I fell in love with bibimbap, the classic Korean rice dish, the first time I had it fourteen years ago. The textures and flavors hit the spot for me and made me a big fan of Korean cuisine. I became a vegetarian soon after, though, which made ordering a bibimbap at restaurants a bit more challenging. I do like the vegan version served at Hangawi in NYC, but I admit that I miss the fried egg so it's not as satisfying as I think it should be. For a long time I thought that bibimbap was too complicated a dish to make at home-- how can one even hope to capture the delectable aroma? With the right seasoning, apparently.
I combed through many bibimbap recipes online (thank you, Internet!) and figured out a way to get the desired result quickly and with the minimum hassle one needs for a mid-week dinner. Ingredients can be added and substituted easily. Basically, a bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with assorted vegetables, a fried egg with a runny yolk, and gochujang- a red chili paste. You can add fried tofu, raw julienned cucumbers, various mushrooms and/or bean sprouts. I like my veggies on the colorful and crunchy side, which is not necessarily the traditional Korean way (but then again, neither is vegetarianism). I use long grain brown rice that I cook in the rice cooker because that's a staple in our house, but obviously you can use your favorite white rice.
Gochujang is available at the Asian aisle of your supermarket, as well as from Korean food stores, and can be ordered from Amazon. I but the three-pack of Taeyangcho Red Chili Paste Gold (about $10 on Amazon Prime).
Here's my simplified vegetarian bibimbap (serves two):
- Cooked rice (1 cup dried rice is a good portion for a one-dish meal for two people)
- Assorted vegetables cut into bite-size pieces: 1 sweet red pepper, 1 carrot, half a broccoli head, 5 mushrooms, a handful of snap peas.
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 tbs gochujang
- toasted Asian sesame oil
- 2-3 tbs light soy sauce
- peanut oil (for sauteing)
-Saute the veggies in peanut oil in a deep pan starting with the ones that take the longest (you can also do it one vegetable at a time which is the correct way). I like them to retain the vibrant color but not everyone is a fan of crispy broccoli, so do it according to your taste.
-Fry the eggs until the whites are done but the yolks are still nice and runny. I fry them in butter and quite a bit of it, actually, because I like to pour the melted butter over the rice. Just call me Paula.
-Mix the gochujang with light soy sauce and drizzle in a little sesame oil (about one teaspoon). You can also add grated fresh ginger if you have some on hand.
-Assemble: put the rice at the bottom of a bowl, pile the vegetables on, top with the fried egg (and melted butter), and spoon the sauce mixture on top.
-Serve. Everyone mixes the content of the bowl at the table, so the runny yolk becomes part of the sauce.
Image: Bibimbap by Dragon_Frog from Deviant Art.