[Books that Cook: An occasional feature in which the Books Together Test Kitchen (that would be me and my kids) prepares a recipe from the back of a picture book.]
Milly and I brought Bee-bim bop! by Linda Sue Park (illustrated by Ho Baek Lee; Clarion, 2005) home from the library one day and were making the title dish for dinner the next. Its catchy refrain, "Hungry hungry hungry / for some BEE-BIM BOP!" was certainly true at our house. Park's picture book is just plain fun to read aloud, and she makes cooking dinner, which can be a chore, sound like fun, too. Best of all, bee-bim bop--or "mix-mix rice"--also sounded like something everyone (kids included) might actually eat. Bonus!
Park's recipe for this popular Korean dish fills a double-page spread at the back of the book. Single-spaced. But the ingredient list, while long, consists mostly of items you probably already have in your pantry (the only thing we had to buy were mung beans, and next time we won't even buy them); and the cooking instructions aren't complicated, they just have many steps. Park helpfully notes what children and grownups should do at each step. Leo and Milly mostly measured and mixed while I chopped and cooked; there was enough to keep us all busy for about 30 very intense minutes. Then our bee-bim bop was ready to bee-bim and eat!
Notes from the Test Kitchen
If you like a lot of extra juice for your rice, make double the amount of marinade and stir-fry the meat in a very large frying pan. The marinade smells (and tastes) delicious!
- Substitute the vegetables for ones you know your kids like. Park uses carrots and spinach; next time we might try red pepper and broccolini.
Wash pots pans and dishes as you go. Everything cooks in a separate pot and is served in a separate dish.
The kids loved being able to choose what and how much of it to add to their rice. Make sure they choose some vegetables (Leo, that means you).
Next time we (the grownups) are going to try it with spicy ko-chee-chang and kimchi for a little extra kick.
We all had a lot of fun making--and eating--this dish. Almost as much as we did reading the book! Park has worked as a food writer, and it shows: the recipe was written with care, and it's a real asset to the book.