Bibimbap Sunday

Every now and then I make bibimbap with the kids on Sunday afternoon. It's labor-intensive, but a good family activity. At this point I can con my kids into doing most of the hard work.

Bibimbap, often called Korean comfort food, is simple in concept: a bowl of rice with some meat and vegetables on top, which one vigorously mixes together into a satisfying mash. But as with American comfort staples like mac and cheese, the variations are endless. Even though it's time-consuming, it's simple, and most kids who can be trusted with sharp implements can make it.

Here's how I did it this time. Purists will find it Westernized. I prefer to think of it as fusion.

Rice (duh). More rice than you think you'll need.

Bulgogi (you could spend a long time making the marinade yourself and marinating thinly-sliced beef, but I'm lazy and I get it pre- marinated from the terrific Korean grocery down the street.)

Cabbage, chopped into strips, quickly stir-fried until wilted in a bit of oil, garlic, and ginger.

Carrots, cut into matchsticks (hard, boring) or just peeled into a pile of peels and then chopped (easy, lazy), stir-fried. (I like to do the carrots with mostly ginger and a little vinegar for tang).

Mini-cucumbers, sliced thin (not peeled), tossed in some sea salt, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame seeds, sesame oil, a little red pepper, and diced scallions. You could make a proper Korean cucumber salad, which takes much longer, but I like the cucumbers to have a bit of crispness left in them to give more texture variation.

Shiitake mushrooms, stir-fried. In something. Surprise me.

Spinach, cooked and tossed in maybe soy sauce and sesame seeds and a little garlic.

Kimchee. Buy it. Make it? Are you kidding me?

Bean sprouts, tossed in boiling water for a minute or two, drained, then tossed with some diced scallions and ginger or garlic or whatever.

Diced zucchini. This time I stir-fried it briefly, until still slightly crisp, in a bottled ginger-soy dressing because I wanted an ingredient on the sweeter side for contrast.

Fried eggs.

Fermented bean paste. No, really. You can use the brownish stuff (savory and salty) or the red stuff (spicy and incredibly flavorful), or have both as options. You can also reach a happy medium by combining them to taste. Whichever I use, I take a big dollop of the paste, stir-fry with garlic and sesame oil and some sugar and vinegar, which results in a more sauce-like consistency and a little more moderate flavor. A little goes a long way. If you get to the end of cooking and realize that you are out of red bean paste, you could use Sriracha, like I did. Because it's all fusiony.

There are plenty of other vegetables you could use, and there are lots of ways to cook them. Some people season the vegetables very lightly, and others use more of the staples: salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, ginger, diced scallions, sesame oil, sesame seeds, vinegar, soy sauce. I like to experiment with these to see which vegetable works best with which combination, and to try to arrange it so the vegetables have contrasting flavors.

All of this takes up a lot of space.

Bibimbap table

Using a large bowl, create a bed of rice. Then array the ingredients of your choice around on the rice, including sauce, topped with the egg.

PreMash

Then you chop and stir and mix and mash the hell out of it. This is the kids' favorite part.

PostMash

It's marvelous, and comforting, and filling. Experimentation with taste or texture of individual ingredients is fun and easy.

When possible, get someone else to do the bajillion dirty dishes that result.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. says

    For really epic levels of comfort eating though, you have to get a dolsot. Sure, your kids will get 3rd-degree burns, but definitely worth it…

  2. Fthagn says

    Damnit Ken, now I have to go find a Korean place near work for lunch. You have awoken my Korean craving… or Kraving, if you will.

  3. Chris Ryan says

    only thing missing is the hot stone bowl to make the edges of the rice nice and crispy! too bad the town I live in doesnt know good korean food. I guess its time for a road trip to SF.

  4. Charles Duffy says

    Korea House in Austin does this beautifully well (optionally with the hot stone bowl that Andrew and Chris refer to), for anyone conveniently located and not interested in rolling their own. Having moved to Chicago, I'm surrounded by restaurants from pretty much every corner of the world — but haven't yet found their equal. (I think that's perhaps the _only_ genre of food where the best restaurant I know of is in Austin, with Zakia's Greek Cuisine — formerly the Greek Pita House — having closed).

  5. nichole price says

    How do you pronounce "Bibimbap"?
    It's been vexing me far too much since reading it earlier when Mr. Whites blog entry was first posted this morning.

    "Bible" "Bimmer" "Baptism"?

  6. Lokiwi says

    Looks great, Ken. Makes me tempted to try it myself. I would love to do dol sot bibimbap, but it is hard to justify buying stone bowls just for one dish. Lucky for me, it is a surprisingly available dish up here in the frozen wastelands of the north.

  7. akahige says

    As often as I've had bibimbap, I never realized it was supposed to be all mashed up. Thanks for that!

