Korean Bibimbap

A wholesome rice bowl of classic bibimbap vegetables, beef and a gochujang sauce! Enjoy it at home with this easy bibimbap recipe. You can omit the meat and egg for vegetarian or vegan bibimbap. 

What is bibimbap?

Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a large bowl of rice topped with an array of individually prepared vegetables and meat and served with a gochujang (고추장) sauce. Bibim means mixing, and bap means rice. The mixing usually happens at the table by the diner.

Once you mix the vegetables, meat, and rice with a spicy gochujang sauce, you can enjoy a delicious harmony of different flavors and textures with every bite. This wholesome rice bowl is one of my absolute favorite Korean comfort foods!

In Korea, there are many different types of bibimbap depending on toppings, regions, sauces, etc. Sannamul (산나물, wild vegetables) bibimbap, jeyuk (제육, spicy pork) bibimbap, haemul (해물, seafood) bibimbap, and yeolmu (열무, young radish greens) bibimbap are a few examples. 

The most famous bibimbap, however, comes from Jeonju, the capital city of North Jeolla Province. Jeonju bibimbap is known for quality ingredients and elaborate preparations with as many as 30 toppings. 

At home, we often make this dish using the side dishes left over from previous meals. It’s a delicious way to use up the leftovers. But, you can easily make it with a few freshly made simple side dishes. Hope you enjoy it at home with this easy to follow bibimbap recipe.

Once you mix the vegetables, meat, and rice with a spicy gochujang sauce, you can enjoy a delicious harmony of different flavors and textures with every bite. It’s one of my absolute favorite Korean comfort foods! Hope you enjoy it at home with this easy to follow bibimbap recipe.

Bibimbap Ingredients

As mentioned above, there are many variations of bibimbap. The most common type of bibimbap includes beef and a few vegetables and is usually topped with a sunny side up fried egg.

For the meat, bulgogi style beef is most common, but you can also use ground beef seasoned the same way. You can also use chicken bulgogi or spicy pork if you like.

While bibimbap vegetable options are endless and you can use any number of them, here are common bibimbap vegetables that I used in this recipe:

  • Beansprouts (sukju namul, 숙주나물) or soybean sprouts (kongnamul, 콩나물 ). In Korea, kongnamul is more common in bibimbap. 
  • Spinach (시금치)
  • Cucumbers (오이)
  • Mushrooms (버섯): Pyogo beoseot (표고버섯) is classic, but you can use any mushrooms you like.
  • Carrots (당근): You can use red or orange bell peppers instead.

Other common bibimbap vegetables include zucchinimu saengchae (radish salad), onion (sliced and sautéd), bellflower roots (doraji – soaked and sautéd), gosari (fiddlehead ferns), lettuce leaves, red cabbage, kimchigim (roasted seaweed sheet, aka nori) and so on. Also see my collection of 15 Korean vegetable side dishes for more options. 

Which rice to use

Koreans typically use short grain white rice for this dish. If you want to make this Korean rice bowl even healthier, use short grain brown rice or mixed grain rice instead. If short grain rice is not available in your area, use any rice you can find.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or following package directions, using a little less water than called for. The rice should be a little drier than usual for best results.

Bibimbap sauce

The most common bibimbap sauce is gochujang, but other sauces, such as yangnyeom ganjang (soy sauce based) and doenjang are also used. If you have a tub of ssamjang, it’s great as a bibimbap sauce as well. 

The salty, spicy, and slightly sweet and umami packed gochujang doesn’t really need much of anything else for bibimbap. I simply use some water to thin it out for easy mixing and add a little bit of sugar and sesame oil. That’s it! The thickness and sweetness of gochujang vary, depending on the brand. Also, if your gochujang has been sitting in your fridge, it probably has dried out a bit too. Adjust the amounts of water and sugar accordingly.

Recipe Card 17 1 - Bibimbap

How to make it

This recipe seems long, but it’s actually a collection of several basic side dishes (banchan) that are very simple to make. Season individual toppings lightly as everything will be mixed with a gochujang sauce. 

Beef: Unless you’re using pre-cut bulgogi meat or ground beef, cut the beef into thin, bite sized strips/slices. Mix in the marinade ingredients and marinate for about 20 minutes. Sauté in a skillet for 2 – 3 minutes over high heat.

Recipe Card 8 - Bibimbap

Vegetables: The vegetable toppings are basically namul dishes (seasoned vegetable side dishes). They are either blanched, salted or stir-fried before being seasoned with a few basic seasoning ingredients. 

For the beansprouts and spinach, bring some water to a boil and blanch the vegetable. Drain quickly and shock in cold water to stop cooking. Drain again. Toss with the seasoning ingredients. If using soybean sprouts (kongnamul) instead, I’ve added it in the recipe card under More Vegetable Options.  

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. Generously sprinkle salt over sliced cucumbers and set aside for 10 – 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid. Toss with the seasoning ingredients. 

Recipe Card 14 - Bibimbap

For the mushrooms and carrots, thinly slice them. Sauté each vegetable in a lightly oiled skillet for 1 – 2 minutes over medium-high heat, sprinkling salt and pepper to taste. You can cook zucchini or onion slices the same way, if using. 

An egg can be sunny side up, or fully cooked. Sometimes, only a raw egg yoke is used, which is typical for Jeonju bibimbap.

Dolsot bibimbap

You can simply serve bibimbap in a large bowl at room temperature. However, when it’s served in a sizzling hot stone bowl (dolsot), your dining experience will rise to the next level. The hot stone bowl gives the bottom layer of rice a nice golden crust, and the rest of the bowl sizzles while being mixed. 

Lightly oil a stone or earthenware bowl with a teaspoon of sesame oil over medium heat. Add a serving of cooked rice and arrange the toppings on top. Cook for several minutes until the rice sizzles.

Recipe Card 10 - Bibimbap

There are various types of stone pots or earthenwares available at Korean markets and/or on line. If unavailable, use a cast iron pan or a casserole dish for the similar effect.

Vegetarian or vegan bibimbap

Making a vegetarian or vegan bibimbap is easy! Simply skip the meat and egg. A few vegetable toppings will be great, but tofu is a great meat substitute and a protein option. As I showed in my tofu bibimbap recipe, pan-frying the tofu enhances the nutty flavor of the tofu and gives it a nice chewy texture.

If you have vegetarian/vegan kimchi, slice it up a little. It will make a nice addition to your rice bowl.

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