The 2018 Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea gives us the opportunity to try a new cuisine. While a lot of Korean dishes are not well-suited for the American palate, the beloved Korean national dish - Bibimbap - is a choice that would suit adults and children as well. Bibimbap is a bowl of rice, topped with beef, vegetables and a sunny side up egg. When we traveled to Seoul, South Korea for a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago, we saw Bibimbap offered in every restaurant and in every take-out venue at airports, train stations, etcetera and we certainly ate our fair share. It was a very easy dish to order when we found ourselves in more obscure restaurants where we couldn’t translate the menu and it’s very easy to correctly pronounce.
Bibimbap is very pretty when served as the colorful vegetables are artfully arranged on top of the rice. We learned that the first thing you do is use your chopsticks to stir everything up so all the flavors are dispersed throughout. Bibimbap translates as “mixed rice.” At a little restaurant in Seoul, we ordered Bibimbap and began carefully eating the top vegetables first. Nearby customers came over, shaking their heads and laughing and took our chopsticks and began mixing up everything in our dish. Now that’s the way to eat it!
As with many Asian cuisines, traditional Bibimbap ingredients are rich in symbolism. Black or dark colors such as mushrooms represent the North; red peppers and orange carrots represent the South; greens such as cucumbers and spinach represent the East; and white foods such as rice, radishes and sprouts represent the West. With many nations coming together for the Olympics, the symbolism of the mixture of ingredients in Bibimbap is particularly appropriate.
The Koreans really love spicy food, and Bibimbap is served with a side dish of Korean red chili pepper paste (gochujang). Whew! - Very spicy! For a more kid-friendly version, serve it with some low-sodium soy sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Often families watch the Olympics together – and Bibimbap is the perfect dish to let you feel like you’re a part of the cheering crowd in Seoul!
3 cups short-grain rice
8 ounces beef strips
1 bunch baby spinach
2 Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
Low sodium soy sauce
Toasted sesame oil
Rice wine vinegar
Vegetable or canola oil
Gochujang - Chili Pepper Paste
Cook the rice as directed using a bit less water than usual. You want the Bibimbap rice to be a little drier than usual.
While the rice is cooking, marinate the beef for about 15 minutes in a mixture of 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped scallion, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and ½ teaspoon sesame seeds.
Remove the beef from the marinade and quickly stir fry the meat in a wok or cast iron pan coated with a little oil. Remove the beef and set aside. In the same pan fry the eggs sunny-side up.
To serve, place rice in four large individual bowls. Arrange a serving of the beef and vegetables over the rice. For a traditional presentation, place each vegetable in its own spot – carrots in one place, cucumbers on another side and so forth. Drizzle a little toasted sesame oil on top. Top with an egg, a sprinkle of scallions and some sesame seeds. Bibimbap is best enjoyed with chopsticks.
You can add any of your favorite vegetables, including mushrooms, red or daikon radishes, sliced onions and zucchini. Tofu, chicken or seafood is often used in place of the beef.