The other day, craving a hot lunch on a rainy, chilly afternoon, I went to a local Korean place and enjoyed bibimbop ~ a steaming clay pot filled with seasoned vegetables, tofu and sizzling rice which I tossed with a bit of soy sauce. Boy did that hit the spot! The salty flavor of the toasty, crispy rice in which slivers of zucchini, mushrooms, bean sprouts and spinach just melted was exactly the pick-me-up I craved. I don’t have the earthen ware to make this dish the traditional way at home, but below is a home-friendly recipe adapted from one I found from Food and Wine, with origins in the city of Chonju in southwest Korea.
To make this vegan recipe you will need:
1/2 pound spinach, large stems removed
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium zucchini, julienned
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced (1 cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 scallions, cut into thin matchsticks
One 8-inch-square nori (dried seaweed), cut into thin strips with scissors
1 cup firm tofu, cubed
Steamed Rice (1.5 cups before it is steamed)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Korean Chili Sauce (optional)
Steam the spinach until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain, squeeze dry and chop coarsely.
In a small saucepan of boiling water, blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. Drain and refresh the bean sprouts under cold running water; pat dry.
Put the bean sprouts, spinach, carrot, zucchini and shiitakes in separate small bowls and toss each vegetable with 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
In a small skillet, stir-fry each vegetable separately (except the spinach) over moderate heat; the carrot, zucchini and bean sprouts should stay crisp and the shiitakes should be tender.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of sesame oil and heat up the steamed rice. (Adding more oil as desired ~ I love it crispy.)
While the rice is still cooking, toss in the tofu first to break it up and then add all of the vegetables, nori and toasted sesame seeds. Stir in soy sauce to taste, and mix lightly but thoroughly. Serve at once, with chili sauce on the side for those who desire some more heat to the dish.