At my first job out-of-college, my best friend in the office was a Korean woman who introduced me to the amazing flavors and textures of her native country’s cuisine. From her mother’s homemade dumplings to kimchi – the exotic spices and ingredients lured me in and I’ve been a fan ever since. One of the first dishes she recommended I attempt was a simple rice, meat and vegetable bowl called Bibimbap.
Traditionally made in a hot stone bowl called a dolsot, this basic dish can be adapted to use a variety of proteins or vegetables and it is incredibly comforting and satisfying. I don’t have a dolsot but I do have a cast-iron skillet that serves the same purpose—to crisp up the rice so it has a crusty exterior as well as to fry the egg at the end. If you don’t like any of these ingredients, or you don’t have them on hand, it’s fine. Just substitute what you do have or leave them out altogether. Sometimes I don’t even bother with the egg if I’m pressed for time. Whether you’ve never tried Korean food, or it’s one of your favorites, this recipe satisfies the craving for something humble yet absolutely delicious.
4 center-cut boneless pork chops, fat removed and thinly sliced
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 cups cooked white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, cut into rounds and halved
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped or torn
One egg (optional)
1 cup carrots, cut into match sticks or grated
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
sesame seeds (optional)
hot sauce (optional)—Lan Chi Chili Paste with Garlic preferred
Combine sliced pork with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, ginger and garlic in a zip top plastic bag and marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes up to all day – the longer the better.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté pork until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Remove the meat and set aside. Drain out the remaining liquid from the pan and discard. Allow the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes, then slice into smaller lengths.
Meanwhile, add the zucchini and the mushrooms and sauté until browned.
Once the zucchini and mushrooms are cooked, toss in the spinach to wilt. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Once the oil is very hot, add the rice in as thin of a layer as possible. Use the sides of the pan, if necessary. The idea is to brown the rice and get it crispy on the bottom.
Add back in the cooked vegetables and pork and create a small well in the middle of the rice with the back of a spoon.
Crack the egg into the well and let it cook sunny-side up.
Once the egg white is nearly cooked, break the yolk and mix the egg into the rice mixture. You don’t want scrambled eggs but you want pieces of egg throughout the dish. Again, this part is optional.
Transfer the rice, pork and vegetables into a bowl and add in the sliced cucumber and carrots. Top with scallions and sesame seeds, if desired. I also add in a teaspoon or two of the hot chili sauce for extra flavor.
Serves 4 as a main.