Bibimbap is a large bowl of rice topped with an array of individually prepared vegetables and beef, served with seasoned red pepper paste (gochujang). “Bibim” means mixing, and “bap” means rice. The mixing usually happens at the table right before eating.
Bibimbap served in a sizzling hot stone bowl is very popular at Korean restaurants and is my absolute favorite. The hot stone bowl gives the bottom layer of rice a nice golden crust, and the rest of the food sizzles while being mixed.
At home, we sometimes make bibimbap using side dishes left over from previous meals. It's that versatile! This recipe looks long, but it is actually a collection of several side dish (banchan) recipes that are very simple to make. Even if you are not making bibimbap, you can use any of them to make small side dishes as well. For my bibimbap, I used seven toppings, but any three or four of these will make a delightful dish.
*Note: If using stone bowls, you’ll need an additional tablespoon of sesame oil for each bowl.
**Note: Boiled gosari is sold in Korean and Asian markets. If using dried gosari, soak several hours until soft and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes until tender.
For the sauce
- 4 tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons water
For the bibimbap
- 3 cups short-grain rice
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 16 ounces soy or mung bean sprouts
- 7 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for garnish*
- 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 bunch spinach
- 4 tablespoons chopped scallion
- 1/2 pound beef, such as rib eye or sirloin (for a vegetarian dish, use shiitake mushrooms instead), cut into thin 2-inch-long strips
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon rice wine (optional)
- 2 cups boiled gosari (fern brake), cut into 3-inch lengths**
- 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly crosswise
- 2 cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thinly crosswise
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 4 eggs
For the sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
For the bibimbap
Cook the rice according to package directions, using a little less water than called for. (The rice for bibimbap should be a little drier than usual for best results.)
Next, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot with a teaspoon of salt. Add the bean sprouts and boil for 3 minutes. Drain quickly and shock in cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain again. Toss with 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, ½ teaspoon of the sesame seeds, and salt and pepper, to taste.
In the same pot, blanch the spinach in salted boiling water only until wilted, 30-40 seconds. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out excess water using a kitchen towel. Cut into 3-inch lengths and toss with 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, ½ teaspoon of the sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of the scallion, and salt and pepper, to taste.
Set out 4 small bowls. In the first bowl, combine the beef with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, sugar, 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, rice wine, if using, 1 tablespoon of the scallion, 2 cloves minced garlic, and a pinch of pepper. Marinate for 20 minutes.
In the second bowl, season the gosari with the remaining soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, 1 clove minced garlic, ½ teaspoon of the sesame seeds, and a pinch of pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes.
In the third bowl, generously sprinkle salt over the zucchini and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out any excess liquid. Toss with 1 tablespoon of scallion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds. Repeat the same process with the cucumbers in the last bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté the gosari mixture for 5 minutes and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a kitchen towel, and then heat another tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the zucchini for 1-2 minutes and set aside. Clean out the skillet, and repeat the same process for the carrots, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Next, sauté the beef mixture for 2-3 minutes over high heat. Set aside and wipe out the skillet with a towel. Lastly, heat the remaining vegetable oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the eggs and immediately reduce the heat to low. Fry them sunny-side up until the whites are set, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool (it will be easier to remove from the pan once cool).
Divide the rice among 4 large bowls. (If using stone bowls, for each serving heat on the stove over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and add the rice. Cook for several minutes until it sizzles.) Arrange a small amount of each prepared vegetable and beef over the rice. Garnish with a little sesame oil on top. Top each serving with an egg and the red pepper paste sauce.