Quick & Easy Bibim Bap (aka Bibimbap)

*I was feeling specially explain-y today, so this post provides a lot of background and information. But don't let the length of this post discourage you from making the dish. It really is fairly easy to make, and it's such a deliciously balanced dish that has such broad flavor appeal that I'm pretty sure you won't regret trying it. And if you're not feeling specially read-y today, just scroll down for the recipe. ;)*

I think it was August of last year when I hosted a Bulgogi, Banchan & Bibim Bap Cookalong on G+, and I remember being pleasantly surprised by how many of us love this dish.

And I also remember several people telling me they just don't have time to make it.

Which is understandable because if made in the traditional way, it is a little bit of a PITA.

You have to slice the beef and marinate it for the bulgogi component, then you have to chop the veg and blanch it and then season it - at least three kinds of it, and each one separately - to make the banchan. Then you have to steam the rice. Then you have to season the gochujang (if you like it seasoned, as I do). And then you have to cook the bulgogi. And then you have to fry the eggs. And then you have to assemble the dish - rice first, then a colorful and neatly arranged array of banchan, then a modest serving of bulgogi, and lastly the egg...

And let's not even talk about all the dirty dishes and cooking vessels left in the wake.

This explains a lot of why Korean food out might cost more than you expect it to. It is extremely labor intensive.

But admittedly, all that work does result in a quite delicious and uniquely Korean creation that provides such a wonderful variety of flavors and textures in one bowl, it's no wonder so many of us love it as much as we do.

In many Korean households, the quickest and easiest way to make bibim bap at home is to take out several containers of storebought or mom-made banchan, maybe even including bulgogi, and the steamed rice that's a staple in the fridge, put that all together in a bowl and zap it while you fry up an egg, put the egg on top and then mix it up with some drizzled toasted sesame oil and some gochujang that may or may not be seasoned, depending on whether you had some seasoned gochujang left over from another day sitting in the fridge.

!Voila! 10 minute bibim bap.

And seriously - if going to the Korean market and buying some banchan is an option for you, I highly recommend it. Because there is a special chewycrunchy texture achieved by that long hand technique of blanching and squeezing the veg that isn't quite replicated by any other method, and which is also part of the charm of a proper bowl of bibim bap. Not to mention all the work you'll save yourself.

But if that isn't an option for you, and you get that bibim bap urge from time to time when you don't feel like driving to a restaurant and dropping at least ten bucks for a bowl of it, I would recommend this option. You'll get 4 to 6 servings out of roughly 45 to 60 minutes of work at a cost of roughly 3 to 4 dollars per serving at the most.

Lest I should lose my half-Korean card, I will tell you straight up that this is not going to exactly replicate a proper bowl of bibim bap made the long hand way, but I will tell you that it'll hit all the flavor notes and most of the texture ones and that lots of Koreans eat it just this way in a pinch.

Quick & Easy Bibim Bap
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Time: 45 to 60 minutes

A few notes:

I chose carrots, zucchini and cabbage for a widely accessible and good variety of flavors and textures as well as a relatively low water content that can all be cooked at the same time, and without releasing too much liquid, which would make the dish soggy. Spinach and sprouts are typical veg in many a bowl of bibim bap, but neither of them would work that well in this quick and easy preparation.

You might also try very finely julienning the veg and using it raw for extra crunch and chew, leaving it to the ground beef or mushrooms and gochujang to lend seasoning to the dish. I actually enjoy it that way quite often, and it's so good and cleansing for your insides, too. (Not to mention it shaves a little time off your prep.)

If you're opting to go all veg, I think brown mushrooms like shiitake or crimini are ideal for the extra earthy umami depth they bring, but really whatever mushrooms you like or have handy will work just fine.

Calrose rice is typical in Korean cooking and would most closely replicate a typical bibim bap, but you don't need to go out and buy Calrose if you don't have it. I just use whatever rice I have on hand - these days, the default in our house is Jasmine. That said, if your default rice is brown rice, then, as you know, unless you have a pressure cooker, you're going to add a significant amount of waiting time while the rice cooks if you're cooking everything in one session. You might opt to make your rice on another day and just have it handy when you're ready to make the rest of the dish components.

