I apologize in advance for the length of this entry, but this was a beast of a meal to make. I have never actually eaten Korean food before in my life. I have been dying to try out a Korean restaurant for ages, but I just can’t seem to find a good one to check out in San Antonio (I am open to suggestions). The reason that I am so keen to try it is that it has been recommended to me by several different people now. I was pretty excited when I opened the new issue of Cuisine at Home magazine and discovered that there was a recipe for bibimbap! According to the writers, bibimbap translates to “mixed rice”, and it is a pretty classic Korean dish. I decided right away that I was going to try out the recipe, and I have to say that I am really pleased with the results.
There are honestly two main reasons that I decided to make this. The first is that I am five years old and have way too much fun saying the word, bibimbap. The second is that it is a really beautiful-looking dish, and I was really excited about taking photos of it. It is genuinely one of the most gorgeous foods I have ever seen. The photos don’t do it justice. I don’t really care for eggs, but I have to admit that I love the way a sunny side up egg looks. That being said, I did not really expect this to come out tasting great. I really dislike bean sprouts, I don’t like eggs, and I hate spicy food. All of those things are incorporated into this rice bowl, but I decided to make it anyways. I am really glad that I did because it ended up being really delicious. The sauce was super spicy, but the intensity of it is really lessened when you mix it in the with rice and all of the veggies. The egg was amazing once you let the yolk soak into the rice. Everything about this was just fantastic. It’s unfortunate that I have never had bibimbap anywhere else because I don’t have anything to compare it to. I think that this recipe is not exactly traditional so I’m really interested to know if there is a big difference in taste if I were to order it at a Korean restaurant.
The traditional way to serve this is topped with a fried egg, but you can also serve it with Korean barbecued beef (bulgogi). I really loved the way that the egg looked, but I really wanted to have the beef with it because dinner is not dinner without meat. I ended up doing it both ways. I did two separate photos (one with beef and one with the egg) as you can see, but we actually put both the beef and the egg in it when we were eating. I was worried that the two would taste sort of weird together, but I think it was the perfect thing to do. I would recommend adding both to the rice bowl if you make this.
I think that everyone should try making this because it is so good, but I will not lie and say that this was an easy meal to make. It took a LOT of time. There was a ton of prep work to do with chopping and making sauce and such, and then there is just a lot of multi-tasking that has to happen when you are actually cooking. It was a stressful meal to make, but I also had a lot of fun cooking it. Kevin acted as my Sous Chef last night and helped me cook the meat and the eggs. It’s really sad, but I don’t know how to cook eggs. It’s the most basic thing that everyone can cook, but I never bothered to learn because I hate them (no matter how they are cooked). He did a FANTASTIC job with the eggs. They were the most perfect sunny side up eggs that I have ever seen, so kudos to him. I would have been crying in the kitchen without his help. Don’t let that deter you from making this though. Get someone to help you out and give it a try because it is definitely worth it.
Before I get into the recipes for everything, I just want to mention the couple of differences that the magazine noted between traditional bibimbap and this version. The first is that the beef is not actually barbecued. Usually it would be, but for the purposes of this recipe it is stir fried in a skillet. The second is that this dish is usually served with Korean chili paste which is much thicker than the chili sauce used here. The sauce is an adaptation of the paste and having never tried the paste, I cannot comment on whether it is better or not. I really liked this chili sauce though.
I should also mention that I had trouble finding some of the ingredients for this. I would recommend checking out a specialty Asian foods store or something because I didn’t have any luck finding Miso paste. It was supposed to be used in the chili sauce, and I just replaced it with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. I seriously went to four different grocery stores. I finally found it at Whole Foods, but it was well over ten bucks for a tiny package of it. I think that the slogan for that store is something like “Eat healthier for an absurd amount of money”. The other thing that I could not find anywhere was bean sprouts. That’s a really weird thing to not be able to find because bean sprouts are really common and are usually with the rest of the produce in any grocery store, but no one was stocking it. I’m assuming that there is some sort of bean sprout epidemic that is currently preventing stores from stocking it. I just ended up buying canned bean sprouts (found in the Asian foods aisle), and I rinsed them several times before cooking.
