Vegetarian Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice)
It recently occurred to us that we were not exposing Serafina to a variety of cuisines. It really surprised me when I realized that she has not tried the large variety of international dishes, especially food that AAM and I have come to enjoy. At first, I could not figure it out. She eats what we eat, and our diet is pretty diverse. That’s when I realized that we don’t really eat out much anymore, and when we participate in family-friendly-restaurants-food-rut. I think I didn’t notice the rut because we don’t visit the Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesdays. We still eat at unique and interesting restaurants, but most of them, it turns out, were microbreweries or tex mex. On top of that, I largely leave Asian restaurants to cook my Asian food. I just don’t think I have the talent. I know what tastes I like, but the ingredients intimidate me.
I began to have the intense feeling that I robbed Serafina of all the delicious tastes of Falls Church: from Vietnamese to Korean, Ethiopian to Lebanese, Peruvian to Burmese. As I have mentioned before, the DC area is home to a variety of newer immigrant communities, particularly from countries that were experiencing military conflict, and almost all of them call a portion of Eastern Fairfax County home. We live directly in between the Vietnamese Eden Center, which has over 100 Vietnamese restaurants in one outdoor mall, and Annandale’s Koreatown, which has over 1,000 Korean businesses. We decided we needed to be more proactive in being sure we support the variety of restaurants in our community. So, we started to be more purposeful in our eating out. In the end, with the assistance of Yelp, we were able to discover some real gems. Just the other day we realized a fantastic Vietnamese place is within walking distance, one that makes Washingtonian’s top 100 list, called Present. Serafina really enjoyed these trips, and now our next task is to find a Korean restaurant we love as well.
Before we go out to eat, I thought I would research vegetarian Korean dishes, and found a few beautiful recipes. Bibimbap is a dish that can be served without meat, and reminds me of a cooked cob salad. I looked at a variety of methods, and decided the most important thing to me was accessibility. I wanted to make sure this would be a dish I can turn to on weeknights. I still used the most important ingredient gochujang. Forever intimidated by new ingredients, I decided to take control of my fear and visit our local H-Mart, or you could go to Grandmart a local DC Asian grocer. After passing them for years, I built them into these impossible mazes where people would immediately know I was a clueless and hopeless non-Asian. However, my experience was the opposite. The grocery store was easy to navigate, people were helpful, and Serafina had a blast searching for the ingredients.
Gochujang is easy to find in the Korean condiment section, and is something I plan on adding to other dishes. It is spicy with a sweet undertone, making it a good addition to stirfrys and a variety of dishes. Other than the gochujang, I was not particularly traditional. I changed the recipe in that I did not use a raw egg, for obvious reasons: I just felt like I couldn’t sacrifice the next day of work for salmonella. However, I read that the dolsot bibimbap, where raw egg is mixed into the dish in a hot bowl, is delicious– but I will save that for our Korean restaurant visit. So, although it is not authentic, this is a tasty version of the real thing.
To top it all off, after a really long day that started with Serafina having a giggle-fest in her room at 4 am, followed by teaching every period, and ended with Serafina remembering she had to go potty after she actually did it (her accidents are rare, but when they happen they are substantial), we lost power while making the dinner. Cooking a chopping intensive meal, and a new one at that, is not the ideal time to lose power. This meant that I had to be strategic about every entry into the fridge, which means I left out the carrots in the bottom of the veggie drawer. Also, pictures after the outage required 4 candles, one headlamp, and a lantern. So, please pardon the normally bad picture quality, which fell to just awful this entry.
recipe for 2, double for four.
- 2 cups of cooked brown rice
- 2 tb of olive oil
- 1 tb sesame oil
- 2 tb sesame seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup of green onions, chopped
- 1/2 a square of tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup of bean sprouts
- 1 cup of English cucumber, julienned
- 1 cup of carrots, julienned
- 3 cups of water
- 5 cups of spinach
- 2 tb of nori, or other seaweed, cut into 1/2 inch slivers
- 2 eggs
- 2 tb gochujang
1. Heat up your skillet, add the oil, garlic, green onions, and sesame seeds. Saute over medium heat.
2. Before the garlic browns, add the tofu. Let cook 3 minutes on each side. Place on a plate, and slice the tofu into long pieces.
3. Add the bean sprouts, carrots, and cucumbers to the pan, but keep on separate sides of the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Place on a plate, cover with a pan lid.
4. Add 2 cups of water to the pan, and then add the spinach. Stir it into the leftover garlic and onions. Add more water. Let the spinach wilt. Remove and place on a plate, cover with a pan lid.
5. Add more oil to the pan, and fry an egg. Cook sunnyside up.
6. In a bowl, place rice on the bottom, then layer the sprouts, cucumbers, spinach, chopped nori, gochujang, and tofu. Add the egg to the center. Serve