Cook the Book: Vegetarian Bibimbap

[Photographs: Julie Toy]

My first encounter with Korean cuisine involved a big, beautiful spread of banchan, a blazing hot bowl of dolsot bibimbap, and countless little cups of soju. There was something about the treatment of the vegetables featured in that meal that really blew me away. Lightly blanched and deftly seasoned, these carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini were somehow one thousand times tastier and more exciting than any version I'd ever had before. For a long times I'd chalked the deliciousness of these vegetables up to some sort of Korean cooking secret, figuring that there was no way I'd be able to replicate them at home. But after testing out a few recipes from Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's Quick and Easy Korean Cookings I realized that the magic of these veggies came in the simple form of blanching and seasoning.

This Vegetarian Bibimbap is all about knowing how to treat your vegetables right—cooking and seasoning every component individually with just the right amount of salt, garlic, and sesame oil. It might sound a bit time-consuming to prepare all of these vegetables individually, but cooking separately ensures that textures and flavors keep their integrity and really shine. Once all of your vegetables have been cooked they are placed on top of a bowl of steamed white rice (no need to reheat the vegetables, the heat from the rice will take care of it), and finished with cool grated cucumber, toasted sesame oil, and a dollop of seasoned chile paste.

Once all of the ingredients have been mixed into the rice along with the chile paste, what began as a very humble dish of vegetables and rice is transformed into something far more thrilling. Each bite brings bites of spicy chile coated rice, sesame-infused spinach, garlicky mushrooms, and crisp shredded cucumber.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Quick and Easy Korean Cooking to give away this week.

Adapted from Quick and Easy Korean Cookings by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Copyright © 2009. Published by Chronicle Books. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

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Cook the Book: Vegetarian Bibimbap

About This Recipe

Yield:5

Ingredients

  • For the Spinach:
  • 2 bunches spinach (about 8 ounces), trimmed and well rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the Mushrooms:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 10 shiitake or other mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the Carrots:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For Serving:
  • 5 cups hot cooked rice
  • 2 pickling cucumbers, grated
  • 5 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • Seasoned Chile Paste (recipe follows)
  • For the Seasoned Chile Paste:
  • 4 tablespoons Korean chile paste (gochujang)
  • 2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or Korean malt syrup (mool yut)

Procedures

  1. 1

    For the Spinach: Bring about 1/4 inch water to a boil in a large pot. Add the spinach, cover, and steam until the leaves are just wilted, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the water from the spinach. Combine with the sesame oil, garlic, and salt. Set aside.

  2. 2

    For the Mushrooms: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are limp and just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Season with salt, toss, and set aside.

  3. 3

    For the Carrots: Using the same skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and sauté until the carrots just turn limp, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Season with salt, toss, and set aside.

  4. 4

    For Serving: Spoon 1 cup rice into each of 5 serving bowls. Arrange the cooked vegetables and grated cucumbers on top of the rice, dividing them evenly. Spoon 1 teaspoon sesame oil over each serving and pass the Seasoned Chile Paste for each person to add their own.

  5. 5

    To make the Seasoned Chile Paste: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. It will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

  6. 6

    Variation: You can add any number of other vegetables to this dish including soybean sprouts, zucchini, fern bracken, shredded lettuce, or even daikon sprouts. To make it extra fancy, top each bowl with a fried egg.

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