If you don't have gochujang on hand, or just aren't that into spicy stuff, you can just add a drizzle of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil in lieu of gochujang before mixing up the rice. If you do like spicy stuff and don't have gochujang, try a drizzle of soy sauce plus a srizzle (of sriracha).

Lastly, as always in cooking, the order in which you do things can greatly increase efficiency, so I'm prescribing a specific order in which to make the components that's designed for the greatest speed.


Ok. :)

- 2 cups rice + water for cooking

- seasoned gochujang

- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 large cloves)

- 1.5 Tablespoons vegetable or regular olive oil
- 1/4 medium head of cabbage sliced into 1/8" strips
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 medium zucchini, julienned
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

(My related knife skills video HERE.)

- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef OR 1 8 oz basket of mushrooms if you're going vegetarian (sliced)
- 2.5 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 green onion, chopped (whites included)

- eggs for topping

- optional: julienned cucumber for garnish and a little extra refreshing crunch (I didn't have any on hand yesterday when I made this)

1) Put your rice on to cook per your usual method, whether that be stovetop or rice cooker.

2) Make your seasoned gochujang. (Or, if you like it plain, don't season it and save yourself yet more time! :D)

3) Do the knifework on your veg.

4) In a large saute pan or wok, bring 1.5 Tablespoons of oil up to high heat, then put in your cabbage, carrots, zucchini, salt, 1 Tablespoon minced garlic, and 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil and toss just to evenly distribute the seasoning and oil throughout the veg and no longer. You want the veg to retain a lot of crunch. (Or, as I suggested earlier, just chop it up slightly finer and go raw with it.)

Set the veg aside on a platter, spreading it out in a thin single layer so the residual heat won't continue to cook it.

5) In the same pan or wok, add a Tablespoon of oil, bring it back up to temp, and put your ground beef in, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula as you go. When you've thoroughly broken up the ground beef, add in 1 Tablespoon minced garlic, 2.5 Tablespoons soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil, and the green onions and toss all ingredients until the seasoning is evenly distributed. Let the beef continue to cook and soak up the seasoning for another 2 or 3 minutes.

If you're using mushrooms, saute them until they begin to brown and then add the same seasonings as with the ground beef.

That combination of ingredients, BTW, is your most basic beef bulgogi seasoning.

Set aside.

At this point, your rice is probably cooked through and should be fluffed so it doesn't get sticky.

6) In a separate well oiled pan, fry up as many sunny side up eggs as bowls of bibim bap you're planning to serve. I find that starting off with a not quite fully preheated medium heat and not higher greatly increases your chance of thoroughly cooked whites without cooking the yolk, which you don't want for this dish. Unless you're runny yolk averse, in which case, cook the yolk as much as you need not to gross yourself out.

7) While your eggs are cooking, begin to assemble your bibim bap. Layering 1 to 1.5 cups cooked rice (depending on your appetite), followed by 1/6 to 1/4 of the veg that you've cooked, followed by 1/6 to 1/4 of the meat or mushrooms you've cooked, followed by a fried egg, and then followed by a gently placed big pinch of julienned cucumber if you like right on top.

Drizzle with a little bit of toasted sesame oil and serve with the gochujang on the side so each diner can season their bibim bap to taste.

If you're new to gochujang, I recommend starting off with a teaspoon or so. I usually find about a Tablespoon or so to my liking - hot enough without making the dish too salty.

And then, because the name of the dish requires it, MIX everything together - as you would gently toss a salad - so you get some of each component of the dish in every bite.

Some Koreans will make a big fuss about how you have to do this mixing bit with your chopsticks so as to allow each grain of rice to maintain its shape and integrity. My take on that? If you've cooked your rice properly, you don't have to worry about breaking up the grains in the mixing process so much that it's going to affect your experience of the dish. On the other hand, if you've added too much water to your rice that a spoon mixing is going to make it too mushy to enjoy, your chopsticks aren't going to save you.

And finally, dig in and ENJOY your quick and easy balanced, healthful, and delicious bowl of bibim bap! ^^


P.S. If you didn't make all 4 to 6 servings, then guess what? You have all the components left to make yourself an even quicker and easier 10 minute bibim bap tomorrow! :D



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