Top Chef is like Aussie MasterChef on crack. I started watching from Season 8 (All Stars) after seeing all these celebs tweet about how addicted to it they were. Unlike MasterChef, the contestants on Top Chef are professionals so the dishes they come up with are more interesting, and the competition is ramped up by clashing American egos that aren’t afraid to be catty and vicious on TV. More drama = more entertainment.
I am LOVE-ing the current season 9 – one of the main reasons being that two of the top contestants are Korean. - Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Kentucky and Beverly Kim (currently eliminated but in the running for re-entry on Last Chance Kitchen) of Aria restaurant in Chicago. Koreans on TV are RARE, Koreans on reality TV even rarer, so seeing Ed and Bev on Top Chef fills me with national pride. And with Korean food being all the rage now thanks to David Chang, Ed and Bev are definitely milking their oriental edge and its working!!
The best Korean moment of the series was when contestants were asked to make a dish honouring their cooking influence. Both Ed and Bev made it to the top three with modernised takes on Korean CLASSICS that my grandma could make behind her back in her sleep. A true triumph for Korean cuisine – proves that the culinary world has really developed a palate for even the simplest Korean flavours.
Bev made a “Galbi-Jjim” (Braised Short Rib) with Edamame Scallion Puree and Hon Shimeji Mushrooms.
One thing I’ve learnt from Top Chef is that people go NUTS for Galbi-Jjim (갈비찜). Bev made “braised short rib” over and over again and the judges went ga-ga for it every single time. It’s interesting because it’s such a homely dish, it’s like a one-pot-wonder that your mum makes on your birthday and is rarely found on restaurant menus. But people LOVE it – I reckon I could make a fortune just by opening a restaurant specialising in Galbi-Jjim. I remember when I was in Korea in 2007, the trendy new thing was 찜닭 “Jjim-Dak” (braised chicken) restaurants, which served big hot plates of chicken braised in soy sauce and chilli served with potatoes and potato noodles. SOOOO good. Million dollar idea right there. Don’t mind if you steal it, as long as I get some free Jjim-Dak once you’re open.
You can check out Beverly’s ridiculously complicated recipe here but for a much simpler and more traditional recipe go here.
Ed’s dish was even more ridiculous… he made a “Modern Bibimbap with Lemon-Chili Sauce”
I cannot believe Ed got into the top three with this dish. As you can see from the recipe, it is literally nothing more than the very very basic Bibimbap ingredients arranged in a pretty stack on a plate smeared with chilli paste!! It reminds me of Dani’s “rice burger” debacle from the David Chang Master Chef challenge last season.
This worldwide bibimbap phenomenon is to Koreans what it must have been like for the Italians when pizza became a global sensation and they laughed at everyone for making a big fuss over a convenient way to eat yesterday’s leftovers.
That’s not to say that I don’t still order bibimbap when I eat out… only in the hot stone bowl (dol-sot) though. Bibimbap is taken to a whole other level when the rice is scorched and crunchy. You should only ever eat regular-bowl bibimbap if you’re at home or on a Korean Airlines flight.
Back to the point – GO ED AND BEV!!! Or as they say in the motherland – FIGH-TING!