Bibimbap literally translates to “mixed rice” in English. It consists of a bowl of steamed rice topped with various seasoned or pickled vegetables, often meat, a fried egg, and a sauce made with spicy red pepper paste “gochujang”. The vegetables used in bibimbap can vary, but common options include carrots, spinach, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and zucchini. Traditional versions often have all the ingredients beautifully arranged in separate piles on top of the rice; each color has meaning and there are rules for how they should be presented and stuff…But, I will pass all the seriousness and keep it casual and simple this time. There’s only one rule you must follow and that is to mix everything together before eating. What you see in the bowl, no matter how pretty they look, must be mixed as vigorously as possible, especially the egg. And the gochujang sauce must be drizzled over the top as much as you want before being mixed.
On a few occasions I have seen people, obviously not Koreans, eating each ingredient separately even leaving the sauce out; I politely corrected them with a big smile on my face but thought “Dude, what are you doing?” But it also made me realize that people’s instinct about food is greatly affected by their diet and the way of eating in their own culture. Not everyone will see a bowl of immaculately arranged ingredients and think that they all must be destroyed like we do I suppose ;-).
The beauty of this well-balanced Korean staple is its versatility. The popular versions are often served warm in a bowl or hot in a heated stone pot called a “dolsot”, which adds a crispy texture to the bottom of the rice. But cold bibimbap is almost as good. Especially if you’re making it to clean out the fridge at home. We say “I’m just gonna mix everything with my rice for dinner” all the time when we feel lazy and don’t want to cook.
The recipes I’m sharing today are for no fuss, quick and easy, light and healthy versions of bibimbap with “Ssamjang” sauce instead of gochujang. If you haven’t tried Ssamjang, you need to fix that immediately. Many of my non-Korean friends who tried Ssamjang for the first time had a true “Omg, where have you been all my life” moment :-). Ssamjang is a popular Korean condiment that is typically used as a dipping sauce for grilled meat or vegetables. It is made from a combination of fermented soybean paste (called “doenjang”), gochujang, garlic, sesame oil, and sometimes other ingredients like sugar, vinegar, or scallions.
It is a thick, savory, and slightly spicy paste with a complex umami flavor. You probably have seen Ssamjang served alongside lettuce or other leafy greens at Korean BBQ, (if you don’t see it, please ask for it). In my opinion, you can put ssamjang in anything you want a big punchy flavor with; from a marinade for meats to a spread for sandwiches.
Bibimbap salad with mustard leaves, red radish sprouts, chickpeas, cauliflower-brown rice and Ssamjang sauce
25g/0.9oz. red mustard leaves
35g/1.2oz. red radish sprouts
40g/1.4oz. cooked organic chickpeas
140g/4.9oz. cooked cauliflower and brown rice
2 1/2 tsp. ssamjang
2 tsp. perilla or sesame oil
A sprinkle of slivered almonds for texture (optional)
Fresh baby green bibimbap with Ssamjang, brown rice and a fried egg
210g/7.4oz. cooked brown rice or microwaved “hetbahn”
40g/1.4oz. organic baby greens
A fried egg
1 tbsp. ssamjang
1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
Ssamjang, almond butter and kimchi bibimbap
40g/1.4oz. organic baby greens
2 tsp. perilla oil
1 jammy egg, soft boiled for 7-8min.
140g/4.9oz. microwavable cauliflower brown rice
generous serving of aged kimchi
For the sauce, mix ssamjang and almond butter (1: 1.5 ratio). This was an accidental invention but a crazy delicious one. The combination of slightly sweet-nutty almond butter and umami-packed ssamjang balances out the sourness of kimchi perfectly. How much sauce you need will depend on how aged and sour your kimchi is. Start with a little bit of each (kimchi and sauce), taste and adjust the quantity to your liking. I guarantee this is one of the easiest, healthiest, and tastiest bibimbap you’ve ever had.
Eat more bibimbap, be happy and healthy!