Saturday, August 4, 2012


Super long post today… PLEASE bear with me! I beg you to… because this is a dish that you will love and never forget. It will be a favorite in your home as it has become over here.  

It has been mentioned in previous posts that I hardly ever make recipes twice. That stands true for recipes that I find in my cookbooks or food blogs. However, there are some favorite dishes that I have recreated from my mother, from Sally, or from restaurants that I make every now and then at home. For these dishes, there is no set recipe because I cook it from memory and taste as I go or substitute with whatever ingredient(s) are on hand.

Korean food is one of my most favorite ethnic cuisines. Super savory main dishes, soups and noodles, fresh side dishes, different kinds of kimchi, and the ever present spiciness in pretty much everything makes me want to pack my bags and eat my life away in Korea. My favorite Korean dish is bibimbap. When I had my first bowl of authentic bibimbap on a trip to Korea, I fell in love. At every restaurant I went to, I would try different side dishes but never failed to order bibimbap for my main dish.         

Since that trip, I have made bibimbap many times for myself and for special friends… Sally, DFJ, DFJ’s family when we visited for Christmas, and our friends, Rod and Melissa. It is my comfort meal and I think it has become DFJs too. This has been made in my kitchen so many times that I know it by heart. It takes some labor of love so I have tweaked it a couple of times to make it a bit easier, just a bit though.

Bibimbap is the perfect dish to cook when one is hungry for more than just food. When you are lonely, hungry for the comfort of your family and the company of friends, or overcome with wanderlust, this is what you need. It is definitely a meal meant to be shared with loved ones. Since it can be quite a production, you want more than just yourself and/or your significant other to enjoy it.

WARNING: My pictures are pretty bad! We had friends over to share this meal with us, so I hurriedly snapped a few photos because I did not want to be a food blogger kind of hostess, if you know what I mean. *wink*

This dish looks so gorgeous when assembled that you almost don’t want to destroy it. DFJ feels sad about destroying the arrangement and takes great caution when eating this.  However, getting everything in your bowl messy is the essence of bibimbap. Everything mixed together makes it all the more delicious... Different flavors play together, spicy, cool, earthy, sweet, salty, juicy… incredibly flavorful!

Before anything else… if you don’t have go chu jang, then please go to an Asian store and buy a tub. This is necessary to make bibimbap happen.

In Korea, they always have side dishes... you could have just one main dish but there's always at least 3 side dishes. For this dinner, I served some restaurant bought kimchi, homemade zucchini pickles, and homemade cucumber pickles.    

As I remember eating this dish in Korea, all the vegetables served on top of the rice were cooked separate. Over the years of tweaking, I have decided on the best way to go about the vegetables… not to cook them separate. Cooking them together allows for the flavors to meld which makes it taste better AND since most things will go in a big pan, there’s less cleanup. Win-Win! 

Here are the components, by order of efficiency and timing when making bibimbap:
Cooked white rice (Jasmine or Basmati).
Cucumber slices salted in cold water then drained.
Ground beef (you may use ground turkey too) with garlic, onion, bell pepper, and lots of spinach. 
Shiitake mushroom and zucchini sautéed in the same pan.
Carrots served raw.
Bean sprouts blanched in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
Fried eggs cooked to your preference. Personally I like mine still a little runny because all that eggy goo mixed in with everything is very delicious!
Go chu jang – this is what makes the bibimbap, so DO NOT omit this, unless you are allergic to or absolutely cannot stand anything spicy. I suggest you use a little bit first, about a teaspoon and go from there. See that smudge of red at the edge of the bowl, that's the go chu jang paste.  

Bibimbap (Serves 4-6)

Prepare the rice and start cooking it. Two cups of dry rice usually makes enough to serve 4-6 people.

Salted Cucumber

1 large cucumber
1 cup water
½ tsp salt

Rinse the cucumber with cold water. Cucumber may or may not be peeled depending on your preference. Slice the cucumber into matchsticks. In a large bowl, submerge the cucumber slices in one cup of cold water with salt. Let sit while you cook everything else. When everything is ready to be served, drain the water out using a strainer and arrange cucumber slices in a dry serving bowl. 

Slice/Prepare all the other ingredients before proceeding:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 packed cups spinach, roughly chopped

shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly (1 cup sliced)
2 small zucchini, sliced into matchsticks

1 large carrot, peeled, sliced into matchsticks (Since this will be eaten raw, move it to a serving bowl and pull out when it’s time to serve.)

bean sprouts, rinsed

Beef Topping

1 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1.34 lbs ground beef (more or less)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper, freshly ground
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 bell pepper, diced
2 packed cups spinach, roughly chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté garlic until golden brown. Add the onion and cook until it is soft. Add the beef and cook until it just turns brown. Season with salt, pepper, and soy sauce. Throw in the bell pepper and let cook for a little over a minute. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts. Turn off heat and let sit on the stove until right before serving.

Blanched Bean Sprouts

3 cups of water
9 oz bean sprouts, rinsed

Pour water in a pot and bring to a boil. While water is heating up to boil, start cooking the Shiitake Mushrooms and Zucchini (see sixth step). When the water is boiling, dump the bean sprouts in and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully drain off the water using a mesh strainer. Move bean sprouts to a serving bowl.   

Shiitake Mushrooms and Zucchini

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 small zucchini, sliced into matchsticks
½ tsp salt

In a medium sized pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the shiitake mushrooms until soft. Add the zucchini and cook until it starts looking limp. Season with salt. Turn off heat and move to a serving bowl.

Fried Eggs

olive oil
4 eggs (or more depending on the number of people eating)
salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a large, nonstick pan with olive oil. Heat the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, crack the eggs into the pan and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Cook the eggs to your liking. Turn off heat and serve on top of all the ingredients in the serving bowls.

Bibimbap Bowl Assembly

Basically, what you need to do is place a bed of rice at the bottom of the bowl and all the toppings are side by side on top, finishing with an egg in the middle. Here’s a suggestion, but by all means feel free to assemble it any way you want to.

1. Spoon a bed of rice onto the bottom of the bowl.
2. Place cucumber slices on one side of the bowl.
3. Place a generous scoop of beef topping next to the cucumber slices.
4. Place bean sprouts next to the beef topping.
5. Place carrots next to the bean sprouts.
6. Place shiitake mushrooms and zucchini next to the carrots.
7. Place a fried egg in the middle of the bowl.
8. Drop a small scoop of go chu jang anywhere. Start with a little bit first (a teaspoon or two) and see how you like it, then add more. It is spicy, so take caution first. Do not overdo it because you still want to taste the flavor of the rest of the ingredients, not just spice in your mouth.
9. Now, your bowl looks all pretty and colorful. Take a moment to enjoy the arrangement.
10. Mix it all up! Cut the egg into pieces and mix everything! Make sure the go chu jang is evenly spread and everything gets coated with it. ENJOY!

Bibimbap is fun to eat! It is a feel-good dish that never fails to please anyone. It tastes of home, comfort, love, and good cheer.

1 comment:

  1. I think my favorite part of bibimbap is all the different flavors you get in one bowl! Definite comfort food!


Let me know what your thoughts are... Your comments always make my day!