, rainbow chard and collard greens, toss with oil and½ teaspoon salt. Grill the leaves quickly, about 1 minute or until lightly charred and softened. After all the greens have cooked, chop into bite sized pieces, return to the bowl, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt, and set aside until ready to serve the rice bowls.

For the rice Cook according to package directions to yield 4 cups of cooked white rice.

For short rib tartare
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon microplane grated garlic
1 teaspoon microplane grated ginger
½ teaspoon Korean coarse chili powder or ¼ teaspoon finely diced serrano chili
4 ounces raw short rib meat, diced
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon trimmed diced scallion
1 tablespoon finely diced Asian pear
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard seeds

Just prior to serving, in a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and chili powder. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and stir to combine.

To assemble Into each of 4 bowls place 1 cup of rice, slice the braised short rib, and divide equally, adding the beef tartare, charred winter green, and sambal daikon. Place a cured egg yolk in the middle of each rice bowl. Enjoy them with house sauces like seasoned soy sauce, spicy chili sauce, savory bean paste, or nam prik sauce.

West Coast photographer Matt Mornick specializes in photographing food and people. His portfolio is available at mornick.com.

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