You love bibimbap. I love bibimbap. We all do. It’s spicy, salty, tangy heaven in a bowl. My mom made it for us growing up, but I never really learned to appreciate it until I was an adult and started buying my own groceries. I hate throwing food away; it makes me feel like a total failure. “I couldn’t even eat the food I bought, and now I have to buy more?” Ugh. I’m getting anxious just thinking about it. But, then I started making bibimbap as a way to use up those veggies, and it is a blessing, folks. Once you figure out the basic flavors used to prepare veggies in traditional bibimbap, you can apply it to anything you have on hand. You don’t even need a recipe. No spinach for sigumchi namul? Use the collards wilting away in your produce bin! Craving something meaty, but don’t have bulgogi lying around? Spice up those kidney beans! Out of kimchi? Throw together a batch of emergency kimchi with that red cabbage you forgot about. The beauty is that bibimbap can be reduced to one simple formula:
rice + sesame oil + vegetables + egg + gochujang
Seriously, that’s really it. There are purists out there that will say, “you need meat!” or “you’re not using the right bowl!” but forget them. Everyone’s a critic, you know? You just do you, boo, and it’ll work out. I promise.
Mix-in ideas and a few simple recipes to get you started:
- Bean sprouts
- Pickled radish
- Squash (zucchini or yellow)
- Grilled chicken
Collard Green Namul (hint: you can use almost any leafy green in this recipe):
- Slice collard greens into thin strips.
- Blanch for a minute or two, just until they soften slightly.
- Submerge the collards in cold water, then drain.
- Squeeze all excess water out of the greens by forming the greens into tiny little balls.
- Mix the greens with sesame oil, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
- Peel and then julienne a potato.
- Soak the potato in cold water for 10 minutes.
- Sauté in a pan with a bit of minced garlic over medium heat until it starts to soften. You can also saute with a little sliced onion, if you’d like. You don’t want the potatoes to get too soft, so keep an eye on them.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Bokkeum Carrots (hint: you can cook these together with the potatoes):
- Cook the same way as the potatoes, except for soaking.
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 4 T white sugar
- 1 T sesame oil
- 3 T minced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- ¼ t Korean pepper flakes
- ½ t black pepper
- Soak beans overnight or with quick soak method.
- Cook beans until starting to soften (30 or so minutes).
- Drain and rinse beans.
- Combine beans and bulgogi marinade in a sauce pan over medium heat.
- Cook until sauce reduces and flavors penetrate beans.
Bean sprouts (kongnamul muchim):
- Cook soybean sprouts in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Remove beans from heat and drain.
- Mix sprouts with 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1 t roasted sesame seeds, 2 t roasted sesame oil, and 1 t salt. You can also mix in some chopped green onions.
- 2 T gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T water
- 1 t vinegar
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Mix all ingredients together.
Prepare a few veggies, toss ’em on a bed of rice, throw an egg on it, drizzle a little sesame oil and gochujang, and voila! You’ve not only mastered the art of bibimbap preparation, but you’ve also used up a ton of veggies sitting around in your fridge. Winning!