Korean Sloppy Joes are fast, easy, delicious and can be served American style on hamburger buns or Bibimbap style, in a rice bowl. I received a copy of Koreatown from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links have been used in this post to link to items I am discussing.
I know you are probably wondering where the hamburger buns went in this picture. But here is the thing–I really wanted to try this recipe, but it turns out John and I both share a dislike of traditional sloppy joes. I have never been a big sandwich person–I say serve it on rice and be done with it. But you can obviously serve it on hamburger buns if you prefer.
When I first chose this recipe I was envisioning kind of a Korean kheema, with veggies added for healthiness. However, the sticking point was that the main flavoring agent of the Korean Sloppy Joe is gochujang. It is distinct and I know of no substitute–and it is spicy as hell. John and I love it, but I was concerned about the kids. I realized by serving the dish as a rice bowl (or bibimbap), I could treat the sloppy joe as a flavoring for the kids and serve them less of it, with more of the mild components.
This worked like a charm with Sammy. Her bowl is pictured directly above, to give you an idea of how much sloppy joe was a good amount for her (there is a pile of unseen rice under everything). She adored this dish and begged to have it 2 nights in a row.
Alas any amount of it was too spicy for Alex. That child just cannot handle heat. The second night she had everything but the sloppy joe, with 2 fried eggs and some fish sauce. Both of my girls adore anything served with a runny yolk.
For the side veggies, I just worked with what I had around. I lightly pickled some cucumbers and apple matchsticks, sautéed some mushrooms, and for the adults added cucumber kimchi. I served the dish with extra gochujang but nobody–not even John–needed it. The fact that I turned the dish into something arguably more traditionally Korean made me laugh, because Deuki Hong’s and Matt Rodbard’s Koreatown: A Cookbook is a celebration of the rich Korean food culture in America. Including its kitschy incarnations like Korean Sloppy Joes (from the Guest Recipes section–the Korean Sloppy Joes were created by Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor, chef-owners of Heirloom Market BBQ).
Guys I love this book. I have at least half the recipes bookmarked, and the writing and photography is engaging–including everything from random shots of Koreatowns across America to interviews with famous Korean American chefs like David Chang. The recipes I am most excited to make after the Sloppy Joes include Pineapple Kimchi (be still my beating heart!); Sweet Soy Braised Chicken; Spicy Shredded Beef Stew; Beef Short Rib Stew; Scallion Pancake; Bulgogi; Spicy Pork Neck and Potato Stew… I could keep going but I will run out of room. My only (tongue in cheek) complaint about this book is that it has me dying to visit restaurants all across America in cities where I know no one and probably cannot afford a decent hotel room, let alone the airfare to get there!
- 1 lb ground beef (you can also use pork which is what the cookbook suggests, but I prefer beef)
- 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4-5 T gochujang (the recipe called for 5 but I reduced it a bit because of heat)
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T soy sauce (I used Tamari)
- 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1 small-medium onion, chopped
- Mix everything together except the oil and onion. When everything is evenly mixed through the ground meat, cover the bowl with an airtight cover and place in the fridge. Marinate for 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
- When you are ready to make the sloppy joes, heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add the oil--when it shimmers, add the chopped onion. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the marinated meat along with any accumulated juices. Break up the meat and stir. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the meat is evenly browned.
- You can either drain off extra fat or use a slotted spoon for serving the sloppy joes. See note above for how to serve the sloppy joes.