Bibimbap (Korean Rice Bowl) – serves 6
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 bag baby spinach (6 oz)
4 tsp minced garlic, divided
6 tsp canola oil, divided
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 pkgs. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (3 1/2 oz each) – I was not sure what it meant by packages so I just weighed them in the store
3 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts (I used canned bean sprouts and rinsed them really well)
3 cups cooked rice, warmed (You can use any type of rice that you like)
COMBINE sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
SAUTE spinach and 1 tsp garlic in 1 tsp canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until wilted, 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to a bowl, and toss with 1 tsp sesame-soy mixture and sesame seeds; set aside.
HEAT 1 tsp canola oil in same skillet over medium; add 1 tsp garlic and shiitakes, and cook until shiitakes soften, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1 tsp sesame-soy mixture; set aside. Repeat cooking and tossing with carrot and zucchini together, then the bean sprouts.
ADD remaining 2 tsp canola oil to same skillet. Fry eggs until whites are set but yolks are still soft (you can look up how to do sunny side up eggs if you haven’t cooked them before). Transfer eggs to a platter; set aside.
DIVIDE rice among bowls, then arrange vegetables around rice. Top each bowl with an egg and serve with Korean Chili Sauce and Bulgogi.
Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef) – serves 6
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp garlic
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
1 sirloin steak, trimmed, very thinly sliced (1 lb.)
2 Tbsp canola oil
WHISK together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add steak and toss to coat; set aside 20 minutes, tossing often. I just put everything into a small ziploc so that the steak was coated, and I did not have to toss it. I let it marinate for about an hour and a half.
HEAT canola oil in a nonstick skillet over high. Remove steak from bowl and let excess marinade drip back into the bowl. Stir-fry steak in skillet in 2 or 3 batches, 2-3 minutes per batch, until all is browned. Transfer bulgogi to a large plate and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve with bibimbap and chili sauce.
Korean Chili Sauce
1/4 cup lemon-lime soda
2 Tbsp white or red miso (You can replace this with tahini if you can’t find miso, and if you can’t find either just use 1 Tbsp soy sauce instead)
2 Tbsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
WHISK together soda, miso, Sriracha, corn syrup, sesame oil, vinegar, and brown sugar. Serve with bibimbap and bulgogi.
IF YOU NEED HELP MULTI-TASKING:
I thought I would just include an extra bit about how I prepared for this recipe so that the cooking would not be so difficult to handle. A couple of hours before I planned on cooking, I chopped all of the vegetables and put them into containers in the fridge so that they were all ready to go. I trimmed and sliced the beef, made the marinade, and put it all in a ziploc bag in the fridge ahead of time. I made the chili sauce and put it in another container stored in the fridge as well. I mixed the soy sauce and sesame oil for tossing the vegetables and put it in another ziploc in the fridge. I had all additional ingredients that I would need for cooking out on my counter and ready to go before I even began. It’s also helpful to have your dishes out and ready to go for when everything is ready to be assembled, and set your table ahead of time so you aren’t worrying about that too.
Start cooking the rice and the first skillet of veggies (the spinach) at the same time. The rice and all of the vegetables will take about 20 minutes in total to cook, so those should finish around the same time. Make sure you cover the vegetables with something as you remove them from the heat so that they will stay warm. Start cooking the beef about ten minutes after you have started the rice and the vegetables because it will take less than ten minutes to cook the meat. Cover the meat with foil to keep it warm when it is finished cooking. I had Kevin to cook the eggs for me, so I started assembling the bowls while he was doing that. If you don’t have any help, just cook the eggs, put them on a plate, and then start putting it all together.