  8. says

    Thank you for sharing this, Ken — I adore BBap, just as I like ramen and pho and so many other ethnic specialties. A great way to ring in the new year is to exercise your palate and experiment with your diet. BBap is a great place to start.

  9. Jane says

    Andrew – oh man, don't forget jjam-pong too – restaurants that will do a half bowl of each are my favorite. I'm also fond of adding Spam to kimchi stew for comfort food, as well as to kimchi pancakes and kimchi fried rice. I'm sure I gross out my non-Korean husband, but whatever.

  10. says

    Charles Duffy:

    The last thing I expected in this thread was a mention of Korea House, which is within walking distance of my home.

    I don't think I've ever had the bibimbap there, partly because I prefer the bulgogi and partly because my platonic ideal of bibimbap is at Sun and Moon in Providence, RI.

  11. Erwin says

    Mhmm. Way too much work though. My wife just fries up some eggs, cooks some rice in a stone bowl with sesame oil, and adds the premixed bibimbap.

  12. says

    If you want to drive a Korean lady over the age of 40 absolutely "stab you with the metal chopsticks" crazy, refuse to mix the ingredients in 비빔밥 (bibimbap).

    Personally I prefer it that way, but the 아줌마 (ajummah, lit. Aunty but used to refer to any female over 40 or specifically the matron of an eatery) would always come over and demand that I mix it properly…

  13. NoSpam says

    When done right, Dolsot Bibimbap, with sides of Gochoojang and onion sauce, is a fine Winter day lunch.

  14. Dan Irving says

    Filippino's have a similar dish called Tapsilog which is Tapa (a cured beef), Sinigang (garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg) and tomatoes (which I pepper the bejebus out of). There are many variations depending on the protein used. The daughter and I basically do Bacsilog (Bacon, rice and egg). Easy to make and very comforting.

  15. Trebuchet says

    Completely off-topic, but I'm having trouble getting current posts on Popehat. Going to the main page takes me to the "TV Attorney" one. Have to click on Ken's name to get this one.

  16. jimmythefly says

    Thank you!!!

    I had this at a place called Kelly's in Mazama, WA while on a road trip last summer. But I couldn't remember what it was called, only that it was Korean and awesomely delicious(I'm a sucker for a fried egg on anything -especially burgers). I'd forgotten all about it until this post, now I know what's for dinner tonight!

  17. Joe Blow says

    I like bibim bap okay. It's tasty. But for me the ultimate Korean comfort food is Kimchi Jigae, kimchi soup with onions, thin sliced pork and bacon, tofu and other stuff it's probably better to just not know about. It's best served at about a thousand degrees in a thick clay pot, brought to you still bubbling by a mamasan happy to know a white boy knows about the single best secret in all of Korean cooking. Absolutely blows your sinuses open in a manner similar to how they can clear a minefield now by shooting a very thick explosive rope over it then blowing up the rope and blasting the minefield apart.

    It's nicest accompanied by a bowl of rice, four or a half dozen kimchis (my preference is winter, summer, seaweed, cucumber, sprouts, and "You Pick One For Me, Mamasan," and a Korean pancake, which has kimchi in it and God Knows what else. A generous splatter of fresh sea salt on the top, a beer and a soju, and you are ready to go.

    It's not clear to me what the Koreans actually use Kimchi Jigae for, but I think it's their substitute for ethylene glycol, chicken soup and napalm. I've been so cold that I can't see straight, and a big pot of this with the traditional sides has heated me up to a profuse sweat within 5 minutes. Damn I love Korean food. And against my general rule to not like or dislike groups, I tend to quite like Koreans. There's something about their culturally typical warm hearted toughness that very much resonates with my Stupid Stubborn Irish Bastard soul.

    Dammit. I'm going to have to make the 30 minute drive and hit the nearest good quality Korean joint.

  18. Astra says

    Well, actually, I do make my own kimchi. It's about one step harder than sauerkraut (which is the easiest food prep in the universe) and you get to buy funny ingredients like fermented tiny shrimps which always entertains me.

    Then when it sits in the fridge for a while and gets too sour, you buy some pork belly and make kimchi jjgae as Joe Blow recommends. For something that comes together in 20 min of unattended cooking, it's amazing complex and comforting.

  19. says

    @Trebuchet: try clearing the cache in your browser. This has resolved the problem for 100% of the people who have reported the issue to us.

  20. babaganusz says

    just had my first 'airplane bibimbap' (Korean Air service on a Delta plane = best balance of food and video selection) on the way to our honeymoon. not a bad spread for five components that fit on that tiny tray (in addition to dessert and water). maybe should've asked for another tube of pepper sauce, but didn't.