Recipes for Health
Bibimbap: Rice Takes a Trip to Korea
Beef, Winter Squash, Spinach and Cucumber
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN
Several years ago I wrote a book called “The Foodlover’s Atlas of the World,” a research project that allowed me to try signature dishes from just about every country in the world. One of my favorites was the classic Korean mixed rice dish known as bibimbap.
Recipes for Health: Bibimbap With Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, Mushrooms and Turnip (February 21, 2012)
Recipes for Health: Bibimbap With Clams, Kale, Daikon and Carrots (February 24, 2012)
In traditional bibimbap, a large serving of rice is placed in the center of a hot bowl and surrounded with small amounts of meat — usually beef — and seasoned vegetables that include a mixture of cultivated vegetables (cucumber, carrot, daikon or turnips, spinach, lettuce, mushrooms) and wild items like fiddlehead ferns and reconstituted dried toraji (bellflower roots). A fried egg is often placed on top of the rice, and diners stir everything together. In Jeonju, which along with Jinju and Tongyeong is famous for its bibimbap, special stone bowls are used for the dish. They are coated with sesame oil and heated until very hot so that when the rice is placed in them, a crust forms on the bottom. The egg is broken onto the hot rice and cooks as it is stirred in.
Bibimbap can also provide a palette for leftovers. The Korean cookbook author Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall writes, in “Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen,” of how her family enjoyed the dish for days after family celebrations, when there would be many delectable leftovers on hand.
The concept of bibimbap is perfect for Recipes for Health. I’ve broken with tradition and have chosen to make this week’s recipes with brown rice and other grains. You can use the recipes as templates and choose whatever vegetables you like. The recipes call for 2 to 3 ounces of protein per serving, as this dish is really about the grains and vegetables. But if you are feeding hungry teenage boys, as I am, you may want to increase those quantities.
Bibimbap With Beef, Winter Squash, Spinach and Cucumber
Beef is the most typical meat served with bibimbap. It’s marinated and quickly seared in a hot wok or frying pan.
For the beef:
8 ounces beef, like top sirloin, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 to 2 garlic cloves, to taste, minced or puréed
A half-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the vegetables:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced or puréed
2 to 3 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Korean red pepper paste (kochujang) to taste (available at Korean markets) (optional)
2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 long European cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 pound winter squash, like butternut, peeled and sliced or cut in 3/4-inch dice
1 12-ounce bunch spinach, stemmed and washed, or 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Soy sauce to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
For the rice and garnishes:
1 1/2 to 2 cups brown rice, barley, quinoa or another grain of your choice, cooked (keep hot)
4 eggs (optional)
Korean red pepper paste (kochujang) to taste (available at Korean markets)
2 sheets nori seaweed (kimgui), lightly toasted* and cut into thin strips (optional)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds or black sesame seeds
* Toast nori sheets (if not toasted already) by quickly passing them over a gas flame (hold with tongs) until crisp.
1. Marinate the beef. Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, scallions and pepper and toss with the sliced beef. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Mix together the rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, scallions, sesame seeds and salt to taste in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add red pepper paste if desired. Set aside.
3. While the beef is marinating, toss the cucumber with salt to taste and place in a colander in the sink for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse and squeeze dry. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the vinegar and sesame oil mixture. Set aside in the refrigerator.
4. Steam the squash over an inch of boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and sesame oil mixture. Add salt or soy sauce to taste.
5. Wash the spinach and wilt in a large frying pan over high heat. Remove from the heat, press out excess water and toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and sesame oil mixture.
6. Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately on contact. Add the canola oil. Stir-fry the beef for 3 to 5 minutes, until lightly browned, and remove to a plate. Add the shiitakes to the pan, let sit without stirring for 1 minute, then stir-fry for another minute or two, until tender. Remove to a plate.
7. Fry the eggs in the hot pan or in a separate nonstick skillet until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Heat 4 wide soup bowls. Place a mound of hot grains in the middle of each one and surround with the meat and vegetables, as well as kimchi if desired, each ingredient in its own little pile. Place a fried egg and a small spoonful of chili paste on top of the rice and garnish with the toasted nori and sesame seeds. Serve at once. Diners should break the egg into the rice. Pass the chili paste and add more as desired.
Note: You can also arrange the food on a large platter and serve family style.
Yield: 4 servings.
Advance preparation: You can do this in whatever order is convenient for you. The grains can be cooked ahead and reheated. The cucumbers, spinach and squash can all be prepared ahead and refrigerated, then reheated before serving. It’s best to cook the beef and mushrooms just before serving so they’re nice and hot. But since this is often a way to use leftovers, you can also reheat.
Nutritional information per serving: 336 calories; 16 grams total fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 6 grams polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 28 milligrams cholesterol; 31 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 182 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 18 grams protein