Sticky rice, sesame sautéed vegetables, crispy tofu and a generous serve of gochujang sauce make a delicious vegan version of this typical Korean meal.
Rice and vegetables. How many versions of that meal must exist in the world? It’s always so exciting when a simple change of approach can create something wholly new and interesting with fairly ordinary ingredients. In this case rice and vegetables get a whole new lease on life with the gochujang treatment.
The Korean word ‘bibimbap’ literally means mixed rice. It’s a standard Korean meal that’s totally customisable to suit your taste and refrigerator contents. The key components are white rice and sautéed vegetables, topped with gochujang chilli paste, soy sauce or doenjang (a fermented soybean paste). Thinly sliced meat and a soft-yolked egg are typical additions too, but I’ve forgone those in favour of crispy tofu and savoury shiitake mushrooms.
All of the components are cooked individually and artfully arranged on top of the rice, despite the fact you’re supposed to thoroughly stir everything together just before eating. Something tells me it just wouldn’t come out the same if you cooked all the vegetables together! The finished dish is a big hot mess of chilli slicked goodness and I absolutely love it! It was so very hard to stop shovelling it into my mouth eating it to take this picture for you.
I made this bibimbap for my lunch and enjoyed it so much I licked the bowl, then made it all over again for dinner the very same day. Gochujang is addictive stuff! If you’re a big fan like I am, then be sure to check out my gochujang bean balls recipe too.
The bowl in my pictures is a traditional Korean stone bowl called a dolsot. Aside from looking rather lovely, it can be heated up in the oven before serving. Once the heated bowl is filled, it keeps everything hot and makes the rice lovely and crispy on the bottom. I picked mine up for about $6 from an Asian supermarket, along with restocking my sesame oil and grabbing a bargain priced giant bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce, an enormous bag of bean sprouts and the glorious fresh shiitake mushrooms I used in this recipe. I’ve never found fresh shiitake mushrooms for sale before and I was more than a little bit excited to try them. So delicious. If you can’t find fresh ones locally, you could substitute with dried ones (reconstitute them in boiling water before cooking) or with fresh regular button mushrooms.
Standard gochujang includes wheat as an ingredient, but gluten free Wholly Gochujang is available from Amazon if you need it.
I’ve included my instructions for cooking sticky rice, because I firmly believe that overcooked sticky rice is a sin! The perfect sticky rice should be cooked but still firm, glossy and sticky enough to be easy to eat with chopsticks. But if you have your own preferred failsafe method, then stick with that.
If you have a way to keep your vegetables warm as you cook them one type at a time, that’s great, otherwise do what I did and use a couple of large frypans (skillets) at once and push things to one side while cooking others. This way I had everything roughly ready to serve at the same time and still hot.
Aside from being bowl-lickingly delicious, this is a pretty healthy meal with 24g protein per serve, 77 per cent RDI for calcium, 67 percent for vitamin C, 45 per cent for vitamin A and 30 per cent for iron. Good stuff.
- 2 tbsp gochujang chilli paste
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari if gluten free
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1-2 pinches of salt
- 200 g firm tofu cut into even sized cubes
- 1 carrot julienned (cut into fine matchsticks)
- 2 cups spinach (approximate) washed and roughly chopped)
- 2 large handfuls mung bean sprouts
- 3-4 shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 1 radish finely sliced
- 1 spring onion finely sliced
- Black and white sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
- 1 tbsp cooking oil I used rice bran oil
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari if gluten free
- Mix all sauce ingredients together and set aside until serving time.
- Start by washing your rice thoroughly. I do this by putting it in a sieve under a tap of running cold water. Agitate it with your hands until the water runs clear.
- Put the rice into a small non-stick saucepan with a lid, add a pinch or two of salt and 1 1/4 cups of cold water.
- Put the lid on and turn up the heat. Once the water starts to simmer, turn down to a very low heat and put a timer on for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the water should be gone and there should be a barely audible crackling as the bottom of the rice starts to sizzle in the pan (if there's still some water I turn up the heat for 1-2 minutes at this point). Turn off the heat and leave it to sit and steam, without removing the lid, for another 10 minutes before serving. The end result should be perfectly just-cooked, sticky rice.
- While the rice is cooking, start by heating 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a frypan (skillet) over moderate heat. Add the tofu and fry until crisp and golden on all sides, turning regularly to ensure every side gets done. Remove the tofu to a plate or push to one side of the frypan to continue cooking other ingredients.
- Add 1 tsp of sesame oil to the frypan, once hot add the carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from frypan or push to one side before continuing.
- Add another 1 tsp of sesame oil to the frypan, once hot add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add soy sauce or tamari and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the frypan or push to one side.
- The traces of oil left in the frypan should be enough to cook the remaining spinach and sprouts (feel free to add another 1 tsp of sesame oil if you feel the need). Add spinach and quickly cook until wilted, then lastly the sprouts until just heated through.
- To serve, spoon rice into two deep bowls (or heated dolsot, if you have them). Arrange the tofu and vegetables on top before garnishing with sliced radish and spring onion, and a sprinkle of black and white sesame seeds. Dress with a liberal few spoonfuls of gochujang sauce and eat immediately while everything is sizzling hot.