When I lived in Seoul in my early 20s, my go-to meal was soondubu jjigae. A spicy tofu soup with seafood that was served with a steaming bowl of rice and always left me in need of a nap. It was delicious, ubiquitous, and so satisfying. Whenever I'm at a classic Korean restaurant, it's the first thing I look for on the menu. But I've never had the desire to make it at home. Part of its perfection is the atmosphere, but I also don't tend to cook with seafood myself. A habit leftover from my vegetarian days.
Or maybe it's because, when I'm craving Korean food, nothing quite tops the ease and satiation of bibimbap.
"Mixed rice" is a Korean classic and the first dish I was introduced to in Seoul, years ago. Korean food has taken off in Portland recently, thanks to restaurants like Han Oak and Revelry, but back then, it was something you had to search for and just wasn't on my radar. So when I landed in Korea, everything was new, even the food. The approachability of bibimbap makes it a great first dish for a newbie. On the surface, it looks just like rice and veggies, with optional seasoned meat and an egg on top. But the flavors that come together make it one of a kind.
The real kicker though is the sauce. Gochujang is like the salsa of the Korean world, with each grandma holding a secret family recipe and an essential part of nearly every meal. The customary brand in its plastic red container seemed more intended for cooking into soup than as a sauce. When I discovered KPOP gochujang, I loved it's versatility and the just-thick-enough texture that makes it perfect for drizzling into bowls of bibimbap. Recipe follows, enjoy!
1 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks and sauteed with oil and garlic until just soft
1 bunch of fresh spinach, roughly chopped and wilted over steam for 2-3 minutes or until soft
1 small daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
1 pint shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound mung bean sprouts, lightly seasoned with sesame oil, salt, and pepper
1 cup dried seaweed, cut into matchsticks
4, eggs, fried to taste
4 cups cooked white rice
Divide rice into 4 bowls. Top with cucumbers, carrots, spinach, radish, mushrooms, bean sprouts, fried egg, and seaweed. Drizzle with gochujang to taste. Serve with kimchi and other banchan. Enjoy!