When I was teaching English in South Korea a few summers ago, I fell in love with the Korean culture especially its food. I found the food delectable, diverse and healthy. I learned that Hansik (Korean cuisine) is known for its healthy and well-balanced meal, using fresh and natural ingredients. For example, the vegetables are almost always lightly blanched which means they have retained most of their natural nutrients. Hansik uses less meat than most cultural cuisines. Also, the meats are usually boiled or steamed which indicate they are low in fat and calorie. Fermented foods are a large part of Hansik, and as research demonstrates, fermented foods benefit our health and digestion, because they are rich in probiotics (friendly bacteria), enzymes and minerals. Kimchi, the most well-known Korean side dish and the staple of the Koreans (aside from boiled rice), is an example of fermented food. In fact, it is considered one of the world’s top 5 health foods. ( http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410299,00.html)
According to Han Bok-ryeo, the Director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine: “Korean food is a great source of energy, and for Koreans, energy goes beyond physical strength, it pertains to strength of the mind and soul.” Also, Korean traditional wisdom states that “food and medicine are grown from the same root,” and therefore “there is no better medicine than food.” (taken from Korean Cuisine: Refresh Your Senses by Korea Tourism Organization, December 2009) This philosophy demonstrates that food is very important to the Koreans, and it is made with care and thought into the overall well-being and health of its people.
After discovering I am gluten sensitive, my naturopathic doctor said that I can still have rice, because it has no gluten. Thank goodness I can still eat rice, since rice is a staple of Korean food, and I especially love its signature dish: Bibimbap!
The direct translation of Bibimbap is “mixed rice”. It is steamed/boiled rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and/or meat and Korean chili paste (a.k.a hot pepper paste). I find the taste so delicious, nutritious and healthy for my body, mind and soul. It’s like comfort food. 😀
This weekend I decided to give it a try, making homemade Bibimbap, as I’m discovering I enjoy cooking more and more, and this version is so much healthier than eating out!
The following recipe is taught and given to me by my dearest Korean friend Chris.
Serves: 4-6 people
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
-I decided to make this bibimbap vegetarian; you can add a bit of ground meat (beef/chicken/pork); sautéed first if you like to have your meat. 🙂
–Vegetables: You can substitute the vegetables in this recipe with any veggies you like. The idea is to make it as colourful as possible so the bibimbap looks beautiful and eating a rainbow of vegetables is good for you!!
–Rice: Make water less than normal in the rice cooker/pot so the rice is not as soft as usual, since after you still need to cook it in a big pan.
–Spicy level: You can adjust the spiciness of the chili/hot pepper paste to your preference by either decreasing or increasing the tablespoons used for flavouring.
–Egg: You can cook it sunny-side up if you like.
–Optional: Roasted seaweed. I personally like putting it in the bibimbap because it gives that extra crunch and flavour!
Ingredients for Bibimbap:
All the vegetables needed for the bibimbap. Only spinach is missing.
1 white radish, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long
1 package of soy bean sprouts, washed and drained
1 big carrot, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long
2 big zucchinis, peeled and sliced (see photo above)
1 big eggplant, washed and sliced (see photo above)
1 box/bag enoki mushrooms, washed and drained
1 bunch/bag spinach, washed and drained
4 tablespoons sesame oil (this is an approximate, but it is up to you to decide how much sesame oil you want to drizzle on top of the vegetables)
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice
a dash of salt
2-4 big sheets of roasted seaweed
Ingredients for Hot Pepper Sauce:
You can get this from any Korean supermarket and my friend recommended buying a big tub, since it can be refrigerated and lasts for 6 months!
2 tablespoons hot pepper paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Unlike the bibimbap I’m used to eating in Korean restaurants, where the vegetables are on top of the cooked rice in a bowl (and I need to mix everything), this bibimbap’s toppings are already mixed in while cooking!
1. Lightly blanch (about 30 seconds, and for the carrots, a bit longer like approximately 60 seconds or less) each vegetable in boiling water, and drain.
2. Put all vegetables in a big pan.
3. Pour sesame oil all around the vegetables, but not too much.
4. Put rice into pan with vegetables and start mixing on medium heat.
5. Slowly add salt to the mix for seasoning.
6. Add hot pepper sauce all around and start mixing until evenly distributed and cooked. Set aside and it’s best to cover the bibimbap in the pan with a lid so when you serve it, it’s still hot.
7. Fry eggs in a frying pan. One egg per person/bowl.
8. Cut seaweed into strips or squares.
9. Place bibimbap into bowls, sprinkle some seaweed and put an egg on top of each bowl.
10. Masissge Deseuyo!! ^^ (Korean for Bon Appetit!)
One simple hearty hot bowl of nutritious and delicious meal for yourself, family and/or friends! 🙂
*If you want to find out more bibimbap (and get another recipe) and its history, check out this site: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_5_2_3.jsp