Bibimbap: Stirring Up Your Stir-Fry Game

Several years ago, I discovered bibimbap from a food truck, and then on an episode of The Splendid Table. And I was in love.

What is bibimbap, you ask? It is a delightful Korean dish that literally means “mixed rice.” It is fried, crunchy rice topped with a plethora of ingredients, most notably sauteed vegetables, kimchi, and a sauce of some sort (often gochujang – I’ll explain these later). It also often includes a protein (usually meat) and a fried egg on top, and is mixed together in a fabulous hot mess just before eating. It is both a “lazy” food here in the Walbacz house, as it comes together pretty quickly and uses up stuff in the fridge (are you seeing a theme here?), but it also something that impresses guests with a bevy of interesting flavors and textures.

Stir fries and fried rice are all well and good for using up vegetables and proteins, as well as leftover rice, but I vastly prefer bibimbap. Why? Perhaps it’s the crunchy rice that soaks in the egg and gochujang so perfectly, or that the different flavors of ingredients are not necessarily lost in the same sauce throughout. The textural differences in bibimbap are more pronounced than that of a stir fry. I’m pretty sure I also like it because I can change my combination and proportion of toppings with leftovers, day by day, since each component part is added separately in each bowl.

This is an all-season dish that can use whatever you have on hand and is in season, since it’s a mixture of unspecified vegetables and proteins. So, a summer bibimbap here will focus on squash, peppers, and onions, whereas a winter bibimbap may include more greens, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. You do you, as long as “you” includes in-season produce. Quit buying summer squash in December.

Saute your veggies. These are nicely blackened to my liking.
Mmmm, crunchy rice. The best part.
The best part about getting local eggs? Surprise double yolks! Yesssss.

A few disclaimers:

  1. I do not claim to be a bibimbap expert, nor do I claim to have the most authentic, original recipe. I am simply writing from experience from what I’ve read, eaten, and made myself. I highly recommend you find yourself an authentic Korean restaurant and/or purveyor of bibimbap and see for yourself what the real deal tastes like. It’s pretty danged tasty. (My version is, too – don’t get me wrong.)
  2. We use runny eggs on top of our bibimbap, because that’s the way to play. However, as you know, there are risks of food-borne illness and whatnot with undercooked food. You reduce your risk of said…errr, risk, by either fully cooking your food, and/or knowing your source of eggs and meats really well. So, you can fully cook your egg, but it won’t have the same creaminess in the finished dish. You have been warned.

Let’s get this bibimbap party started!

Bibimbap

bibimbap

This recipe makes about four generous servings, depending on how crazy you get.

You will need:

  • 3 c cooked starchy short-grain rice (we use sushi rice)
  • 3-4 tbsp fat or oil
  • 3 c chopped vegetables, such as peppers, squash, onions, or potatoes
  • 2 c chopped greens, such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, or bok choy (optional, but delicious)
  • 1-2 c sliced protein, such as tofu, tempeh, chicken or beef (I also used leftover ground beef in the last version I made)
  • meat seasonings: soy sauce, mirin, sake or rice wine (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • kimchi
  • gochujang sauce (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Heat 1-2 tbsp fat or oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium high. Add vegetables, starting with onions and peppers if using, and moving to things like squash or potatoes afterwards. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender and seared, about 5-10 minutes. Remove veggies from skillet.
  2. Cook chopped greens, adding more fat to the skillet if necessary, until wilted, salting as you go. Remove greens from skillet.
  3. Cook protein of choice, adding more fat to skillet if necessary. You can season simply with salt and pepper, or you can get fancy and add 1-2 tbsp each of soy sauce, mirin, and/or rice wine, as well. Cook until meat is fully cooked (it is no longer pink), or until tofu/tempeh is fully heated and seared, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from skillet.
  4. Heat 1-2 tbsp fat or oil in skillet on medium high heat. Add the cooked rice to the skillet, pressing down to form an even layer over the cooking surface. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes until fried and perhaps charred in some places on the bottom. Using a metal spatula, flip sections of the rice over in the skillet so that both sides get a good crisp. Repeat frying, cooking for about five minutes more.
  5. Fill each bowl about halfway with rice, then top with veggies, greens, and proteins.
  6. Meanwhile (and this is when a cooking buddy comes in handy, but you can totally do this on your own), heat a small skillet with 1 tsp of oil or fat on medium. Crack an egg into a small dish or bowl, being careful not to break the yolk. (It’s not the end of the world if you do, but you won’t get that delightful runny yolk. Trust me – it’s delightful.) When the skillet is hot, slide the egg from the dish into the pan. Allow to cook on one side for 2-4 minutes, then cover the pan with a clear lid for about 1-2 minutes more – this ensures that you still get a runny yolk, but you end up cooking both sides without risking breaking the yolk by flipping the egg. Repeat with other eggs. (You could also do this all at once, but I never like risking ruining my runny eggs this way.)
  7. Top each bowl with an egg, kimchi, and gochujang sauce to taste. Serve and eat immediately.

Gochujang Sauce

You will need:

  • 4 tbsp gochujang paste or Asian chili sauce, such as sambal oelek (you can find this in Asian groceries or in the international section of many supermarkets)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2-3 tbsp green onion (optional)
  • 1 tsp demerara or raw sugar

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl throughly. Refrigerate any unused portions in an airtight container – it will keep pretty indefinitely.

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