Bibimbap – Korean Mixed Rice and Vegetables

BibimbapI’ll be totally honest with you, this Bibimbap was tough. It was definitely worth doing, but tough going. It doesn’t require any major skill at all, just time and organisation. But it’s just a little frustrating as it looks like a deconstructed stir-fry with all of the different ingredients separated in the bowl only to be mixed together by the diner. Again, it is totally worth it, and it really is a lot more than a deconstructed stir-fry when you think that each of the toppings are cooked and seasoned differently giving a mix of not only flavours but textures and temperatures. To quote my friend Alice, “This is the nicest Asian food I’ve ever had!” You could make everything a lot easier on yourself, of course, by making as much as you can in advance. If you have a slicing attachment of a food processor, I’d use it, better yet, a julienne attachment! Also, many hands make light work so enlist some help if you can. Other than that, the actually cooking doesn’t take very long at all. Try to do all the stir-frying as the rice is cooking but don’t get frazzled if everything isn’t totally in sync. The rice will stay hot a while once you take it off the heat if you leave the lid on. If you are good at multi-tasking, you could stir-fry 2 of the toppings at once in 2 separate pans.

With any traditional Korean meal, you will be served a number of side dishes (banchan). These could be pickles, kimchi, rice, vegetables, soup so I find it a little easier to serve this dish at the table with the rice in the middle of the tables and all the toppings in separate side dishes around it. As I cook these toppings, I transfer them to a very cool oven to keep warm.

BiBimbap is also served in special, individual earthenware or gold coloured metal bowls, the insides of which are drizzled in sesame seed oil, loaded up with rice and vegetables like below but placed over a heat to fry and toast the rice. Usually when bibimbap is served like this, the marinated beef is raw and the fried egg is replaces with a raw egg yolk. These bowls are really expensive but if you wold like to serve it this way, I’d suggest toasting the rice in a large, sesame-slicked frying pan with all the vegetables, gochujang and beef on top but I’d add one yolk per person before bring it to the table and mixing it all up there.

Bibimbap

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • fine salt
  • 3 quarters of an English cucumber
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 red peppers
  • 4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 14 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 2 fillet steaks, roughly 300g
  • 5 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp rice wine
  • 400g beansprouts
  • 1 aubergine
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
  • 200ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 500g or 600ml short grain white sushi rice
  • 3 eggs
  • gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

Instructions

  1. Slice the carrots into julienne strips or matchsticks, add them to a bowl, add half a tsp of fine salt to them and toss to coat. Then set aside for at least an hour or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
  2. Half the cucumber lengthways and then into this halfmoons. Add them to a bowl with half a tsp of fine salt, toss to coat and set aside for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
  3. Slice the courgette into julienne strips or matchsticks, add them to a bowl, add half a tsp of fine salt to them and toss to coat. Then set aside for at least an hour or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
  4. Slice the red peppers into thin strips and set aside until later without salting them.
  5. Thinly slice the steaks and add them to a bowl with 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 2 chopped spring onions, 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame seed oil, 1 tsp sugar and 2 tsp rice wine. Mix everything up and allow to marinade for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Since the beansprouts and if raw, add to a large pot of salted boiling water, clamp the lid on and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Then transfer the beansprouts to some cold water to immediately stop the cooking.
  7. Once cold, add the beansprouts to a bowl with half a tsp of fine salt, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp sesame seed oil and toss to coat and set aside.
  8. Bring the pot of water back to the boil and add 500g of spinach, cook for 30 seconds before you transfer to cold water to stop the cooking. Gently ring it out to remove any excess water. Chop it coarsely, add it to a bowl along with half a tsp of salt, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a tsp of sesame seed oil. Mix well and set aside.
  9. Chop the aubergine into chunky batons. Add them to a steamer and place the steamer over your pot of boiling water and allow to steam with the lid on for 10 minutes.
  10. 10 minutes later, place the cooked aubergine into a strainer or sieve to cool and allow all the water to run out of them.
  11. As they're draining, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan and add 6 crushed cloves of garlic. Fry for 30 seconds before you add the doenjang plus 200ml of stock. Stir to incorporate everything and bring it to the boil. This can be done ahead of time and heated up last minute before adding the aubergine.
  12. Add the rice to a fine sieve and rice it well under the tap until the water flowing out is clear. Then add it to a large saucepan with equal volume, 600ml of water, stir, clamp the lid on and allow it to sit off the heat for 30 minutes.
  13. As the rice is soaking, reheat the doenjang sauce for the aubergines. Add the aubergines and stir to coat until they are piping hot. Transfer to a small serving bowl and set it aside someplace warm.
  14. Once the rice has been soaking for 30 minutes, place the pot over a medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  15. Now place a large frying pan over a high heat and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Once hot, drain the excess water that has seeped out of the carrots and add them to the pan. Stir-fry for just a minute before you transfer them to another small serving bowl and keep them somewhere warm.
  16. Add another bit of oil to the pan if needs be and the red peppers and a pinch of salt before you transfer them to another serving bowl and keep them warm.
  17. Add more oil if you need to before you add the drained cucumber slices, another crushed clove of garlic and half a tsp of sesame seed oil and stir-fry for just 30 seconds before you transfer them to another small serving bowl and keep them warm.
  18. Add some more oil, the drained courgette, another crushed clove of garlic, half a tsp of sesame seed oil and a handful of spring onions then stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Transfer them to another small serving bowl to keep warm.
  19. Add some more oil before you add the beef and marinade and stir-fry for just a few minutes until fully cooked. Then transfer to another serving bowl to keep warm.
  20. One the rice has had 10 minutes, remove the lid, fluff it up with a fork, return the lid and turn the heat down to low.
  21. Now in a frying pan with plenty of vegetable oil, fry one egg per person sunny side up or to taste.
  22. Plate up by add ing the rice to a large bowl per person then spoon over all of your hot and cold toppings but be careful to be neat and keep them separated, then top them with a fried egg, add a good tsp of gochujang or more if you like it spicy, sprinkle over some more sesame seeds and sliced spring onions.
  23. Serve with all the little serving dishes dotted around the table and dig in.
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