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How to Make Bi Bim Bap
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
If you ever find yourself at a Korean restaurant and unsure about what to order, know that you can't go wrong in ordering bi bim bap (pronounced bee-beem-bahp).
Bi bim means "mixed," while bap means "rice." But bi bim bap is far more than mixed rice. It calls for perfectly cooked rice with a number of well seasoned vegetables, mixed with sesame oil and just a touch of red chili paste. If you enjoy mushrooms, eggs, chicken, or beef, you can add any one or all of these items to create your own version of bi bim bap.
Bi bim bap is the first Korean dish that my mom taught Margaret how to make after we got married. In case you don't know, Margaret is Chinese. Which makes our boys Korean Chinese, which is odd to both me and Margaret; when I look at them, I think of them as being Korean, and when Margaret looks at them, she thinks of them as being Chinese. Well, the truth is that we don't usually think about their mixed background - we just see them as Joshua and Noah, our boys. But I digress...
If you'd like to master bi bim bap to share with family and friends, I trust that you'll find the following guide to be helpful - it includes plenty of pictures and even a couple of videos. Big props to Margaret for thinking to whip out the camera the last time she put together some bi bim bap for her three favorite men.
Okay then, I'll pass the baton off to Margaret...
Bi Bim Bap Recipe
2 medium zucchini
1 (1.5 lb) bag of spinach
1 large onion
1 large or 2 small carrots
Sesame oil to taste
Olive oil for stir-frying
Sea salt to taste
2 cups of rice, cooked
1 egg for each person
Go-chu-jang (Korean hot chili paste)
Special Equipment Required:
Medium-sized hand-held strainer
Mandoline (If you don't have a mandoline you can just do a lot of chopping with a knife.)
The first step is to bring the water in your steamer to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the temperature so that the water can simmer.
Wash your spinach in a colander.
Then put it in the steamer to cook. While it's steaming, stir it around from time to time so that it cooks evenly. Steam until the leaves are wilted but the spinach still retains a bright green color.
Your spinach is finished cooking when it looks like this:
Quickly dunk the spinach into a big basin of cold water so that it stops cooking. This will retain the bright green colour. Use your hands to gently swirl the spinach around in the water.
The blue basin pictured above takes up one entire side of our kitchen sink. If you don't have a basin this size, you can just plug your sink and fill with cold water.
I find it helpful to scoop all of the cooked spinach into a bowl first, and then I dump it from the bowl into the water. If I try to move the spinach from the steamer straight into the water I tend to get burned.
Some people add ice cubes to the water to make it super cold, but I don't (because I usually don't have ice cubes available). I find that cold tap water works fine.
Once the spinach has cooled in the water, scoop it out into a strainer.
What I actually do is place the strainer in a large bowl, then I scoop out the spinach with my hands and place it in the strainer.
Scoop out a handful of the spinach from the strainer and, using both hands, gently squeeze the moisture from it. You don't need to squeeze it to oblivion; just enough so that it forms a moist spinach-ball like the one pictured below. Repeat this process until you have squeezed the water from all of the spinach.
Once you've completed the spinach-squeezing process you should have a collection that looks like this. Put this bowl aside.
Now take your zucchini and cut one end off.
Holding the cut end down, use your mandoline to slice all of the zucchini. Make sure the teeth are out of the mandoline. If the teeth are in, you'll get strips instead of slices. Position the mandoline on a bowl and against a wall so that it holds steady while you're slicing.
When you're done slicing your zucchini you should have a bowl that looks like this.
Put your zucchini in the steamer and steam until the zucchini is tender but still retains a bright green colour (see above). It's the same process as with the spinach.
As with the spinach, dunk your steamed zucchini into a pool of cold water to stop it from continuing to cook. Use your hands to gently swirl the zucchini around in the water.
Strain the zucchini and gently squeeze it with both hands. Again, don't squeeze too hard, otherwise the zucchini will fall apart.
Squeeze all of your zucchini until you get a collection that looks like this.
Now, take your bowl of squeezed spinach. Sprinkle it with salt to taste and a drizzle of sesame oil. Get your tongs out and lightly toss the spinach.
At first, using the tips of the tongs and small, light movements, break apart the clusters of spinach. Start off like this:
Once the clusters have been broken apart, you can be more assertive with the tongs to mix well.
Once you've finished tossing the spinach, do the same thing to your zucchini.
Set aside the zucchini and spinach.
Grab your onions and get ready to do some chopping.
See this end of the onion? It's got what looks like a button. This is the end you want to keep when chopping. Slice off the other end.
Once you've sliced off the other end, cut the onion in half so that it looks like this:
The "button" will hold the onion together so it doesn't fall apart while you're slicing.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan, and throw in your onions.
Stir every few minutes so that the onions won't stick to the pan and will cook evenly.
Scoop the cooked onions into a bowl.
Take your mandoline and put the medium-sized teeth in. Set it on top of a bowl. Just like when you were slicing the zucchini, place the end of the mandoline flush against the wall to prevent it from sliding around while you're slicing the carrots.
Grab your carrots and peel them. Cut off the pointed ends.
Hold a carrot by its uncut end and run it across the teeth of the mandoline.
Hold your carrot on an angle to get longer strips. To prevent injury only slice the carrot in one direction, away from your body and toward the wall.
Stop slicing once you've sliced the carrot down to a couple of inches. Otherwise you risk cutting your fingers on the mandoline. Prepare all of the carrots in this way.
I like to nosh on what's left of the carrots as I'm preparing the rest of the bi bim bap.
Heat another tablespoon-full of olive oil and toss in your carrots. Stir every couple of minutes to cook the carrots evenly.
You only need to cook the carrots for a few minutes. They'll turn a slightly lighter shade of orange when they're done.
Take all of the vegetables that you've prepared and arrange them neatly in a bowl.
Fry a couple of eggs, sunny-side-up. The secret to sunny-side-up eggs that don't stick to your pan (assuming that you avoid teflon-coated pans) is to use low heat. Put the pan on low heat, drizzle in some olive oil once the pan's been warmed, crack in your eggs, and wait for them to cook. It takes a while, but the eggs won't stick, which means the yolks will stay intact. And intact yolks are generally considered to be essential for bi bim bap.
Scoop some cooked rice into a bowl. Add as much of each of the vegetables as you'd like. Slide an egg on top. Add a scoop of the Gochujang (if you can't tolerate spicy foods very well, either add only a little bit of Gochujang or omit it altogether).
Drizzle with some sesame oil. This is the kind we use:
Nothing left to do at this point except mix well and enjoy.
Note from Ben: Here's a picture that we captured of our boys, all giddy with anticipation for Mama's bi bim bap. With a little practice, you can have this kind of giddiness over bi bim bap in your home, too.
If you're looking for a good mandoline, you should check out the one we use here:
If you can't order from Amazon, you are sure to find one of these puppies at your local Korean food market. We've had ours for several years now and have zero complaints.
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