As a child, many meals in our house consisted of my mom opening multiple snap-lock metal containers of vegetables and kimchi and putting them on the table alongside leftover bulgogi or kalbi.
We would pile everything on top of a bowl of hot rice, maybe add some gochujang if we were feeling adventurous, and mix it all into a delicious fusion of flavors. At the time, I had no idea I was eating bibimbap.
What is Bibimbap?
Bibimbap, which translates in English to “mixed rice,” is a Korean dish of seasoned vegetables and often meat served over rice and usually topped with a cooked or raw egg. Although you can top your bibimbap with anything you’d like, this recipe includes components sure to please almost everyone’s palate:
- Classic, easy-to-prepare side dishes (called namul in Korea) are the most common toppings. Namul are usually vegetables, although roots, seaweed, anchovies, fish cakes, and many other foods can be utilized in raw, pickled, fried, sautéed, and blanched preparations. In this recipe, I include spinach, mung bean sprout, and spicy cucumber namul for a medley of textures and flavors.
- I like to add a couple of freshly sautéed vegetables to my bibimbap. In this case, carrots and sliced shiitake mushrooms.
- A protein is typically included in bibimbap like stir-fried steak or bulgogi, though you can use whatever meat you prefer. Or leave the meat out altogether for vegetarian bibimbap.
- Traditional bibimbap is topped with either a fried or poached egg, or sometimes just a perfect egg yolk. When you mix everything together, the egg yolk combines with the hot rice to coat the vegetables and meat with a delicious and creamy texture.
- Gochujang sauce, made with gochujang and other seasonings, is usually drizzled on top of everything, adding a sweet and spicy burst of flavor. Delicious!
Make Ahead Tips for Bibimbap
Bibimbap is the perfect dish for making ahead and assembling when you’re ready to eat. With minimal day-of cooking needed, you can have this on the table in less than an hour. Here are a few tips for easing your way into bibimbap success:
- Make all of your namul the day before; the spinach, bean sprouts, and cucumber are even better when they have extra time to absorb the seasonings.
- Cut your carrots and mushrooms the day before and store them in zip-top bags with a piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture, keeping things extra fresh. Sautéing takes just minutes.
- If you want to crisp your rice, as in dolsot bibimbap, make the rice the day before. Day-old rice crisps up much better.
How to Get Crispy Rice
Dolsot bibimbap is usually prepared in a sizzling-hot Korean stone bowl called a dolsot, which creates a deliciously toasty and crunchy layer of rice at the bottom of your bibimbap. But just because you don’t own a dolsot doesn’t mean you can’t have a crispy rice moment! Here are two ways of enjoying crispy rice with your bibimbap:
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a Dutch oven or cast iron pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Brush 1 tablespoon of sesame oil on the bottom and sides of the pan. Carefully press cold rice in an even layer on the bottom of your pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until you see the edges of the rice beginning to brown.
- Stove: Heat a Dutch oven or cast iron pan on medium heat. Brush 1 tablespoon of sesame oil on the bottom and sides of the pan. Press cold rice in an even layer on the bottom of your pan. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you see the edges of the rice beginning to brown.
Spoon servings of rice into individual bowls and top with all your vegetables, meat, egg, and drizzle with gochujang sauce. Mix and enjoy!
There are countless ways to prepare bibimbap, whether to suit individual tastes or dietary requirements. The namul included in this recipe are only a tiny representation of what you can include. You can prepare other namul or simply add seasoned and sautéed vegetables of your choice.
If you prefer to reduce your carb intake, you can make this with cauliflower rice and then sauté your meat with sesame oil and salt and pepper. If you are vegetarian, omit the meat completely, replacing it with a mixture of mushrooms. I like the combination of oyster, king trumpet, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced and sautéed until deeply browned and crispy in spots.
Storage and Reheating
This recipe makes enough for 6 people, but there may be enough namul, meat, and sauce left for you to have a sneaky second supper or even lunch tomorrow. If so, simply store your leftover namul in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and store your rice and sauce in separate containers.
To eat, reheat the rice and top with whatever you like. Egg or no egg, it’s up to you. Just don’t forget the gochujang sauce!
Recipes Featuring Gochujang
- Easy Grilled Gochujang Chicken Thighs
- Tteokbokki (Spicy Korean Rice Cakes)
- Sheet Pan Fried Rice
- Gochujang Green Beans
- Kimchi Deviled Eggs
Make the gochujang sauce:
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 days.
Make the cucumber namul:
Slice the cucumbers thinly, about 1/8 inch thick, and toss with the salt. Set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out excess water.
Drain the cucumbers and rinse the salt off. Pat dry with a paper towel, pressing a bit to release any remaining water.
Combine with the garlic, ginger, green onion, rice vinegar, gochugaru, sugar, and sesame oil. Taste and adjust for salt. Chill and store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a day before serving.
Make the spinach namul:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water. Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds and use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer it to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.
After cooling, drain and squeeze all the liquid out. Combine with the green onions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and pepper. Taste and adjust for salt. Chill and store in a covered container in the fridge up to a day before serving.
Make the bean sprout namul:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil (you can use the same water you used to blanch the spinach). Blanch the bean sprouts for 3 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer it to an ice bath to stop the cooking.
Drain well and combine with the green onion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt. Taste and adjust for salt. Chill and store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a day before serving.
Make the rice:
Add the rice to a medium bowl and cover with water. Swirl the rice around with your hands a few times. The water will become cloudy as excess starch is washed off. Drain and discard the cloudy water. Add fresh water and repeat at least 3 times, or until the water is mostly clear. Soak the washed rice in fresh water for 30 minutes.
Drain the rice and add to a heavy-bottomed pot that is deep enough that your rice won’t boil over, around twice as tall as the water level. Add 2 1/2 cups water. Cover with the lid, turn the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Keep covered to stay warm.
Marinate the beef:
Meanwhile, slice the beef into thin, 2-inch long strips. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, mirin, and garlic and whisk to combine. Add the beef, toss to coat, and marinate for 20 minutes.
Sauté the carrots, mushrooms, and beef:
Meanwhile, heat a wok or large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons neutral oil and sauté the carrots for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just starting to char and still crisp-tender. Season with salt and remove to a platter. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan and repeat with shiitake mushrooms.
Once the beef has been marinating for 20 minutes, remove it from marinade, pat it dry, add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, and sauté the beef until browned, 2 to 3 minutes over high heat. Place on the platter with the carrots and mushrooms.
Prepare the eggs (optional):
When almost ready to serve, start cooking your eggs. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil to a nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and fry, sunny side up, basting the whites with spoonfuls of the hot oil until fully set. I like to cook 3 at a time, setting the cooked eggs aside on a plate while I do the next 3, adding more oil as needed.
You can substitute with poached eggs or 1 raw egg yolk per serving if desired.
Assemble and serve:
Add the rice to individual bowls. Place each topping in their own sections on top of the rice, leaving an open space in the center. Place one egg in the center of each serving. Drizzle with the gochujang sauce.
To eat, break open the runny yolk and toss all your ingredients together until mixed. Add more gochujang sauce if desired.
I don’t recommend storing leftover bibimbap once you’ve mixed everything together. You can store the components separately (rice, toppings, and sauce in different containers) for up to 3 days.
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