Bibimbap, bibimbap, bibimbap… Can there be a more delightful food term to utter? For some, they may have come across bibimbap for the first time on a Korean restaurant menu and decided to order it, not even aware of what it was, simply for the sheer pleasure of pronouncing the word. Upon its arrival on their plates, they would undoubtedly have been pleasantly amazed, as bibimbap is just as enjoyable to consume as it is to say.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to visit a restaurant to enjoy this classic Korean dish. Food photographer and recipe developer Cecilia Ryu, a first-generation Korean-American, assures us that making bibimbap at home is not as daunting as it may seem. She acknowledges that the dish involves several steps but emphasizes that it’s not difficult. Ryu explains the origin of the dish’s name, saying, “The word ‘bibimbap’ literally means ‘mixed rice.’ ‘The term “bibim” translates to “mixed,” and “bap” translates to “rice” in English.” She chose to share this recipe because bibimbap holds a special place as an iconic Korean dish and serves as an excellent introduction to Korean cuisine for first-timers.
Prepare your ingredients for bibimbap
Unless you have a fully stocked kitchen, you will probably need to go grocery shopping before preparing your bibimbap. Unlike those quick and easy recipes with only a few ingredients, bibimbap requires a total of 23 ingredients, and some of them are not commonly found unless you regularly cook Korean cuisine.
Certainly, some of the ingredients are basic household staples like soy sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, sugar, canola oil, salt, white rice, and eggs. You will also need fresh produce. While ginger, garlic, scallions, and red leaf lettuce can be easily found in most supermarkets, soybean sprouts and radish sprouts or microgreens might require a bit more effort to locate.
To make this bibimbap, you might need to visit a few specialty stores
Depending on the selection at your local supermarket, some of the ingredients for this bibimbap may require a special trip. While pork belly has gained popularity due to food trends and low-carb diets, you may need to visit an actual butcher shop or a specialty grocer to find it. Alternatively, pork shoulder can serve as an acceptable substitute if pork belly is unavailable.
For several essential ingredients, a visit to an Asian grocer is necessary, or you can consider ordering online if that option is available to you. You will need gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) and gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). It’s important to note that the spice level of gochujang can vary depending on the brand, and the heat level is usually indicated on the container. Additionally, you should get mirin (a type of rice wine), sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, roasted seaweed, and roasted sesame seeds. While you can toast sesame seeds yourself, pre-roasted sesame seeds are commonly available at Asian grocery stores, as they are a staple in Korean cuisine. And of course, don’t forget the kimchi. While various types of vegetable kimchi can be found in well-stocked Asian markets, cabbage kimchi is the recommended choice for this recipe, according to Ryu.
The pork for your bibimbap requires marinating for some time
After gathering all 23 ingredients, the initial step in preparing bibimbap is to combine gochugaru, soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, minced ginger, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, and a quarter cup of gochujang to the mixture and thoroughly mix them together.
Slice the pork into strips and add them to the bowl, ensuring that each slice is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl of pork slices with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Allow the pork to marinate for a minimum of two hours, although marinating it overnight is perfectly acceptable as suggested by Ryu.
Blanch the bean sprouts for your bibimbap as raw ones are not safe to consume
Raw bean sprouts can pose health risks due to potential contamination with salmonella, E. coli, or listeria, especially since they thrive in warm and humid conditions. To ensure safety, it is recommended to cook the sprouts. Unlike mung bean sprouts, soy bean sprouts are always consumed in a cooked form, according to Ryu.
To cook the sprouts, simply bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sprouts. Boil them for one minute using the blanching technique, preserving their crunch while eliminating harmful bacteria. Drain the sprouts and transfer them to a bowl to cool. You will use them again later after cooking the meat and kimchi.
Heat the skillet while preparing the bibimbap sauce
To make the bibimbap sauce, gather the following ingredients: rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, the remaining gochujang, and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds. Once you have all the ingredients ready, pre-heat a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. While the skillet is heating up, whisk together the first four sauce ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle them with the sesame seeds. Set the sauce aside and check if the skillet is sufficiently hot to cook the pork. If multitasking isn’t your preference, you can make the sauce first and then heat up the pan.
Keep a close watch on the cooking pork for your bibimbap
In a pan, add one tablespoon of canola oil and then place the sliced pork for your bibimbap. Ensure that the pork is in a single layer to achieve even browning. It may be necessary to cook the pork in multiple small batches to prevent overcrowding. Fry each piece of pork for approximately five to ten minutes on each side until it turns nicely browned and is fully cooked. Monitor the pan closely to prevent overheating. Avoid heating the pan too high to prevent the marinade from burning, as warned by Ryu. Once the pork is cooked, cut each slice into bite-sized pieces, such as one-inch squares, and set them aside to cool.
