When I have little bits and pieces of Korean banchan sitting in my fridge, my favorite way to use them up is to make bibimbap.
I just cook some rice, heat up the leftover side dishes, fry an egg, and bam — easy dinner. Just kidding. I don’t always have Korean side dishes in my fridge, and I’m sure you don’t either.
When I want to make bibimbap, I make all the dishes day of. It’s a bit of a process, but the result is a delicious, nutrition-packed meal with all the quintessential elements that make it so wonderful.
This version uses tofu, but my ground beef bulkogi would be great in this too.
Ingredients for two dinner servings:
1 cup short grain rice
2/3 block extra firm tofu
1 bunch fresh spinach (not baby spinach)
1 large carrot, julienned
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups fresh bean sprouts
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
4 stalks green onion — finely chopped
2-3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoons sesame seeds, divided
¼ teaspoon fish sauce
Korean red pepper paste — as much or little as you like. (I used about 1 tablespoon each.)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Start by making the spinach side dish and bean sprout side dish.
Set a pot of water on to boil while you wash the vegetables thoroughly.
When the water boils, drop in your bean sprouts, cover, and cook for 7 minutes.
Strain and immediately shock in cold water.
Return the pot to the stove with new water on to boil.
While you wait for the water, squeeze the excess liquid out of the cold bean sprouts, one small handful at a time, and place in a mixing bowl.
Drizzle on 1 teaspoons sesame oil, the fish sauce, ½ teaspoons sesame seeds and ¼ of the chopped green onion.
Mix with your hands until combined. Taste and season with extra salt if necessary. Hold until plating.
When your water boils, blanch the spinach for about 30 seconds, then strain and shock in cold water.
Squeeze out the excess water and chop once or twice.
Mix in 1 teaspoons sesame oil, the rest of the sesame seeds and ¼ of the chopped green onions. Season with salt and hold.
Cut your tofu into very small cubes and season with salt and pepper.
Fry in a little oil until crispy then remove from the pan and hold.
Wipe out the excess oil and fry the mushrooms in a dry pan until they have softened and browned. Salt immediately before removing from the pan to hold.
Fry the julienned carrot in a teaspoons of sesame oil until softened. Season with salt.
Rinse your rice three times and soak in warm water for 30 minutes before rinsing a final time, then cooking with cold water.
When the rice is done, it’s time to reheat the side dishes. I like to arrange them in little piles on a microwave-safe plate as I finish preparing them so I can just nuke all of them at once for 45 seconds or so.
Plate in large, wide bowls.
Press the rice into the bottom of each bowl and smooth it down flat.
Artfully arrange the side dishes in a circle around the bowl until all of them have been used.
Fry the eggs (sunny side up is traditional) and place one on top in the middle of each bowl.
Top with green onions.
The red pepper paste is a little sticky to use as a sauce, so I mix in a little soy sauce to loosen it up a bit. Drizzle on as much sauce as you like, then get to mixing. You’re meant to mix the whole dish together into a yummy red mess. Every bite should have a little bit of everything in it.