In Korean, bibimbap simply means “mixed rice:” the rest is up to the interpretation of you, the chef! Fluffy jasmine rice is loaded into a bowl (often a hot stone bowl, which creates a delicious layer of crusty rice on the bottom) and topped with sauteed vegetables (called namul), meat, an egg with a runny yolk, and sauces like doenjang, a salty, savory soybean paste, and gochujang, a popular chili pepper paste that’s found across many other Korean dishes.
Historians believe that bibimbap evolved from Goldongban, another rice dish with meat, vegetables, and sauce, which likely came about sometime between the 14th and 16th Century. Eaten right before the Lunar New Year, Goldongban encouraged cooks to get rid of any leftovers and throw them into a rice bowl, thus setting the stage to start the new year with a clean slate. Bibimbap itself was first mentioned in Siuijeonseo, a late 19th Century cookbook likely written by a lady of the nobility. With its diverse textures and incredible flavors, it’s no wonder why the dish remains a Korean staple to this day! It’s shared origins with Goldongban also makes it a great dish to welcome the newness that comes with spring.
We chose Bibimbap as the March Recipe of the Month both because of how it is tied to the transition of seasons, and because our Theme of the Month is Cultural Appreciation. Learning about the context behind cultural and regional traditions is a big part of our curriculum at Allergic to Salad, especially in our Culinary Explorers classes for elementary-aged students. We teach the history and significance of the recipe that the students prepare so that they may come away both with a broader palate, as well as a deeper understanding of their neighbors’ traditions, both near and abroad.
By delving into more than just the flavors and ingredients of a dish, we honor the story it tells and the importance it may hold in its origin culture. In fact, food and stories go hand in hand. That’s why we compiled the list: Food Literacy Book List: Our Top 24 Food-Themed Children’s Books Picks. It even includes the book Bee-bim Bop!, which allows the reader to “follow the journey of Korean bibimbap from grocery store to table with catchy rhymes, and then make it yourself with the recipe at the end. Author Ho Baek Lee created this story surrounding traditional Korean bibimbap, which literally translates as “mix-mix rice,” to illustrate a slice of a modern Korean American family’s life.” An ideal read to accompany your bibimbap meal!
- 1 cup jasmine rice
asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch spears on an angle, or another seasonal vegetable
- 4 ounces swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves roughly chopped
- 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 eggs, cracked into two separate small bowls or cups
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced lengthwise and put in a bowl of cold water
carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
teaspoons Gochugaru (Korean Chili Flakes)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Eggs, cooked however you wish (optional)
In a medium pot, combine the rice with 2 cups of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 to 17 minutes, or until cooked through.
While the rice continues to cook, cook the vegetables. Heat a little oil on medium until hot. Add the chard, asparagus, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender-crisp, and the chard has wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a plate. In the same pan, heat a little more oil on medium. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook 1 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to the plate with the chard and asparagus, keeping them separate.
In the same pan, heat a little more oil on medium-high. Add the cooked rice to the pan and cook about 1 to 2 minutes, or until dry and slightly golden, stirring. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili flakes to taste. (If you like it spicy, add all the chili flakes, add less if you prefer mild heat.) Cook about 1 minute longer, stirring. Transfer the rice to bowls and serve.
While kimchi is commonly available at many grocery stores, our blog post Fermented Foods: Featuring Kimchi includes a recipe for making your own. It is the perfect bibimbap accompaniment!
Enjoy that springtime sunshine!
Team Allergic to Salad