While most versions of bibimbap include beef and/or an egg, this Korean rice dish is really all about the vegetables, namely quick sautéed namul seasoned with plenty of sesame oil. This vegan variation adapted from The Occasional Vegetarian uses a cast iron pan to replicate dolsot bibimbap, typically served in a hot stone pot.
The namul here comes in the form of spinach, bean sprouts, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, and daikon, all seasoned with toasty sesame seeds and sesame oil, chile flakes, and just the right amount of salt. They're piled onto rice that's been crisped in a cast iron pan, heated through, and mixed with a dollop of gochujang, a sweet-spicy Korean chile paste. Of course, you could add an egg or a bit of bulgogi to your pan of bibimbap, but with vegetables and rice this good there's really no need.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Occasional Vegetarian to give away this week.
- 1 cup short-grain rice, rinsed well and drained
- 1 medium zucchini, julienned, in 2-inch lengths
- 3 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar, plus a pinch
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, plus a pinch
- 1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 1 cup peeled and julienned daikon radish, in 2-inch lengths
- 1 teaspoon dried hot chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup peeled and julienned carrot, in 2-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon Korean red chile sauce (gochujang) or other hot chile sauce, more to taste
Place rice in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups water. Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
While rice cooks, place another medium pot of water over high heat to bring to a boil. Place zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt; set aside to drain for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Place a medium skillet over medium heat, and add 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/4 teaspoon garlic. Add zucchini, a pinch of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds. Sauté 2 minutes, then transfer to a plate; set aside. Wipe out the pan and return to medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil and remaining 1/4 teaspoon garlic. Add shiitakes, a pinch of salt, and soy sauce. Sauté 2 minutes, then transfer to a plate; set aside.
Place bean sprouts in boiling water until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the colander to drain. Place sprouts in a bowl, and add 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sesame seeds; set aside. Add spinach to the pot of boiling water, and blanch until it wilts and turns bright green, about 30 seconds. Drain into the colander, rinse well with cold water until chilled, then drain, squeezing out excess water. Transfer to a bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds. Mix well and set aside. Place daikon in a bowl, and add hot chile flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.
Place a 9-inch well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Add 1 cup cooked rice and flatten it to form a pancake covering the bottom of the pan, about 1/3 inch thick. Cook until it is crisp and golden on the underside, about 5 minutes. Use a large spatula to flip it over, and cook again until crisp, another 5 minutes. Break crusty rice into several pieces. Add remaining rice. Arrange vegetables on top in wedge-shaped piles (like pizza slices), topping with julienned carrot. Cook, uncovered, until well heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Bring the skillet to the table, add chile sauce, and toss mixture gently to combine ingredients. Serve hot.