Bibimbap is a fantastic, healthy Korean rice bowl with ground beef and loads of crunchy vegetables. It is one of my favorite dishes ever. A copy of The Food of Korea was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links have been used in this post to link to items I am discussing.
Sorry for my extended silence again. I had a rough week–I will have a post on that coming up soon–and between the rough week and the ensuing
panic excitement over Italy, well, I have had some trouble focusing. We leave May 19 folks!!!! Eeeek! Squeeee!!
For regular readers who are wondering, I do have some recipe posts stored for you, but I also plan to turn the blog into a sort of open diary or letter to my friends and family back home. For long time readers, it will be very similar to what I did when we were in Morocco, only a lot more (since we will be gone 6 weeks) and of course I will not be writing to my kids since I will have them with me this time! We will have a small kitchen, so you may see me attempting to cook also. We will see–I have never done anything like this before, so right now it is very hard for me to imagine!
But about this bibimbap! I discovered bibimbap waaaaaay back in 1996 when I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We lived around the corner from Inman Square, which it turned out was an awesome foodie destination at the time. There was a pan-Asian restaurant there that served a cold bibimbap, which means not only was it not hot, but the ground tuna and egg in it were raw also. I adored this dish–if I had only known just how stinkin’ hard it is to find raw bibimbap I would have savored my last one a bit more. I have only found it once since then. In the meantime I learned to love hot bibimbap, which is very similar except the meat and egg are cooked and then it is all served in a hot stone pot, which causes the rice to form a crust on the bottom.
Alas I have no oven safe bowls that would work, so maybe we should call my bibimbap warm. To be honest, I am one of the few who does not care about crusty rice, but if you do then by all means, grease the inside of an oven safe dish and heat it (my best guess is 350 F). Then quickly put your bibimbap together in the hot bowl. Even better yet, if you have a stovetop safe bowl, heat it over high heat for 3 minutes before filling.
I had never made bibimbap at home–not for any good reason. Sometimes I think when you learn to appreciate a dish in a restaurant it just somehow gets categorized in your mind as something too difficult to make at home. But when I received Injoo Chun’s The Food of Korea: 63 Simple and Delicious Recipes from the land of the Morning Calm the first recipe I looked for was bibimbap. The book did not disappoint. A slender volume packed with loads of information and color photographs, this cookbook is affordable and a great introduction to traditional Korean food, as opposed to (the equally exciting) cookbooks being produced by a lot of Korean American chefs right now. I have other recipes bookmarked, especially noodles and soups. And anything with beef–I adore the way Korean cuisine treats beef.
So about my bibimbap. Because I have eaten bibimbap so many time in so many places over the years I know what I like better with it. The crunchier the vegetable the better, and I especially love the veggies that are a little sweet and sour. Because of this, I followed the recipe in the book for the beef and the daikon salad, but I also then added a few more vegetable dishes of my own. The one super traditional element I left out–from laziness, as I like it fine–is some form of spinach. Mushrooms are a must for me, as are lightly pickled cucumbers. I chose to serve shredded raw carrots (to preserve the crunch–in Korea I guess they would blanch them) and I chose to lightly sauté my bean sprouts instead of blanching them. On the side I served (commercially prepared) gochujang, cucumber kimchi (SO good!!) and white cabbage kimchi (i.e., without any chile pepper) for the kids. I also added julienned jicama because I thought (rightly) that it would be fantastic and I had it on hand.
This dish is a great one to serve to those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine. First, the basic components are mild and full of familiar flavors (sweet, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seed oil). And each dish can be assembled to taste. The kids are not as familiar with bibimbap, so they loved parts of the dish but not all. The meat, egg and rice was a huge hit, as were the cukes and mushrooms. Sammy was ok with some kimchi but Alex was definitely not in favor of it (full disclosure: I hate preserved cabbage so I would not have eaten it either. Alas, the cucumber kimchi only came spicy). Unfortunately the gochujang was too spicy for either child, which is a shame because that stuff is fantastic. Neither child cared for the daikon radish. John and I were in heaven with the entire meal, every single bite. I have to give a shout-out to both of my kids’ guests, who ate the meal without complaint! I will probably get a reputation as the crazy mom who serves weird food (and awesome desserts) but oh well.
- 4 cups cooked short grained rice * (like a sushi rice)
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 2 t soy sauce (I used tamari soy sauce)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1 t sugar
- 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
- 10-15 baby cucumbers, sliced into rounds
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- pinch of salt
- 1 lb mushrooms of choice, thinly sliced (I used a mix of shitake, bunapi and beech)
- 2 t vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T mirin
- 1 T tamari soy sauce
- 1 T sesame oil
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1-2 T rice vinegar
- pinch of salt
- around 1 T ground red chile pepper powder, such as cayenne (I left out because of kids)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- heafty pinch kosher salt
- 2 t brown sugar
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1 per person fried egg (probably 4-6), preferably with a runny yolk
- about 2 cups Julienned jicama
- about 2 cups shredded carrots
- Kimchi of choice--we love cucumber kimchi (see notes above)
- gochujang (Korean hot "sauce" that is more like a paste)
The trickiest thing about this dish is just timing everything right. I started the beef and cucumbers, and then started the rice so it could cook while the beef was marinating and the cukes were pickling. You could also start the rice first.
For the ground beef, mix everything together and then place in the fridge in a sealer container for 30 minutes.
In the meantime begin the cucumbers by heating the sugar and water in a small pot. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then remove from the heat and add the pinch of salt and the vinegar. Let cool.
Keep an eye on it--when it is cool enough, pour it over the sliced cucumbers.
If you have not started the rice by now, start it now.
In the meantime, heat a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add the 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, and when it is hot add the mushrooms. Cook until they have released some of their water and are starting to stick, at which point add the garlic and the mirin. Stir and use the mirin to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
When the mushrooms have mostly cooked down, add the soy sauce and stir. Let cook another minute, before stirring in the sesame oil and transferring the mushrooms to a bowl.
Wipe out the pan if it has anything stuck in it and return it to medium high heat. Add the bean sprouts and toss to heat for 1-2 minutes. Then add the rice vinegar and toss another 2 minutes. Then transfer to a bowl.
Place the seasoned ground beef into the pan over medium heat. While it is cooking, prepare the daikon radishes.
Massage all of the ingredients for the daikon radish salad together and then transfer to a bowl.
When the ground beef is browned all the way through, transfer it to a bowl--if there is a lot of excess oil, you can drain it off first.
Wipe the pan out. Assemble each bowl by placing rice at the bottom, the ground beef on top of the rice, and then the vegetables arranged over that, including the kimchi and gochujang. Fry one egg per bowl to place on top--preferably with a runny yolk, as the yolk will meld with the gochujang to create a delicious sauce.
*If you have never made sushi rice before, you do need to use an Asian style short grain rice and rinse the rice. Beyond that, every person has a slightly different opinion on how to proceed beyond that, unfortunately–I got my method from Seductions of Rice: A Cookbook, which I highly recommend for anyone serious about rice. This method from the Japan Centre looks pretty good.