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How to Put Together a Bibim-Bar!

Bibimbap is one of my favorite things to make, both at home and for friends, because it’s nearly fail-proof and tends to please almost everyone, as long as you like spicy food. It’s naturally gluten-free, vegetarian guests can skip the meat and still have a hearty meal (plus you can serve some tofu as a replacement — we did my favorite, dubu jorim), and you can opt to serve quinoa or another higher-protein grain for those folks looking for an alternative to rice. Its only downside (other than the fact that non-spicy friends might be out of luck) is that the ingredients take a little while to put together, but you can always ask friends to pitch in and bring one of the mix-ins.

Scale

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. The night before or at least one hour ahead: Marinate the meat of your choice. You can choose higher-quality cuts of beef traditionally used for bulgogi, like sirloin or ribeye, or you can simply go with ground beef for a crowd — I like ground beef just as much a lot of the times, especially since it mixes nicely. Ground chicken, pork, or turkey will work well, too. For the marinade, combine pear (or apple), onion, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth. Combine with scallions, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and black pepper in a large, sealable container and adjust seasonings to taste. Add the meat and massage the marinade thoroughly throughout. Seal the container and chill in the refrigerator overnight, or at least one hour.
  2. Make ahead or the day of: The bibimbap sauce is easy and can be made well-ahead, up to a few days in advance. Simply mix all the sauce ingredients together until well-combined, taste to adjust, and if you like, thin it with a bit of water to make it easier to mix.
  3. You can also cook the vegetables in advance, though I like to do it the day of — chopping and preparing them ahead of time may also save some time. For the carrots, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and fernbrake, simply heat up a bit of oil in a skillet, then sauté the vegetables (separately, one type at a time) with salt and pepper until tender. Carrots will take about 3-4 minutes, zucchini 1-2 minutes, onions 5-7 minutes, mushrooms 5-7 minutes, and fernbrake 1-2 minutes (or you can buy it pre-cooked at your local Korean market). You can add a touch of soy sauce to the mushrooms and fernbrake, if you like. Sprinkle each cooked vegetable with 1-2 tsp sesame seeds.
  4. For the soybean sprouts and spinach, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the sprouts and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Remove the sprouts and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking. Toss the sprouts with 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, salt, pepper, and 2 tsp sesame seeds. Bring the water back to a boil and add the spinach. Cook the spinach briefly, just 30 seconds or less, until soft. Again, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, then toss the spinach with 1 tbsp minced garlic, 2 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp soy sauce, salt, and pepper.
  5. The day of: To cook the bulgogi, simply heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add just a bit of oil (if you’re using non-stick, no oil is needed), and cook the meat in batches, taking care not to over-crowd the pan, until meat is cooked through. For me, this takes about 3-4 minutes per batch at most.
  6. Finally, just before the guests arrive, heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the rice to the skillet in an even layer. Let cook, without stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the bottom layer of rice forms a golden, crisp crust.
  7. The very last thing I like to do is fry the eggs, generally as people are arriving or are getting ready to eat. I find that people are pretty evenly divided between sunny-side up and over easy eggs for bibimbap, though almost everyone likes them a little bit runny inside. For sunny-side up, heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Crack the eggs gently into the skillet and let cook, without moving them, for about 1-2 minutes, or until whites are opaque. For over easy, gently flip the eggs after 1 minute of cooking (the whites can still be slightly translucent) and let cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.
  8. Serve the bar with rice first, followed by the proteins, vegetables, eggs, seasoned seaweed to top, and the gochujang sauce. I think wide, relatively shallow bowls with at least a gentle rim are best — deep, small bowls and flat plates tend to make things messy, at least for clumsy me. (These Verterra 8-inch plates and these Leafware ones worked great.) And enjoy!

Notes

The proportions for the vegetables above are a rough estimate — I found that carrots, bean sprouts, and spinach were more popular add-ins than zucchini, mushrooms, fernbrake, or onion, so I adjusted accordingly, but you might want to prepare extra just in case. We found that one pound of bulgogi meat and 12 ounces of tofu were almost exactly enough for ten of us.

If you find you have generous amounts of leftovers, the good news is that it all freezes well, so you can always pre-assemble any leftover bowls (minus the eggs) and freeze them for to-go lunches later on.

Finally, I don’t have one, but I imagine that a spiralizer would be really great for the carrots and zucchini, so that you don’t have to julienne them by hand!