Considering that I’ve posted a fair number of Korean recipes over the years, it seems odd that I’ve never written down my favorite Korean dish of all: bibimbap. Pronounced “bee-bim-bop”, bibimbap is simply a bowl of hot rice with a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. A raw, poached, or fried egg is served on top and kochujang (Korean miso / chili paste) is passed on the side, and the egg yolk together with the kochujang is mixed into the rice before eating.
Bibimbap is one of the few things that vegetarians can usually count on getting at most Korean restaurants. It it typically made with beef, but that is easy to leave off, and there aren’t usually any seafood products in it. Sometimes you can order dolsot bibimbap, which is served in a heavy, smoking hot stone bowl. The first time I ever had that was after a day of skiing, and I could feel the heat from the bowl radiating right into my chest. Fantastic. The rice on the bottom gets a little toasted and crispy, too. Well worth the extra dollar. Someday I’m going to buy a set of those bowls so I can make it that way at home.
Bibimbap isn’t so much a dish as a platform. You can change out the vegetables at will, just keep the flavorings Korean and you won’t go wrong. Here’s a basic recipe. It isn’t measured very precisely because it doesn’t need to be. This is a great dish for you to practice trusting your palate and kitchen instincts.
By the way, I actually cooked my “poached” eggs sous vide at 63 degrees C for 45 minutes. You don’t have to do it this way, but if you have an immersion circulator it is a great option. I find a lot of people aren’t completely comfortable with the texture of the white at that temperature, so I generally crack them into boiling water for 10 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon to give a more traditional appearance.
Vegetarian Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 pickling cucumber, thinly sliced
- Vegetable oil, for pan frying
- 1 bunch bunshimeji or similar mushrooms, roots trimmed
- 1 zucchini, 1/2″ dice
- 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), or regular soy sauce
- 2 big handfuls mung bean sprouts
- 1 tablespoon toasted Asian sesame oil
- 1 pound tofu, prepared for making as per How To Make Tofu Really Freaking Delicious
- 4 poached, soft boiled, or fried eggs
- Plenty of cooked white Asian rice (like Kokuho rose or other similar short grained varieties), held hot
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 handful pea vines or other shoots, washed and dried
- Kochujang, for serving
- Warm your serving bowls.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, the ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar. Add the sliced cucumber and toss. Reserve.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir fry the mushrooms with a big pinch of salt until fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Remove and reserve, leaving the pan going.
- Add a little more oil if needed, the zucchini, and a couple pinches of salt. Stir fry until beginning to soften, about two minutes. Add the sweet soy sauce and cook, stirring, until glazed, about 1 more minute. Remove and reserve, leaving the pan going.
- Add the mung bean sprouts, sesame oil, and a pinch of salt and stir fry until just wilting, about 1 minute. Remove and reserve, leaving the pan going.
- Cook the tofu as described in How To Make Tofu Really Freaking Delicious, then slice the slabs into batons.
- To serve, put a mound of steaming hot rice in a warm bowl. Arrange servings of the mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, pea shoots, fried tofu and pickled cucumbers around the perimeter of the rice. Put an egg in the middle, and garnish with the scallions. Serve immediately, piping hot, with plenty of kochujang for diners to mix in as they please.