Bibimbap is a large bowl of rice topped with an array of individually prepared vegetables and beef and served with seasoned red pepper paste (gochujang). Bibim means mixing, and bap means rice. The mixing usually happens at the table right before eating. Bibimbap served in a sizzling hot stone bowl is very popular at Korean restaurants and is my absolute favorite. The hot stone bowl gives the bottom layer of rice a nice golden crust, and the rest of the food sizzles while being mixed. At home, we sometimes make bibimbap using side dishes left over from previous meals. It's that versatile! This recipe looks long, but it is actually a collection of several side dish (banchan) recipes that are very simple to make. Even if you are not making bibimbap, you can use any of them to make small side dishes as well. For my bibimbap, I used 7 toppings, but any 3 or 4 of these will make a delightful bibimbap dish.
3 cups short grain rice
1/2 lb beef, rib eye or sirloin (substitute shiitake mushrooms for a vegetarian dish)
16 oz soybean sprouts (or mung bean sprouts)
1 bunch spinach
2 cups boiled gosari* (fern brake)
7 garlic cloves
2 or 3 scallions, chopped
(*Boiled gosari is sold in Korean/Asian markets. If using dried gosari, soak several hours until soft and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes until tender.)
roasted sesame seeds
salt and pepper
vegetable or canola oil
Red pepper paste (gochujang) sauce:
4 tablespoons of Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
3 tablespoons of water.
Cook the rice in a rice cooker or following package directions, using a little less water than called for. The rice for bibimbap should be a little drier than usual for best results. Prepare all other ingredients (recipes follow). Assemble: Place a serving of rice in a big bowl. (If using a stone bowl, heat it on medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and rice and cook the rice for several minutes until the rice sizzles.) Nicely arrange a small amount of each prepared vegetable and beef over the rice. Drizzle a little sesame oil over. Top with an egg fried sunny-side up and serve with the red pepper paste sauce.
Beef: Cut into thin 2-inch long strips. Mix in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of rice wine (optional), 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 2 cloves garlic minced, and a pinch of pepper. Marinate for 20 minutes. Sauté in a skillet for 2 - 3 minutes over high heat.
Gosari (Fern brake): Cut into 3-inch lengths. Season with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and a pinch of pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Sauté in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable/canola oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
Soy bean sprouts: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil with a teaspoon of salt. Add the bean sprouts and boil for 3 minutes. Drain quickly and shock in cold water to stop cooking. Drain again. Toss with 1 clove garlic minced, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and salt and pepper to taste.
Spinach: Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water only until wilted, 30 - 40 seconds. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out water. Cut into 3-inch lengths. Toss with 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds and salt and pepper to taste.
Cucumbers: Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. Generously sprinkle salt over sliced cucumbers and set aside for 10 - 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid. Toss with 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds.
Zucchinis: Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. Generously sprinkle salt over sliced zucchinis and set aside for 10 - 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid from salted zucchini by hand. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion and 1 clove garlic minced. Sauté in a lightly oiled skillet for 1 - 2 minutes over medium high heat.
Carrots: Julienne the carrots into match sticks. Sauté in a lightly oiled skillet for 1 - 2 minutes over medium high heat, sprinkling salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
Note: Other usual ingredients for bibimbap include shiitake mushrooms (sliced and sautéd), bell flower roots (doraji - soaked and sautéd), onion (sliced and sautéd), a leaf of lettuce, and kimchi (sliced).