비빔밥 Bibimbap Korean Mixed Vegetable Rice
Just like Samgyetang, Bibimbap is one of the signature must-try dishes which is extremely popular for anyone venturing into Korean cuisine. While the former draws attention through the use of ginseng which is known for its medicinal properties as well as mythical qualities it is said to have, bibimbap attracts the crowd by its dramatic display of colours and appeal. With an assortment of stir fried and fresh vegetables being spread around a bowl of rice, the multitude of components in contrasting hues make it all the more appetising. When carefully chosen, bibimbap can be a really healthy and well-balanced one-bowl meal which is not only highly played on the visuals, but the nutritional values as well.
Yes the sheer number of components may make it kind of intimidating to prepare all at once. The gathering of ingredients may prove to be quite a feat for some people. However, the versatility of the choice of ingredients also lends the dish high levels of flexibility, allow one to almost freely choose whichever ingredients one favours and prefers. A more traditional bibimbap follows the traditional Chinese medicinal doctrine of the “five colours” (五色）. This is hardly surprising as throughout history, Koreans as maintained close interaction with the Chinese, sometimes proximal ties, sometimes in war and conflict. But the influence of the Chinese ways of life bears strong influence over the Koreans in countless means and one of which is Chinese medicine.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that the five basic elements of life (五行 – 金木水火土) which are represented by the five basic colours （五色 – 黑绿红黄白) governs the working of our five vital organs (五脏 – 心肝脾肺肾). The five elements manifests in food as the five flavours (五味 – 先酸苦甘辛). As such, one school of though has it that to have a balanced diet which takes cares of the essentials in nourishing the five vital organs is to consume foods which are representative of the five elements and thus five colours. Below are some examples
Black (黑) governs water (水) – black sesame, black fungus, dried seaweed, chinese/shiitake mushrooms, black beans etc…
Green (绿) governs wood （木） – green leafy vegetables, green zucchini, cucumber, green beans etc…
Red (红) governs fire (火) – red chilies, red peppers, red dates, goji berries, carrots, red beans etc…
Yellow (黄） governs earth (土) – egg yolks, yellow zucchini, soya beans etc…
White (白) governs metal (金) – rice,white sesame, egg whites, cabbage, fava beans, etc
So in the preparation of the bibimbap, I tried to adhere to the incorporation of the five elements with foods representing the five colours, i.e. yellow zucchini and egg yolk omelette (gyeranjidan) for yellow, spinach and green zucchini for green,white rice and soya bean sprouts (kongnamul) for white, toasted dried seaweed and shiitake mushroom for black and finally a good dollop of gochujang which is essentially seasoned korean chili pepper paste for red!
The bibimbap I made is largely vegetarian. Apart from the ingredients I’d incorporated, some other ingredients used in bibimbap also include fresh cucumber, fresh lettuce, fern brake (Gosari/Kosari), bell pepper flower, raw egg yolk or sunnyside up, as well we meats like beef, chicken or even seafood. The possibilities are endless!
비빔밥 Bibimbap Korean Mixed Vegetable Rice Recipe (serves 2)
1 1/2 cups of white rice, rinsed
1/4 of green zucchini, julienned and soaked in slightly salted water for 2 min
1/4 yellow zucchini, juilenned and soaked in slightly salted water for 2 min
1/4 carrot, juilenned and soaked in slightly salted water for 2 min
2 large dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms, juilenned. If dried mushrooms are used, they have to be soaked in water for about 30 min to an hour before hand
1 cup of soya bean sprouts, rinsed and preferably roots removed
2-3 stalks of spinach, roots removed, rinsed and chopped into strips
2 sheets of toasted seaweed, cut into long strips
2 egg yolks, beaten and pan fried to form an omelette, cut into thin strips upon cooling
1/2 cup of matured kimchi, coarsely chopped
cooking oil as required
salt as required
water as required
3 tbsp gochujang sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp light soya sauce
2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp minced garlic
pinch of ground pepper
1 tbsp of honey (optional)
2 sprigs of spring onion, chopped
Cook rice as per instructions of rice cooker, usually water and rice in the ratio of 1:1.
In a small pot of boiling water, add a tsp of cooking oil, pinch of salt and blanch soya bean sprouts for 2-3 min until just soften. Drain well and set aside.
To the same pot of boiling water, blanch chopped spinach for 1-2 min. Drain well and set aside. Reserve blanching water for later use.
To the same pot, add shiitake mushrooms, 1 tbsp dark soya sauce, 1 tbsp of brown sugar, pinch of salt and pepper, 1 tsp of sesame oil. Stir fry the mushrooms lightly for 30s and add water until the mushrooms are JUST submerged. Braise the mushrooms for about 20-30 min. Meanwhile, prepare other ingredients.
Heat a non-stick frying pan at medium high and add 1/2 tbsp of cooking oil.
Pan fry juilenned carrots for 30 s and add 1 tbsp of blanching water. Stir fry for another 30s。 Dish and set aside.
Pan fry juilenned green zucchini for 10 s and add 1 tbsp of blanching water. Stir fry for another 10s. Dish and set aside (NOTE: zucchinis cook much faster than carrots and thus require less cooking time)
Repeat the process for yellow zucchini.
Add chopped matured kimchi and panfry for 30 s. Dish and set aside. Omit the frying process if fresh kimchi is used.
To prepare bibimbap sauce, simply combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the flavours accordingly to personal liking.
To assemble, place one portion of cooked white rice in a large serving bowl.
Place a portion of braised mushrooms in the middle and arrange the cooked carrots, green zucchini, yellow zucchini, blanched soya bean sprouts, blanched spinach, gyeranjidan, kimchi around it. Place toasted seaweed strips last and just before serving as they will wilt rapidly upon in contact with heat and moisture.
Spoon a generous dollop of bibimbap sauce over the top of the mushrooms and sprinkle more toasted white sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.
Serve immediately, with other popular Korean side dishes or clear soups like Galbitang or Samgeytang!