Authentic Vegetarian Bibimbap Recipe

Eating begins with the eye, and is followed by aroma, texture and taste. A great example is bibimbap, a korean dish widely popular across the globe. Along with other Korean favorites from the likes of Tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes in a spicy sauce) to Japchae (glass noodles and vegetables), bibimbap is a dish deliciously representative of the nation. After all, there’s a reason it’s so well-loved.

In its simplest form, bibimbap is a dish of short-grain rice topped with various vegetable side dishes. Raw or stir-fried beef is usually added as a form of protein, along with an egg in the centre. Similarly, the egg can be either raw or cooked. You’ll probably have no trouble finding bibimbap selling for the cost of a limb in the ever-expanding sea of overpriced Korean cafes marketed towards the hip and trendy. Even so, the dish was initially created as a means of using up leftover “namul” or vegetable side dishes instead of it going to waste. All the more reason for you to try your hand making it at home!

The rice dish is also commonly served in a hot stone bowl, otherwise known as Dolsot Bibimbap. The stone pot or the “dolsot” acts as an insulator to help maintain the heat of the dish. That way, you don’t have to worry about cold, stale rice or sad vegetables. It also gives the rice an opportunity to crisp up at the bottom of the bowl, forming a crunchy, slightly chewy layer at the bottom of the bowl rich with the fragrance of lightly burnt rice. This is where most people like to dig into the bottom of the bowl with their spoon and mix everything together, dividing the crust evenly into crouton-like bits which then add earthiness and texture to the overall dish.

Vegetarian Bibimbap Recipe

Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • Freshly cooked short-grain white rice for 2 pax
  • 2 eggs

Soybean side dish:

  • 1 cup soybean sprouts rinsed and blanched
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Pinch of salt

Cucumber side dish:

  • 1 small Japanese cucumber sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

Carrot side dish:

  • 1 small carrot roughly julienned
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of white pepper

Red Pepper side dish:

  • 1 small red pepper
  • Pinch of salt

Shiitake Mushroom side dish:

  • 10-12 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce

Gochujang Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp gochujang Korean hot pepper paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3-4 tbsp hot water to dilute

Instructions

  1. Make the gochujang sauce by mixing all the ingredients and set aside.

  2. Slice the cucumber thinly, season and let to rest.

  3. Saute shiitake mushrooms with a pinch of salt.

  4. Blanch the soybean sprouts, add the rest of the ingredients and massage gently.

  5. Saute the carrots with salt and white pepper, set aside.

  6. Saute red pepper strips with a pinch of salt, set aside.

  7. Fry the eggs sunny-side up.

  8. Assemble the dish by placing hot steaming rice into a bowl, followed by a dollop of the sauce in the middle, sunny-side up egg on top and side dishes surrounding the yolk.

STEP ONE – MAKE THE GOCHUJANG SAUCE

Korean hot pepper paste is essential to the overall flavor of the dish. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and dilute with 3-4 tbsp of hot water till you reach your desired consistency. The consistency is thicker than most sauces and shouldn’t be runny.

STEP TWO – PREPARE THE CUCUMBER SIDE DISH

Slice the Japanese cucumber thinly. Place them in a bowl along with salt, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Massage the seasonings gently into the slices with your fingers. The sodium will draw out some of the moisture in the cucumbers, making it softer and leaving behind some juice in the bottom of the bowl (which is to be poured away). Leave the bowl in the fridge until ready to assemble the dish.

STEP THREE – SAUTE THE SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS

Remove the stems and slice the shiitake mushrooms. But not too thin in order to help add a meaty texture to the dish to replace the lack of meat. Saute on medium heat with a tablespoon of lightly flavored vegetable oil until softened. Season and set aside.

STEP FOUR – PREPARE THE SOYBEAN SPROUTS

The sprouts will need a little more preparation due to its nature. Go through the sprouts and look for any black husks. Remove those and rinse the sprouts under cold water. Blanch them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to remove the astringency. Strain them off then dip directly into cold iced water to halt the cooking process, ensuring brightly colored, crunchy sprouts. Season with a pinch of salt, soy sauce, sesame oil and minced garlic.

Once again, mix everything together with your clean hands.

STEP FIVE – SAUTE THE CARROTS

Roughly julienne the carrot and lightly saute it. On medium heat, cook the carrots with a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil till cooked through but still crunchy. Halfway through cooking, season with white pepper and salt. I like to omit soy sauce for the carrots in order to maintain their vibrant, bright orange color. 3-4 minutes should be sufficient. Set aside.

STEP SIX – SAUTE THE RED PEPPER

For the red pepper side dish, chop the pepper into thin strips. Similarly, we want to maintain the original taste of the vegetable and allow its flavors to shine through. Simply saute the strips on medium heat till cooked through to your liking. I prefer mine slightly sweeter therefore I like to cook them till soft and ever so lightly caramelized. Season with a dash of salt and set aside for assembly.

STEP SEVEN – FRY THE EGGS SUNNY-SIDE UP

If you happen to have a stone pot / claypot at home, using fresh raw eggs would be lovely to use as the heat will be able to cook off the eggs slightly when mixed around in the pot with the rice and side dishes. For the majority, it’d be safer to simply fry the eggs sunny-side up in a minimal amount of oil and lightly season the top of the eggs with salt. If you’d like, leave the yolks runny as it will add creaminess to the entire dish once mixed together.

STEP EIGHT – ASSEMBLE THE BIBIMBAP

Spoon some steaming hot rice into a thick ceramic bowl if you don’t have a single-sized stone pot. Then scoop a heaping tablespoonful of the gochujang sauce onto the very middle, followed by the fried egg directly above. Then comes the fun part (and the most important) – placing the “namul” around the egg yolk. To make it look more visually appealing, refrain from putting similar colors next to each other but rather, alternate between the bright colors and the muted ones. For example: red peppers next to carrots.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Healthy, comforting and appealing to the eye, Bibimbap is an easy recipe to make at home despite how complicated it may look at restaurants. The key is to use your favorite vegetables of varying textures and bright colors and to cook them separately. Try not to cook the ingredients together as we don’t want to meld the flavors together but to allow each vegetable to stand out on its own.

What vegetables did you use to make your “namul”? Bell peppers of different colors? Different types of mushrooms?

Let us know in the comments below!

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