HAPPY NEW YEAR! How were your holidays? Did Santa come? Did you get appropriately sauced for New Year’s Eve? I want to hear all about it. Tell me in the comments and let’s catch up! For now let’s get on with the show.
Bibimbap. Have you heard of this Korean dish?
My first inkling to try Bibimbap was maybe ten years ago when I started watching cheesy Korean TV shows. I became a little obsessed with how they made my inner cheesy girl emotions SWOON. Literally cheesily swoon. I’ve seen all of the major ones. Heirs? Boys over Flowers? A super-cute one about a girl who wants to be a chef called, Pasta? Yeah. I’ve seen them all.
I decided a few years back that I wanted to embrace the culture that I was learning about and find a connection to fake people on tv Korean people and of course food seemed the best way to make that happen. I searched for a while and found a a teensy Korean restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. I went in. I ordered. I said “thank you” in Korean and was way too proud of myself. Sadly it utterly failed to impress. The rice was overcooked, the flavors were bland, and I really should have seen it coming because the restaurant was EMPTY. Like. I’m pretty sure crickets didn’t even want to chirp in there. I was utterly disappointed and thought surely this can’t be my only experience.
AND THEN. Like a star from the heavens, Kim Jong Smokehouse came to Portland and I saw the light.
Bibimbap is the original Korean bowl meal and translates to mean “mixed rice”. The basic plan involves starting with some rice in a bowl and adding various raw and sautéed veggies, kimchee, sliced meats, sauces, and often an egg. When looking at the basic plan, this may sound simple, but the sum of the parts absolutely combines into a magical comfort food that is like a warm hug to your belly and heart. And really, it’s mostly healthyish depending on all your toppings. January? Healthyish? Sound good so far? Your life needs this.
For a while I’ve been thinking about how I can make this part of my food repertoire at home. What made Bibimbap daunting to me for home cooking was the sheer number of toppings. Growing up in the US, my family ascribed to the typical Meat + Potato + 1 or 2 Veg formula for a meal. Looking at the beautiful color and variety often found in Bibimbap, it seems like a lot to make!
Fortunately, one of the blessings with Bibim (is that a culturally appropriate shortened nickname?) is that once you’ve taken the time to chop or quick sautee a topping, you often have enough for several bowls. That means it’s a good work-lunch solution you can take time to prep on Sunday. It’s also a great way to use up bits and ends of veggies and make quick toppings out of items when you don’t have enough for a full-on side dish.
Well, what do you think? Pretty?
I had a long-weekend and some time for a food project so I used a few easy jar toppings but also took the time to make a few. My layers were:
- Jasmine Rice
- Sauteed Sesame Mustard Greens
- Sauteed Mushrooms
- Raw Carrot
- Quick-Pickled Apple (Recipe coming soon!)
- Kimchee (Jar)
- Fried Shallots (Jar)
- Fried Garlic (Jar)
- Chicken Breast
- Poached Egg (a fried egg is also great but I do recommend a runny yolk for Bibimbap)
- Spicy Gochujang Sauce (Recipe below!)
The jar items I purchased at the Hong Phat Food Center on SE 82nd and Burnside in Portland—although there are several great markets around now. I recommend you head to one near you and take the time to walk around every aisle, look at labels, and ask questions. You never know what wonderful surprises you’ll find! Definitely pick up that Fried Garlic, you’ll want to put it on everything.
SPICY GOCHUJANG SAUCE (perfect for korean bibimbap)
(Makes enough for 4-6 bowls depending on your level of sauciness)
- ¼ cup gochujang paste
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp (or more to taste) honey or coconut syrup. I ended up using about 3 tbsp.
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp (or more to taste) fish sauce
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
- Water to thin
- (all of your Bibimbap ingredients: rice / sliced meat / sautéed and raw veggies / egg)
- Put all of the sauce ingredients except the water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Add water to thin into a drizzling consistency—think maple syrup.
- Adjust the honey and the fish sauce to add any additional sweet or salt. Remember for sauces you want the flavors to be fairly strong because when you combine them with the rice and other veggies it will mellow.
- Put rice in a bowl. Layer your Bibimbap veggies around the bowl in pretty color sections. Add sliced meat. Top with egg. Drizzle with Spicy Gochujang Sauce.
- Mix and eat. Feel the comfort heart hug.
Suggestions for use:
- Drizzled on a Bibimbap Bowl
- Mixed with greek yogurt to make a spicy taco cream
- Drizzled over french fries with feta cheese and fried herbs
- As a grill marinade for chicken or pork
Tell me about you below: have you had Bibimbap before? Any other Korean food you’ve been loving lately? What are some of your favorite Asian market finds? Any suggestions for bowl toppings that bring your heart a comfort hug?