Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bibimbap 비빔밥 (Korean Mixed Rice)

Bibimbap, the famed Korean rice dish is essentially mixed rice - namul  or marinated vegetables, meat, usually an egg and gochujang (red pepper paste) served on top of a bed of rice.  The variety of colours and textures of bibimbap make not only for a delicious dish but also an incredibly pretty dish. I have always loved bibimbap but it took me a while to feature as although simple, it does involve a fair amount of chopping and stir-frying.  This deceptively simple dish has royal lineage by the way, it can be traced back to the Joseon Dynasty, a dynasty born in Jeonju where bibimbap was prepared in the royal kitchens.  Bibimbap has since became Jeonju's signature dish and there is even a mini museum in the city!

For the meat portion, I made an easy spicy pork stir-fry and if you prefer a vegetarian version just leave out the meat.  Bibimbap is such a vibrant and appetizing dish, the different textures of the vegetables combined with the unique earthy flavour of the gochujang meld together to create this unique and representative Korean dish.  Another delicious version of bibimbap is dolsot bibimbap where bibimbap is served in a hot stone pot where the rice is still sizzling, usually with a raw egg cracked in right before serving. 

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

2 cups rice (short grain preferred)
1 bunch of spinach, rinsed
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 packet of bean sprouts, rinsed - (the big ones)
1/2 pound of pork, sliced to bite-sized pieces
Gochujang (to taste)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp gochugaru (red pepper powder)
Sesame oil, to taste
Soy sauce, to taste
Salt, to taste
4 eggs


Firstly, cook the rice in a rice cooker.  Prepare the vegetables.  Boil the bean sprouts for about 15 minutes in a soup pot with a pinch of salt.  While the bean sprouts are being cooked, you can start cutting up your other vegetables. 

Remove the bean sprouts and drain as much water as you can.  Place in a bowl and add 1 tsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of sesame oil and 1 clove of minced garlic.  Mix well with your hands (wear plastic gloves).  Set aside.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water until it wilts -about 1 or 2 minutes.  Remove and squeeze out as much water as you can (you can use tongs for this part).  Drain well.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic, a tsp of soy sauce and a 1/2 tsp of sesame oil.  Mix well with hands.  Set aside.

Stir-fry the carrot matchsticks for about 30 seconds or until it softens a little.  Dish out and place on a platter. 

Stir-fry the cucumber matchsticks with a pinch of salt until they turn a little translucent.  Dish out and place on a platter.

Now, for the pork.  Saute the rest of the minced garlic in about 1 tbsp of cooking oil.  Add 1 tbsp of gochujang and stir-around till fragrant.  Add in the pork.  Add about 1 tsp of gochugaru (hot pepper powder) and stir around till well-mixed.  Stir fry till the pork is cooked.  Dish out and place on platter.

Prepare 4 eggs sunny side up.

Finally, assemble your bibimbap.  Spoon rice into individual serving bowls.  Place one sunny side up egg in the centre of the rice.  Arrange the vegetables section by section on top of the rice.  Spoon a portion of the pork on the rice as well.  Finally, add about 2 tsps of gochujang (or more!) on top of the ingredients.  Mix well with your spoon.  Add about 1-2 drops of sesame oil (or more according to your preference) before eating.

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