Bibimbap: Korean stone-pot rice
Amongst my wonderful Christmas gifts was a bibimbap kit from Sous Chef. It’s a Korean dish literally meaning ‘mixed rice’ – a bowl of rice cooked in a stone pot topped with various vegetables and meat or tofu, finished with an egg and seasoned with hot pepper paste. I’ve been wanting to try it again since we had a similar thing in Tokyo. There are also a couple of Korean restaurants serving it in London now, like the aptly-named Bibimbap in Soho.
It turns out that bibimbap, despite looking quite impressive, is really fun to cook and barely even needs a recipe, although I’ve attached my notes below. The cooking process is really just a prep and assembly job: cooking the rice, heating the dolsot and chopping and cooking the veg (simply steamed or sautéed). If you’re alright with multitasking it can be ready in about half an hour.
The key to an authentic bibimbap is the special stone cooking pot called a dolsot. It’s warmed on the hob and seasoned with sesame oil before adding the rice for its final cooking. The roasting-hot stone imparts a mysteriously wonderful quality to the dish, as well as making delicious crackly morsels of rice around the edges to pick off with your chopsticks. It holds the heat extremely well, cooking the egg yolk and keeping the rice warm as you dig in.
You can easily adapt the basic recipe to your favourite vegetable/protein combo, and make it vegan by omitting the egg. The one absolutely essential ingredient is the gochujang, a salty, spicy red pepper paste that provides all the seasoning the dish needs. It comes in a pleasingly Asian-looking little tub and will last in the fridge for ages – if you don’t make bibimbap every night anyway, as I’m now tempted to do.
For such low effort, the taste is just amazing, and it’s a pretty healthy yet hearty and filling dish. It’s definitely being added to my regular roster. You can buy a bibimbap kit with everything you need to get started from Sous Chef. Let me know if you have a go!
- 200ml Japanese sticky rice
- Half a pack of tofu puffs*
- 4 chestnut mushrooms
- 2 heads of pak choi
- 1 carrot
- Handful soybeans (I get frozen ones from Tesco)
- 1/2 red chilli
- 2 spring onions
- 1 egg
- Gochujang paste
- Sesame oil, soy sauce, furikake*
- * Tofu puffs are tofu chunks that have been frozen then deep-fried, to give a spongy interior with crisp outside. They're really yummy and perfect for bibimbap as they soak up flavours really well. I found mine in the Chinese supermarket. Plain firm tofu fried off would be fine too
- ** Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from shiso, seaweed and sesame seeds (and sometimes fish, so check the label). Most supermarkets have it, or substitute with sesame seeds.
- If you're using the dolsot for the first time, fill it with cold water and place on a very low heat. Bring up to boil very slowly (the pot can crack if exposed to sudden temperature changes), increasing the heat gradually. Dump out the water, return to the heat and add a splash of sesame oil to the pot. Swirl around so the pot is coated and keep warm while you prepare everything else.
- Wash the rice well and drain for 15-20 minutes. Put into a pan with 300ml cold water, cover, bring to boil and simmer very gently for 12 minutes (or follow packet instructions). Leave to cool a little and season with salt and furikake.
- Slice all of the veg thinly. Steam the carrot and pak choi in a bamboo steamer over hot water until just tender - about 7 minutes.
- Sautee the mushrooms in a mix of vegetable and sesame oil.
- Sautee the tofu puffs in a little soy and sesame.
- Sautee together the chilli, spring onions and soybeans for a minute or two. Mix into the rice, adding a bit of the gochujang to taste.
- Transfer the rice mix to the dolsot - you should hear a nice sizzle as it hits the oil. Separate the egg, keeping the yolk - make a small well in the middle of the rice and drop the egg yolk in. Leave for a couple of minutes to let the yolk heat through and the rice get crispy around the edges.
- Arrange your other toppings in sections around the egg, and finish with a blob of gochujang and a sprinkle of furikake. Mix it all together before eating!