Bibimbap

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Serves 4 | start to finish: 45 minutes or more, depending on number of toppings and banchan

bibimbap8-copyWell-loved in Korea and the U.S., bibimbap, which means “mixed rice,” combines a balance of flavors from several side dishes and kimchi, and often includes a fried egg, barbecued meat, and roasted seaweed. All of these components harmonize together, arranged over a bowl of steamed rice, and then seasoned by pungent red sauce made from pepper paste that balances sweet, salty, umami, sour, and spicy. Once this beautiful bowl hits the table, the first step is to stir the ingredients with a spoon to combine the flavors. Bibimbap is traditionally eaten with a spoon, while chopsticks are used to add more from the shared side dishes.

The variety feels like luxury, even for everyday meals. A few specific flavors are key to bibimbap, and it’s a great way to use leftovers. One version — bibimbap dolsot — is served with a raw egg over piping hot rice in a sizzling bowl (the dolsot). The egg cooks into the rice with that first quick stir. The version here uses a fried egg, in case sizzling bowls are not available.

for the gochujang sauce:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup gochujang pepper paste (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

for the bowl:

2 cups medium-grain rice
2 small carrots
1 .17 ounce (or more) package roasted nori seaweed (called gim in Korean)
5 ounces shiitakes or other mushrooms
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

other additions:
Assorted banchan, including kimchi (see recipes here)
Bulgogi beef (see recipe here)

STEPS:
To make the sauce, dissolve the sugar into the water and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the garlic and gochujang, and stir until well combined. Whisk in the sesame oil. Set aside.

Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the clean rice in water for 30 minutes to an hour, then drain and cook according to package directions. Remove from heat and gently fold the rice with a paddle or flat spoon to release extra steam. Cover the rice with a lid or plate until serving time.

Shred the carrots or slice them into matchsticks. Either leave them raw or steam them. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Remove the roasted seaweed from the package and cut into 1/4-inch strips. Place them in a bowl and set aside.

Remove the shiitake stems and reserve them for another use (such as mushroom stock). Slice the caps thinly and sauté them with 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and set aside.

Before frying the eggs, set the table with all the side dishes and sauce, then prep the individual bowls. Fill 4 large bowls each with a serving mound of rice, then arrange the toppings in wedge shapes around the top of the rice to fully cover it. Toppings include the carrots, shiitakes, and a bit of the banchan (spinach, bean sprouts, pickles, or kimchi), along with the beef, if using.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium heat and lightly coat it with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Crack an egg onto the hot, oiled pan and let it fry gently until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny. Time will vary depending on stovetops, but it should take about 2 minutes. Covering the top of the pan with a lid for a minute near the end can help firm up the whites. Slide the egg onto the top of the bowl of bibimbap. Repeat for the other three bowls. This task can also be accomplished all at once with 4 eggs in a larger nonstick pan.

Sprinkle some seaweed, sesame seeds, and gochujang sauce over the top, or leave it to individuals to add. Note that the sauce is spicy, and the seaweed can lose its crispness quickly.

Serve immediately with a spoon. Use chopsticks for adding more banchan throughout the meal.

From A Korean Table
Edible Seattle, March/April 2015

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