Bibimbap, sometimes referred to as "Beauty in a bowl" is one of the most traditional and well known Korean dishes. The word literally means "mixed rice" and the dish consists of a bowl of rice, white, brown or exotic red, topped with a variety of vegetables and meats grilled or roasted with gochujang chili paste. This is usually a dinner dish with the rice being served in a traditional heated stone or clay pot to allow the rice to cook further on the table so the bottom becomes crisp.
Bibimbap talks directly to the culture of dining in Korea. The limitless combinations of items in a bowl characterize the love for flavors, textures and colors. One theory on the origins of the dish talks about this being a dish served right before harvest season so that households can literally get rid of all the old produce, Koreans are very big on not wasting anything, particularly food in rural areas. The first origins of this dish are though to be from the 14th century with the first recipe being published in the 16th century, but there are other theories out there too. For more history on this dish click here.
In fact, the colors in the bowl each have meaning and representation within the culture and with nutrition in mind. Black/dark marks the North and benefits the kidneys so mushrooms or seaweed can be used. Red/oranges represents the South and heals the heart so chili, carrots, or jujube dates are added. Green points to the east and helps the liver so cucumber and spinach are included in the mix. White means West and alleviates the lungs so bean sprouts, radish, and rice are vital. And finally, yellow brings in the center and serves the stomach, and this is typically the egg in the middle of the bowl.
The variations of bibimbap are numerous due to the combinations of vegetables that can be used and the variety of meats including raw Korean beef tartare that is a delicacy.
This is a vegetarian version, that can be made vegan by leaving out the egg, is simple spectacular. the roasted vegetables add a wonderful smoky, charred flavor with the sweet-spicy gochujang dressing. The rice adds a good body to the dish. This can get to be quite a heavy meal. I have used only a small variety of vegetables, but feel free to use and experiment with others like, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, zucchini, spring onions, okra, or literally anything else. The pickles and kimchi add a freshness to the dish that is much needed. I have cooked the vegetables under the broiler in the oven, but feel free to cook them on a grill if desired, the results will be so much better. The recipe may seem long, but in reality it is quite simple with a few steps. What makes it worthwhile is the flavors. For a meat version, serve with some Kalbi on the side.
This is a wonderful book for one dish meals, pho, ramen, Korean bibimbap, salads and rice bowls from across Asia and couscous and exotic grain bowls from the Mediterranean and Europe. The bowls are perfect for any occasion. I go to it often when I want a great single dish meal.
For more recipes from this cookbook click here.
4-6 slices pumpkin, peeled and kept in thin half moons
10 mushrooms, halved
10 spears asparagus, bottoms peeled and kept whole
12 green beans, kept whole
4-5 baby Japanese eggplants, halved
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons gochujang chili paste
2 tablespoons gochugaru chili flakes, or to taste
Water, as needed
2 teaspoons toasted white or black sesame seeds
1 cup cooked brown or red rice
4 fried eggs (See method below)
A small handful sprouts, radish, fenugreek or your choice
Quick cucumber pickles (See recipe below)
Gochugaru sauce (See recipe below)
Quick cucumber pickles:
2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons gochugaru chili paste
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons water
To roast the vegetables:
Mix the oil, soy sauce, gochujang chili paste, and gochugaru chili flakes well to have a consistency of very thick cream. Add a touch of water if needed.
Mix the vegetables and pour the chili sauce over the vegetables mixing it in and coating the vegetables with the sauce, hands are best.
Set an oven to 375 F.
Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the vegetables in a single layer, separated by vegetable type and bake till the vegetables are cooked through and slightly charred, 3-4 minutes for asparagus and beans, 10 minutes for baby eggplants, and 20+ minutes for the pumpkins. Remove the vegetables as they finish cooking and have browned spots.
To make the Quick pickles cucumbers:
Mix all the ingredients and marinate at rom temperature for 2 hours at a minimum. These pickles can be kept in the fridge for about a week.
To make the gochugaru sauce:
Mix all the ingredients and adjust the water to make a thin sauce, about the consistency of light cream. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last in the fridge for about 1 week.
To fry the egg:
Heat a non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon oil on low heat. Add 1 teaspoon gochugaru chili powder and stir. Crack the egg into the skillet almost immediately after the chili powder and fry till the white is just set and turns white. Drizzle a few drops of soy sauce on the egg and cook covered till the white is crinkled and the yolk is set to your liking. Slide off the pan. Keep the flavored oil to drizzle on the rice.
To serve, use a wide bowl and add some of the cooked red or brown rice in the middle. Add the roasted vegetables around the rice, and intersperse them with some of the sprouts, kimchi, cucumber pickles, lime wedges and fried egg. Serve with the extra sauce on the table for those guests who would like more.