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Collected Item: “Korean-inspired rice bowls”

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Korean-inspired rice bowls

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▸Quantity How much does this recipe make? How many people does this recipe feed?

Serves four

▸Ingredients Please enter one recipe ingredient per line.

1 c. rice
1 lb. ground beef
1-2 Tbsp. gochujang*
1-2 tsp. grated ginger, ginger paste or powdered ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

Topping suggestions:
Green onions (optional)
Cucumbers (optional)
Carrots (optional)
Kimchi (optional)
Radishes (optional)
Fried egg (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)

* - Gochujang is a fermented chili paste, and it can be pretty spicy. If that's your thing, add more, but I'd suggest finding some that says it's mild. Gochujang is becoming more popular, and you can usually find it in the Asian food section of most grocery stores.

▸Instructions Please type your recipe instructions as a numbered list, pressing enter/return between each step.

1. Start cooking your rice. I like jasmine rice, but feel free to use whatever. When I make rice, I pour the uncooked rice into a medium-sized pot and then rinse with water a few times — just swish the rice around in some water and pour out as much of the water as you can. Pour 1 1/2 c. water into the pot. Tap in a knob of butter. Heat on high, stirring occasionally until it just begins to boil. Turn down to low and cover for 15 minutes. Don't take the lid off — trust the process and let it do its thing. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and just let it hang out.

2. While the rice is doing its thing, make your sauce. Into a small bowl, combine the 1/4 c. soy sauce, the 3 Tbsp. of brown sugar, the 1-2 tsp. ginger, the 2 tsp. sesame oil and the 1-2 Tbsp. gochujang. Mix until ... well ... mixed I guess.

3. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef. It doesn't really matter how lean it is, but if you've got like 80-90% lean, you'll want to drain the fat (I move all the cooked beef to one side and tip the pan so the fat pools into the other side, then I take a wad of paper towels to absorb it).

4. Once your ground beef is almost cooked, toss in the garlic. Mix.

5. Reduce heat to low and pour in your sauce. Get all of it in there. Don't waste a drop. Stir until it's incorporated with the beef, and keep cooking for a few minutes more until it thickens.

6. Throw some cooked rice in a bowl. Add a generous helping of the beef. Toss in whatever toppings you want. Slice some cucumbers, toss in a bowl with a splash of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, and then slap some of that quick cucumber salad into your rice bowl. Finely chop up some cabbage and throw that in. Kimchi, radishes, carrots, green onions, fried shallots, kale chips, sprouts — it's all great. Every time I make this, I add different toppings, but I always add a fried egg on top.

- One cup of rice and one pound of ground beef is enough to feed my family of four. If you want leftovers or need to feed more people, add about a 1/4 cup of rice and a 1/4 pound of ground beef to the recipe per person. When it comes to the sauce, just add a little more of each ingredient — another quick splash of soy sauce or a heaping tablespoon of gochujang. You don't really need to be super precise with the sauce.
- I've also made a vegan version of this, and it's I almost like it better. Swap out the burger for shiitake mushrooms and you're good to go.
- Don't feel like you have to stick to ground beef. If you see ground turkey or ground chicken on sale, use that instead.

▸Story When, where, or how did/do you prepare this recipe? What made this recipe special to you during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Gochujang reminds me of my mom.

I remember her sitting on the kitchen floor with a giant bowl in her lap, working heaping spoonfuls of gochugaru — similar to gochujang, but dried flakes — into these massive heads of napa cabbage to make kimchi. When she'd make bulgogi or galbi, she'd add a smear of gochujang into the marinade. As a kid, I hung out in the kitchen of her best friend's Korean restaurant. When I smell gochujang — hot from the chili, sweet from the rice, a subtle funkiness from the fermentation — it takes me back. It's comforting and warm and delicious.

When COVID hit, I lost myself in my kitchen. I've always loved to cook, but quarantine turned my kitchen into one of my favorite places. One day, I wanted bulgogi. I also kind of wanted bibimbop. I also kind of didn't want to cook. I decided to fry up some ground beef and threw together a quick sauce with gochujang, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and brown sugar. I poured it over the beef, then dumped everything over rice.

It was great. It was easy. It was comforting. Since that day, I've made this dozens of times. It's great for when you don't really want to cook but still want something good and satisfying. It's great on cold days, great on hot days. It's great when you're happy, great when you're sad. It's become a huge staple in our family.
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