Spring Veggie Bibimbap
Bee-bim-BOP. Definitely high up there on my list of favorite culinary words, probably right before boysenberry and right after spatchcock. Spatchcock! Hahah! What a word. I'm always trying to build up my quirky culinary vernacular so come at me with ur fav foodie words, teach me something new.
OK so, bibimbap. Here's the 411: it's a rice-based Korean dish that typically contains seasonal vegetables, grilled or boiled meat, and an egg. It gets loaded with traditional Korean condiments such as kimchi, gochujang, black sesame seeds, and toasted nori, though given the nature of the dish you can improvise based on your own preference. As is the case with a lot of food coming from Korea and neighboring Japan, it's presentation is often minimal but also stunning, like a little work of condiment art layered on top of a big rice canvas. I tried my best with the heart bowls, you guys. Right before consuming it you just hack away at it with chopsticks or a fork or whatever and mix it up and then it's ready for your face. Oh and last bit of info about bibimbap: it's really really fucking good.
This particular spring-inspired bibimbap comes from our friend Lukas Volger, who recently released his cookbook titled Bowl. Bowl is a really fantastic addition to my cookbook collection for a lot of reasons, but most notably because of it's huge collection of approachable East Asian-inspired and completely vegetarian recipes. I haven't broken into the phở section yet because my stomach is still reeling from when Matt and I lived in Saigon and ate it for breakfast every day (it's been three years and I think I've finally lost all the noodle weight from that summer) - but I think I'll be breaking into it soon! We met up with Lukas and the rest of the crew behind Jarry Magazine when we were in New York last week and, yeah, they're all super sweet and hospitable and amazing and also seven feet tall which made me feel dumb for having left my stilettos back in New Orleans. Anyway, check out the book and pack a bowl of your own!
In the short amount of time since we've been back home, we've made this bibimbap a few times. That's kind of the great part of a recipe like this, it makes enough to serve four (and then some, if you prepare a little extra of each topping) and all of the assembly is done right before serving. After the initial preparation of the different components of the dish, we were able to make the second and third rounds of bibimbowlz with like no effort at all. The original recipe doesn't call for an egg but we couldn't resist adding some fried and boiled eggs to the mix (damn, "couldn't resist", strong language right there but it's true). We tried it once with fried eggs, once with boiled eggs, and once using both. Maybe we're just excessive (hint: we are), but Matt and I liked it best when we double teamed it with the eggy goodness. The recipe below comes straight from Bowl, though I made a few teeny tiny adjustments based on how we prepared it. Have a good week, cuties!
Spring Bibimbap, from Bowl
2 bunches Swiss chard (1 to 1/2 lb)
1/2 medium conventional cucumber
1 medium carrot, peeled
6 small radishes
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch fine sea salt
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 to 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted or black sesame seeds
5 cups freshly cooked white rice*
Two 2" squares toasted nori
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 - 4 eggs for frying or boiling, optional (tips for this in the notes section)
2 cups kimchi (store bought or following the recipe in Bowl)
Gochujang sauce for serving (store bought or following the recipe in Bowl)
Begin by trimming the stems from the Swiss chard, reserving half of the stems for use in a later step, and discarding the other half. Your goal with the chard stems is to make them into little matchstick shapes - Lukas recommends doing this by slicing them into 2 inch lengths, and then into halves, quarters, or eighths, until they are uniform shapes. Transfer the stems to a bowl and set aside. Cut or tear the chard leaves into bite-sized pieces, set aside.
Slice the cucumber into 1/2" thick rounds, stack them up, and slice into thick matchsticks. Slice the carrots into super thin (less than 1/4" thick) rounds. Slice the radishes as thin as you possibly can. Add all of these veggies to the bowl with the chard, toss with the tablespoon sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and vinegar and set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal. Right before you serve it, drain the liquid, pat down the veggies with a towel, and toss with the rice vinegar.
Prepare the Swiss chard: place a skillet over medium heat and add 1 T coconut oil. Using tongs, add the Swiss chard leaves in increments, adding more as each batch cooks down. Add a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently with the tongs for 3 to 5 minutes, until wilted and the pan is looking pretty dry. Remove the pan from the heat and either transfer the chard to a colander to drain off the liquid, or just tilt the pan over the sink while using tongs to squeeze the chard against the sides of the pan, releasing the liquid while making sure none of the chard gets tossed overboard into the sink. Place the chard in a bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon sesame oil and the sesame seeds.
Wave the nori squares over a gas burner (or alternatively, roast under a broiler, flipping periodically), until the edges curl up and they turn crisp. Slice into thin strips or crumble on top of the finished bibimbop with your fingers.
For assembly, scoop rice into the bowl and top with the fried or boiled egg (if using), Swiss chard, kimchi, and avocado. Use a slotted spoon or chopsticks to add the pickled vegetables to the bowl. Garnish with nori and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and serve immediately, with gochujang sauce (or Sriracha, if you're so inclined) on the side.
We made this recipe with fresh cooked rice, though Lukas gives instructions to crisp the rice in a skillet for each bowl. I've had it this way in Korean restaurants a few times, and it's phenomenal. To prepare it this way, add a tablespoon of coconut oil to a skillet over medium heat and press the cooked rice into the skillet, making a thick rice cake. Let cook without disturbing for 4 to 5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice. Transfer the crisped rice to individual serving bowls just before serving.