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Korean Bibimbap

In the River City Kitchen with Michael Varner

This savory recipe is graciously shared with us by River City's Michael Varner. Michael welcomes us into his kitchen as he concocts one of his favorite go-to meals which is incidentally also a very healthy and delicious choice if you are planning to spend your Valentine's night in!

Bibimbap, which translates to "mixed rice,” is a Korean comfort food. The dish consists of rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and a protein of your choice. To start, the rice and veggies are partially cooked in a skillet or wok, then assembled in a stone bowl called a Dolsot. The stone bowl is heated to a very high temperature either on the stove or in the oven. This step finishes the cooking process, giving the rice a crunchy texture. Finally, after all of the ingredients are added to the Dolsot, drizzle with the traditional Korean condiment, Gochujang sauce. "It's delicious," Michael proclaims. A hearty, low-calorie dish that is high in fiber, carbohydrates and protein sure sounds like a winning combination.

Depending on the meat you choose to incorporate (beef is most common but chicken or shrimp can be used as well), you can have some fun with wine pairings. With so many complex flavors in the dish, it will come down to personal preference but a Riesling, Gewürztraminer or a Pinot Noir would each complement the diverse flavors and spices in the Bibimbap. But don't just take Michael's word for it. Here's how to recreate this savory dish at home and get your veggies in, too. 

Bibimbap

Ingredients

  • ½ English cucumber, thinly sliced

  • ½ teaspoon rice vinegar

  • 1¼ teaspoons sesame oil, divided

  • 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts

  • 2 servings thin shaved beef, cubed chicken or shrimp, cooked in pan with sesame oil and 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 cup shredded carrots

  • 4 cups baby spinach

  • Any other vegetables you may have around!

  • 2 cups cooked short-grain white or brown rice

  • 2 fried eggs, cooked in a little sesame oil

  • Sesame seeds

  • Sea salt

  • Kimchi, optional, for serving

  • Chopped scallions, optional, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, toss the cucumber slices with ½ teaspoon rice vinegar, ¼ teaspoon sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Drop in the bean sprouts and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat ½ teaspoon sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and a pinch of salt or a splash of soy sauce. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes until a little bit soft, and then remove from the pan and set aside. 

  4. Heat ½ teaspoon more sesame oil in the skillet and add the spinach and tamari. Cook, tossing, for 30 seconds or until just wilted. Remove from the skillet and gently squeeze out any excess water from the spinach.

  5. Assemble the bowls with the rice, cucumber slices, bean sprouts, carrots, proteins and spinach. Top with a fried egg. Add the mushrooms, if using. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle generously with the gochujang sauce. Serve with kimchi and scallions, if desired, and the remaining gochujang sauce on the side.

 

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Gochujang Sauce 

Gochujang sauce is a popular Korean condiment known for its unique and complex flavor profile. The paste that is the foundation of the recipe can be found at local Asian grocery stores and specialty food stores like Whole Foods.

Ingredients

• 2 to 3 tablespoons Gochujang paste

• 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar

• 1 tablespoon sesame oil

• 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Instructions

• In a small bowl, whisk together the Gochujang paste, vinegar, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Use less gochujang paste for a mild sauce. 

• Spoon onto Bibimbap bowls or use as a dressing for any veggie rice bowl.

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