If you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to unearth that never-opened Mandolin you received for your wedding… or the perfect excuse to order a Titan Peeler off that TV infomercial… then your moment has arrived. It’s time to try your hand, as I did, at preparing Bibimbap.
Bibimbap is a colorful, delicious Korean dish that’s made up of sticky white rice and a whole slew of vegetables…some raw, some cooked…topped with a fried egg (or some meat) and tossed together with a spicy chili sauce. It’s different than a generic stir fry in both the vegetables it typically features (zucchini, daikon radish, cucumber and spinach are common), and in its telltale flavor and crunch derived in good measure from a signature layer of crispy rice that’s been crunchified by being served in a sizzling hot stone bowl. (A colleague of mine who is a Colombian dietitian told me that in many Hispanic households, they cook rice with oil and use a special pot for cooking rice called a caldero. This cooking method produces a burnt “crust” of rice on the bottom that even has a name: concón. The concón is reportedly fought over by everyone in the family. I finally understood what she was talking about once I made my own concón, Korean-style.) If you’ve ordered bibimbap at a Korean restaurant, you no doubt appreciated the beautiful, rainbow-like presentation of each individual vegetable pile placed separately on the contrasting bed of white rice… which you then proceeded to mix together into a divine, multi-textured, psychadelic mess. Note to all of you OCD types who cringe when your peas touch the mashed potatoes on your plate: perhaps bibimbap isn’t the right dish for you.
Bibimbap isn’t hard to make so much as it is labor-intensive. There’s a fair amount of julienning (that’s where the mandolin or titan peeler comes in), and then a variety of treatments to the different vegetables to produce the gorgeous variation in texture and flavor. Having taken on a Bibimbap project myself, I can only say that it was worth every last matchstick-sized piece of zucchini I julienned. It was outrageously delicious. And while the markets are still selling a bounty of fresh, in-season vegetables, this is a great time to try it yourself.
The recipe I used is a vegetarian one from the chef at New York’s notable Korean Restaurant, Woo Lae Oak , printed recently in the New York Times. (Click on the link to access it.) Many at-home recipes for bibimbap I’ve seen skip the part about crisping the rice. It’s a crime! Rest assured, this recipe provides an elegant workaround for the sizzling hot stone pot, and you’ll get your concón. Also, I’ve included some pointers below to help make it gluten-free–and easier.
- If you don’t have/can’t find the vegetables it calls for, by all means substitute with whatever you have access to. Also, I happen to think the spinach and mushrooms are among the most flavorful veggies in this dish, so next time I make it, I’m going to up the quantities on those. While the recipe calls for shiitakes, feel free to substitute any mushroom(s) that you can slice into thin strips if expense/availability is an issue.
- Before you start slicing the veggies, get a nice big pot of water boiling and set aside a slotted spoon. Keep the water boiling throughout, use the slotted spoon to rescue the cooking veggies, and you can reuse it to complete all of the blanching projects called for in the prep.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute the soy sauce for a wheat-free Tamari sauce, such as San-J or Eden Foods
- You may have a hard time finding the signature fermented red chili sauce, called gochujang, unless you’re fortunate enough to live near an Asian grocery. What’s more, some commercial varieites may be made with wheat or barley instead of fermented rice, which is the traditional ingredient. If you can’t find a gluten-free version, just use a Sriracha sauce, which is much easier to find and always gluten-free. It’s not a perfect substitute as far as the taste profile goes, but it’s still plenty tasty. Plus, it’s got WAY less sodium.
- Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, make up a well-done fried egg for each person and serve it atop the bibimbap. It adds a bit of protein and a shockingly delicious dimension of flavor and texture.
Approximate nutrition information per serving: (assumes the recipe serves 3 people and includes a fried egg for good measure. Yes, I know the recipe claims it serves four, but you’re kidding yourself if you think 4 reasonably hungry people are going to be willing to divvy this steaming pile of deliciousness up fairly.): 480 calories, 65g of carbohydrate (of which 5g are fiber), 14g protein, 16g fat… and 5mg iron (28% of the daily value), 50% of the daily value for vitamin C and 20% of the daily value for women for Vitamin A.
A last parting word: this nutrition information is not valid for the bibimbap you’d get at a restaurant, where significantly more oil will be used to cook it and a lot more rice is typically served. According to various sources, you can expect over 560 calories and about 90g of carbohydrate PER CUP of the typical Korean restuarant bibimbap. Bibimbap eater beware!Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.