Prepare the vegetables and eggs for your bibimbap
Dice the kimchi into half-inch pieces. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil. Sauté the kimchi for about five minutes. Add one teaspoon of sesame oil to the kimchi in the pan and continue sautéing for another three minutes. Transfer the cooked kimchi to a plate and sprinkle it with half a teaspoon of sesame seeds. Don’t skip the kimchi even if you’re not a fan, as Ryu recommends trying cooked kimchi for its unique flavor and texture.
While the kimchi is cooling down, let’s return to the patiently waiting bean sprouts. Stir in the sliced scallions (try saying that three times fast!), followed by one tablespoon of sesame oil, one teaspoon of salt, one and a half teaspoons of minced garlic, and half a teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds. Assure the sprouts that you’ll be right back in a moment. Before assembling the final dish, there’s one last preparation step: frying the eggs. Be careful not to break the yolks or overcook them. Ryu recommends aiming for a runny yolk, as it adds another layer of flavor and richness to the bibimbap while helping to bring all the flavors together
It’s time to assemble the bibimbap
Now it’s time for the exciting part! (Apart from revealing the dish’s name, of course.) Start by distributing the cooked rice among three large bowls, as you’ll need ample space for all the delicious components. Top each mound of rice with an equal portion of spicy pork, sautéed kimchi, bean sprouts, and red leaf lettuce. Gently position a fried egg on the top of each heap, and add a touch of beauty with a garnish of radish sprouts or microgreens and finely sliced dried seaweed.
Add a drizzle of one teaspoon of sesame oil to each bowl of bibimbap, then include one teaspoon or more of bibimbap sauce (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness) and mix everything together. Ryu advises that if you prefer a milder flavor, you can skip adding the sauce during the mixing process. Don’t worry, the other flavors will still make the dish incredibly tasty even without the heat.
Bibimbap made easy for solo diners!
Although the recipe serves three portions, Ryu advises that you can prepare the marinated meat, vegetables, and sauce ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator for a few days. This allows for reduced preparation time when serving the dish and is also convenient if you prefer to make single servings or have leftovers for later enjoyment.
“On the day you want to eat,” she advises, “cook the meat and layer it with prepared kimchi and soybean sprouts over warm rice, topped with a fried egg.” She mentions that you don’t need to bother heating up the soybean sprouts or sautéed kimchi separately. Simply take them out of the fridge about an hour before making the bibimbap to allow them to reach room temperature. The heat from the freshly-cooked rice, meat, and egg will provide all the warmth the dish needs.
Simple Bibimbap Recipe
- 1 teaspoon of Korean red pepper flakes, also known as gochugaru
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp + 6 tsp sesame oil (divided)
- 1 tbsp + 2 1/2 tsp minced garlic (divided)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, divided)
- 1 pound of thinly sliced pork belly or pork shoulder
- 12 oz package of soybean sprouts, washed
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp roasted sesame seeds (divided)
- 2 tbsp canola oil (divided)
- 2 cups chopped kimchi (approx. 1/2-inch pieces)
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- 2 cups chopped red leaf lettuce (approx. 1/2-inch pieces)
- 1 small bunch of radish sprouts or microgreens
- 3 sheets of roasted seaweed, thinly sliced
- In a large bowl, combine gochugaru, soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, minced ginger, black pepper, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp minced garlic, and 1/4 cup gochujang.
- Add the sliced pork to the bowl and thoroughly coat it with the mixture. Place the marinated pork in the refrigerator and let it marinate for a minimum of 2 hours.
- To cook the soy bean sprouts, boil a large pot of water. Add the sprouts and blanch them for approximately 1 minute. Drain the sprouts and transfer them to a bowl to cool.
- For the bibimbap sauce, mix together rice wine vinegar, sugar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons of gochujang in a small bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds as a garnish.
- Once the meat has been marinated, heat a cast iron skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Cook the pork in batches for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side until it is nicely browned and fully cooked.
- Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces, approximately 1 inch in size, and set them aside on a plate.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil and sauté the kimchi for about 5 minutes.
- Add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to the sautéed kimchi and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Place the kimchi on a plate and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds over it.
- After the bean sprouts have cooled down, mix in the sliced scallions, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 ½ teaspoon of minced garlic, and ½ teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds. Stir everything together and set it aside.
- Carefully fry 3 eggs, ensuring the yolks remain intact and not overcooked.
- In each of three large bowls, divide the cooked rice evenly. Arrange equal portions of spicy pork, sautéed kimchi, bean sprouts, and red leaf lettuce in each bowl. Place a fried egg on top and garnish with radish sprouts and roasted seaweed.
- Drizzle each bowl with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and add 1 teaspoon of bibimbap sauce, or more according to your preference for spiciness. Combine all the ingredients and savor the flavors!