I don’t know about you, but I am always hard-pressed not to order a colourful bowl of bibimbap when given a Korean menu. I always intend trying something different, but rarely do I get get past saying, “Bibimbap, please. Extra kimchi.”
Fun to say and fun to eat.
Meaning “mixed rice”, this sizzling, often stone bowl of sticky rice, finely cut veggies, seasoned meats or tofu, a fried egg and the tongue-tantalising, hot-yet-kinda-sweet red pepper sauce is my kind of comfort food. Not only does it deliver on the carb front, but the typical rainbow of veggies and tangy dollop of gochujang in a bibimpbap mean that comfort and healthy can be in the same sentence. Can we say that about mac and cheese or mashed potatoes and gravy?
Okay, this isn’t quite the same thing.;-)
Proper, restaurant-served bibimbap is made in a stone bowl (dolsot) giving the rice a gorgeous crunchy crust, but homestyle versions are just as delicious: cooked rice spooned into bowls and topped with all manner of vegetables – or even leftover vegetables from other dishes (think cooked green beans or leftover grated carrots) – is easier and more economical too. All you need to do is add in some spicy gochujang – or to be honest, sriracha mixed with honey and soy sauce is pretty good too – a bit of kimchi and a fried egg and you are winning at Korean comfort food!
My version ditches the usual thin strips of seasoned flank steak for gochujang-coated chickpeas. Make more than you need of these spicy protein bombs because you will be picking them from the pan before they make it to the table. I have also done a quick pickle with spiralised cucumber and carrots, sauteed up some spinach and shiitake mushrooms and fried a dinky little quail’s egg – all optional steps. Bibimbap reads as a long and tricky dish but I swear it isn’t. Think of it as side dishes on rice!
I will leave you for now, but I hope to soon share a traditional recipe from a country from which I have just returned with my bff. I ate some of it everyday for breakfast, and smuggled some back to try and “food to glow”. If you follow me on Instagram you will know where I’ve been.
Jeg vil se dig snart!
Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap with Gochujang Chickpeas
The recipe for the spicy, umami and slightly sweet gochujang is in this recent post. Or buy a good brand from your local Asian supermarket.
Use whatever cooked rice you like. For ease I used a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa and brown basmati mix from Tilda, making this light supper or lunch dish even easier. This is easily scaled up of course. And don’t be daunted by the steps: they are very easy and nothing will spoil for a little sitting around, even if you take your time. xx
165 (2/3 cup) cooked rice or other grain/pseudo-grain (short grain rice is traditional) with 1/2 tsp of toasted sesame oil added; kept warm and moist
90g (1/2 cup) cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp gochujang (link is to my recipe for this Korean spicy red pepper paste)
1 small carrot (I used a rainbow carrot), spiralised, grated or julienned
2 inch piece of cucumber, spiralised or thinly sliced and pressed in a tea towel
1 & 1/2 tsp black vinegar or rice vinegar, divided use
Tiny pinch of sugar (about 1/16 tsp)
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil + a few drops for the chickpeas
1 tsp neutral oil, divided use (for shiitake and egg)
Two handfuls of baby spinach, washed but not dried
4-5 shiitake mushrooms
1 organic egg (I used a quail’s egg, but a hen or duck egg is more satisfying – if not as cute)
1/4 red pepper (bell/capsicum), sliced
Heaped tbsp chopped kimchi
Black sesame seeds, to garnish
Extra gochujang and sesame oil, to serve
1. Heat a small non-stick pan and add the chickpeas and gochujang, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas are sticky. Stir in a little bit of sesame oil to keep them from drying out. Put a lid on it and keep warm.
2. In two separate small bowls/ramekins add the cucumber and carrots; divide the 1 teaspoon of vinegar between each and add the pinch of sugar and a little salt to the cucumber. Set aside.
3. Heat the spinach in its water until wilted. Press of the water in a sieve and add to a small bowl; add the sesame oil and remaining vinegar. Set aside.
4. Heat a small pan and add 3/4 tsp of the neutral oil (I used organic Scottish rapeseed oil), add the shiitake and stir-fry until golden. Season with a little pepper and salt. I added a dash of yuzu juice too, but that’s perhaps a frippery too far for some. Set aside.
5. In the same pan, heat the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of oil and when hot crack in the egg, if using. Put on a lid (preferably clear so you can monitor progress) and cook until the white is set and the yolk is still wobbly – about two minutes.
6. Now it is time to assemble. Add the rice to a warmed bowl (I just pour in boiling water, pour out then dry the bowl), and top with everything. Aesthetically it is the done thing to place these as individual dollops, but if it is just you of course put it on any way you like. Remember to add the kimchi, red pepper slices, black sesame seeds and extra gochujang. Now, mix it all up to break the yolk, and dig in!
Other add-ins/variations: vegans why not add cubes of pan-fried tofu or tempeh instead of the egg; add blanched beansprouts; add leftover cooked shredded meat of choice. Add any interesting vegetables you like – mooli, jicama, courgette – but just try and keep it all the same thickness and size. This sounds pedantic, but it really makes a difference.
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