Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap Won Me Over

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Creative Commons image. Credit: Nicki.

Until this weekend, my only experience with Korean food has been driving by Korean BBQ restaurant signs and wondering how vegetarianism and Korean culture could ever be compatible. When I lived in Malaysia, my roommate and friend Anna made several visits to Seoul and often spoke of a magical mixed rice one-bowl meal called bibimbap. I was intrigued, but the thought of making (or taking the risk to buy pre-made) kimchi and then locating gochujang (a spicy Korean hot sauce) moved this dish lower on the recipe experiment priority list.

A few months ago, I added Sarah Copeland’s Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for any Eater and Every Appetite to my cookbook collection. One of the recipes she includes in the book is for her version of bibimbap. So far every recipe I’ve tried in Feast has been delicious, and I can’t recommend this book enough for vegetarians who find themselves stuck in a rut with their cooking.

What sold me on her recipe for bibimbap is her inclusion of a recipe for gochujang. Purchasing prepared condiments and sauces is always a crap shoot for me. I’ve been burned one too many times with promises of flavorful jarred Asian sauces only to take one taste of a sauce and curse the heavens for allowing me to waste money on something that makes me want to hurl. Copeland’s gochujang recipe includes ingredients I know and love and took only a few minutes to concoct. I’ll share that recipe with you on Wednesday.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on my first attempt at creating vegetarian Korean cuisine. The recipe yields a big pot of rice, which equals leftovers in my house. In order to prevent the finished rice from getting hard, only add as much cooked rice to the final fry pan step that you plan to eat. Once the fried rice cools, it will become too crunchy to enjoy.

Finally, if you’re on the hunt for other vegetarian Korean recipes, check out this website for inspiration.

Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap
Image by author.

Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap
(a Feast recipe)
Serves 4

Ingredients
-6 cups short-grain white rice, such as sushi rice

– 3 large carrots, peeled

– 1 medium zucchini

– 3 cups water

– 1 TBS toasted sesame oil

– 2 to 2 TBS peanut oil

– 3 to 4 handfuls spinach leaves

– Sea salt

– 4 eggs, fried sunny-side up

– Kimchi (We found a jar of Wildbrine kimchi on sale at Whole Foods and highly recommend it.)

– Sesame seeds for sprinkling

Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap
Image by author.

Directions
1. Rinse and soak the rice in enough water to cover while you prepare the vegetables. Cut the carrots and zucchini into matchsticks and set aside. Drain the rice and combine with the 3 cups water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Heat your largest large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame oil and 1 TBS peanut oil and heat until simmering. Cook the carrots, zucchini, and spinach, one at a time, until wilted and toothsome but tender enough to pierce with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes per vegetable. Transfer the vegetables to a platter as you cook them and cover loosely to keep warm. Season with 1/2 tsp salt.

Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap
Image by author.

3. Drizzle the remaining 1 or 2 TSP peanut oil over the bottom of the cast-iron skillet or a clay pot, if you have one, and add the cooked rice. Heat the skillet over medium heat until the prized crispy layer of rice along the bottom forms, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Lay the fried egg on top of the rice, followed by the cooked vegetables and the kimchi. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and dollop with gochujang paste. Serve warm with more gochujang paste.

Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap
Image by author.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. I love bibimbap. For years and years I was heavily involved with Korean culture (tae kwon do) and really grew fond of Korean food. I would like to try your recipe because I think it would be wonderful without meat.

    1. gwynnem says:

      That’s so cool, tinywhitecottage. If you have other vegetarian Korean recipes, I’d love to hear about them.

  2. Jayne says:

    This looks so good, I am very inexperienced with Korean food but love the look of your bibimbap!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Jayne! I’m hoping to bring more Korean recipes into my life. My husband went through half a container of kimchi in one sitting, so I know I have a willing food adventurer. Ha!

  3. Jody and Ken says:

    I’ve eaten a lot of authentic Bi Bim Bop made by Koreans, but thIs looks great. Thanks for the book link too. I’m trying to work more vegetables into my life and need all the help I can get. πŸ™‚ Ken

    1. gwynnem says:

      Haha. Yeah, I’m not sure how authentic it is, but it’s delicious. I ate leftovers last night and ate the last of it for breakfast. πŸ™‚ Feast is a great book for anybody who wants flavor with their veggies.

  4. Looking forward to the gochujang recipe, as I was eating lots of stir-fries recently. But I’m loath to buy even soy sauce, especially if it’s not organic. As I hate to think what goes into them. I’m even toying with the idea of making chilli jams!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Hi, Johnny. Just posted the gochujang recipe yesterday. Hope you like it! It does contain sambal oelek, which is something I buy bottled, but I’ve seen recipes for it, too, if you’d like to make it scratch. Chili jams sound wonderful!

  5. Sophie33 says:

    A great appetizing dish for sure. I don’t think that I ever tried Korean food before,…so I must try this! ☺️

    1. gwynnem says:

      Based on the recipes you’ve featured on your blog, you’re going to love this one. πŸ™‚

  6. Lilly Sue says:

    Wow, this dish looks amazing!! And beautiful πŸ™‚ I would definitely like this!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Lilly Sue! It’s not super time-intensive, either. (I know you’re a busy bee with grad school. πŸ™‚ )

      1. Lilly Sue says:

        Yes, that is always important! I have graduated though so now it is less important πŸ™‚ Woo!

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