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Sunday November 29, 2015
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Unexpected Gift



Beef is a big player in Korean cuisine and appears in its three best-known dishes: bibimbap, bulgogi, and galbi. I recommend all three here. The most beefily satisfying was the excellent bulgogi, thinly sliced ribeye that is seared on a grill, shellacked with an "authentic Korean special sauce" carrying undertones of garlic and ginger, tossed with slivered onions and carrots, and served sizzling. (If you're feeling more adventurous, try the pork version, daeji bulgogi, which is coated with a gingery chili paste.) The galbi, sliced beef bone-in short ribs marinated in that special sauce, were slightly sweet and very tender. Both of these are big plates of beef, and with all-meat dishes like these you really see where the banchan come in handy--they're not just little starters but vegetable sides, too. Have a bite of galbi and follow it with a blast of crunchy kimchi cabbage or lighten it with a bite of cool daikon.

BeWon's bebimbap can be ordered in the standard bowl or dolsot, a hot stoneware that makes the rice form a crisp brown undercrust. There's very little meat in the bebimbap; instead the focus is overwhelmingly on very fresh vegetables carefully arranged over the rice: julienne carrots, bean sprouts, spinach, and matchstick slices of zucchini, topped with a sunny-side-up egg. On the side is spicy gochujang sauce, with the consistency of thick ketchup and the firepower of chilies. I also tried the seafood version, haemul bebimbap, in which the beef is replaced with shrimp, squid, and mussels. It's a lighter, summery alternative.

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