Dinner Tonight: Bibimbap with Bacon and Kimchi
If you've read this column before, you probably know that I have something of a fried rice fixation. I just love the mix of textures and the flexible formula. The same is true about bibimbap, where toppings are arranged atop a healthy serving of rice and you're charged with mixing them all together. The only real problem is trying to round up all of the ingredients.
None of the toppings are that hard to prepare, there's just a lot of them. Plus, even though you eventually mix everything together, they remain separate until the end. By the time you do all of this, you can often go grab a bowl at your closest Korean restaurant in the same amount of time. But bibimbap is not a strict dish; a number of different ingredient combinations work. So, I decided to pick an assortment that would still provide all the contrast and color that I crave, but which won't take multiple hours to prepare.
I divided the toppings into two camps: the raw and the cooked. For the former, all I had to do was chop them up and they were ready to go. Kimchi was a must, but I also added carrot, red cabbage, scallions, and nori.
Even though I can't cook all the toppings at the same time, I made sure each could be cooked in the same pan. But the biggest decision I made was to avoid using marinated pieces of meat. I instead, I went with a product that already has flavor to spare. That's right, I added bacon. Plus, all the toppings that need to be cooked are done so in rendered bacon fat. Not bad, huh? I chose to include mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts, and, of course, some eggs.
Usually I just add a heaping tablespoon of red pepper paste, but I thinned the spicy condiment with water and sesame oil. This sauce is easier to drizzle on at the end.
Finally, to give the bibimbap a little more character, I used brown rice (though you could definitely use white rice if you'd like). Of course, brown rice takes longer to cook. In fact, since everything else is so easy to put together, you might be standing around, waiting for the rice to finish up already.