Bibimbap is one of those dishes that makes that adage about eating with your eyes entirely true. This classic Korean dish is a beautiful mélange of colorful fresh vegetables, a little bit of meat, and often topped with a bright runny fried egg and then mixed together with rice and deep red gochujang, a spicy red chili paste. The result is a dynamic mess of a dish that is somehow gorgeous.
Bibimbap is quintessential Korean home cooking and is very simple to make at home. Versions of bibimbap differ from region to region in Korea and from household to household. A popular one is dolsot bibimbap where the vegetables and rice are served in a very hot stone pot creating a lovely crust.
A couple of unique ingredients I love to use in bibimbap is gosari or fern bracken and ggaennip or perilla leaves. Gosari grows in wet forests and is typically sold dried. After being reconstituted, it’s cooked making it pliable and tender. It has a unique light and grassy flavor and fibrous texture. Perilla, also called sesame leaves (which have no relation to sesame), is a thin herbaceous leaf that has a very strong anise and mint flavor that varies depending on its size. Perilla leaves are often enjoyed raw, but are also picked and eaten as a side dish. In Japan the same plant leaf is called shiso and is used widely to add flavor to dishes.
For this bibimbap, I put together a vegetarian version by omitting the beef, however you could substitute with tofu as well. The array of vegetables is really the highlight for me, so I find the beef unnecessary and still absolutely delicious without it!
- 2 small Korean zucchini, julienned
- 1 package of soybean sprouts (around 1 lb)
- 1 large bunch of spinach
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 bundle of kosari, prepared. This can be found in any Korean market. If you are using dried ones, soak in water for at least 8 hours before using
- 7-10 leaves of ggaennip thinly sliced, also called sesame leaves or perilla leaves. They’re also sold in Korean markets.
- 4 eggs, cooked sunny side up and runny
- 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin, dried or fresh
- Pot of cooked rice, about 3-4 cups. I love using mixed wild rice, which there is a great selection of at Korean markets.
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- soy sauce
- sesame oil
- vegetable oil
- kosher or sea salt
Start cooking the rice, in a pot or rice cooker. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in the soybean sprouts and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender and translucent. Drain well and toss with 1 clove of minced garlic, a big pinch of salt and drizzle of sesame oil.
Bring the pot of water back to a boil (no need to change the water) and boil the spinach for a couple minutes until wilted. Drain and press the spinach against the colander so you get all the water out. Add 1 clove of minced garlic, a big pinch of salt and drizzle of sesame oil.
Put the zucchini in a bowl and add a pinch of salt to them and toss. This will let out a bit of water and after a few minutes, lightly squeeze excess water out. In a large pan, heat up a bit of oil and sautee the zucchini until tender. Add another pinch of salt to the zucchini after it is cooked and set aside.
Add a little more oil in and sautee the mushrooms until tender. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil halfway through cooking. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add more oil to the pan and sautee carrots for a couple minutes just until slightly tender and transfer to a plate.
To cook the kosari, chop the fern into 1-2 inch pieces and sautee in some oil and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Drizzle with sesame oil and transfer to a plate.
Lastly, fry the eggs sunny side up in some oil and make sure to leave the yolk a little runny.
Assemble your bibimbap by placing a small handful of each ingredient in a circle with the egg in the center.
I usually serve the rice on the side in a small bowl. Add the rice into the plate of vegetables and toss with a small spoonful of gochujang, depending on how hot you like it!
(Recipe adapted from Maangchi)