While cooking, listen to this: Outta My Head (with John Mayer) by Khalid
There’s this blazer I’ve been stalking for months on the Internet.
Most people stalk their exes or that new hire at work who seems way too quiet, but I stalk blazers. One specific blazer to be exact. At regular retail, it’s well out of the price range I’m comfortable impulse buying at. But on sale - oh, on sale, it fits snugly in that range. Add some rewards points and I finally had myself a “click through to check out.”
Last night, the blazer arrived, hung neatly on a hanger, ready to be tried on. I was so nervous it wouldn’t fit or that the style would be all wrong, but the second I slipped it on, I felt like I was the fifth friend in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blazer - it fit perfectly. My months of price-hunting had finally been redeemed, and I couldn’t help but to feel a blip of dopamine hit my brain. Just what I needed to get me through the rest of the week. To be honest with you, I’ve already sneakily slid my closet door open, just so I can get a peek at her nestled in among her friends. I’m already planning on stalking another version of that same blazer in a different color, hoping the price sneaks down just so.
Clearly, I’m not one to let satisfying things go easily (hello, control freak), and the bibimbap is no exception. When I was younger, there was this “hip” strip mall sushi joint that many of us Metro-Detroiters used to frequent. It was a confusing restaurant that served both Japanese and Korean food, but nonetheless, it was a staple. I mean, do you really live in a suburb if you don’t frequent a beloved strip mall sushi restaurant?
Anyway, my family always ordered the bibimbap over the sushi. It’d come in this steaming stone bowl with a big squeeze bottle of spicy fermented chili paste that I’d douse mine in. The best part was getting to the bottom and scraping the crispy bits of rice off the sides of the bowl. I swear, it was like digging for buried treasure.
Fast-forward ten years later and I’m flying my first 14-hour flight solo, on my way to meet my cousin in Vietnam. I’m flying Korean Air (great airline, might I add. Their flight attendants are baby whisperers), and what are they serving for lunch? Bibimbaps! Of course, being the only American in the area, I’m given a guide on how to eat a bibimbap. I tried not to take offense. How were the flight attendants supposed to know I was a Strip Mall Sushi regular? Either way, I’ve never enjoyed plane food so much.
I’ve been wanting to make a bibimbap for the blog forever but figured the stone bowls were a necessity - the crispy rice was the best part! Well, leave it to Deb of Smitten Kitchen to remind us that we can crisp our rice without a stone bowl by using a frying pan. Suddenly, I’m having crispy rice, fried egg and whatever veggies are trapped in my fridge on a regular basis. One time I even rotated in Kimchi. It was glorious.
Finally, with spring just around the corner (April showers indeed!), Rina and I decided it was crispy rice time - with a spring twist. We added the unconventional - asparagus and sugar peas - to the bowl and smothered our rice with an extra crispy fried egg and loads of chili paste. Stone bowl or not, I knew my long quest for an easy DIY bibimbap had finally reached its satisfying close.
This dish has officially made its way into my regular dinner rotation. Chopsticks are optional, but definitely more fun. And we’re big proponents of fun. Give it a try!
EXTRA CRISPY SPRING VEGGIE BIBIMBAP
Yield: 4 bowls
Total Cook Time: 15m (see note)
Category: Main, Spring, Bowls
Source: slightly adapted from smitten kitchen
Note: if you’re making rice for this recipe, tack on another 20 minutes or so to the cook time. You can use just-cooked rice for this, but using leftover rice works splendidly, too.
Another Note: you can use whichever veggies you like, are in season or have slowly dying in your fridge.
Special Equipment: mandolin, box grater (both optional)
1 cup julliened or coarsely grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
½ large cucumber, thinly sliced into half moons
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into small pieces
1 cup asparagus, cut into small pieces*
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes
½ cup shelled edamame, cooked through
4 cups cooked rice**
1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
Sesame seeds, to serve
Soy sauce or tamari, to serve
Gochujang OR other hot sauce of choice***
*remember to chop off the bottom quarter or so of the asparagus - super woody, not good eats.
**make as much rice as the people you’re serving want - this serves 1 cup of rice per person, so adjust as needed.
***you can find gochujang at certain grocery stores like Whole Foods and we highly recommend it here - it’s just SO flavorful and great. To turn it into a sauce, mix a spoonful with 1-2 Tablespoons hot water. Stir and add more water until desired consistency is reached.
Pickle some veggies: in a medium bowl, add the carrots, cucumbers, rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Stir to coat the veggies evenly and set aside to pickle a bit. Come back to the bowl every few minutes to give it a toss.
Saute some veggies: place a large frying pan on medium heat and add the toasted sesame oil. When shimmery, add the asparagus, sugar snap peas, salt to taste and red pepper flakes. Saute until bright green but still a bit crisp. Add the minced garlic when there’s about 1 minute of cooking left - this allows the garlic to cook without burning.
Make the crispy rice: in the frying pan where the veggies were sauteed, add 1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil and place on medium-high heat. When shimmery, add the cooked rice and press into an even layer. Sprinkle with some salt and leave it alone - this helps it get all crispy. After 3-5 minutes, lift a section up to see how it’s doing. When it’s a light golden brown, flip it over in small sections; it’s okay if there are a few clusters that didn’t get totally brown. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and brown again. Distribute evenly among 4 bowls.
Make the crispy eggs: in the same saute pan where the veggies and the rice came to be, there might be some oil left. If so, awesome, but if not, add another glug of oil. Place on high heat and, when shimmery, add eggs one at a time and back away - they will splatter at you all angry-like. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and cook until the bottoms are golden brown and the whites are fully cooked through. Spoon some of the hot oil onto the egg whites to help them cook, if you hate raw egg whites with a passion like me.
Assemble! add the pickled veggies, sauteed veggies and edamame into the rice bowls. Top with the crispy eggs, minced scallions, hot sauce of choice, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Dig in immediately.
To keep: the veggies can be kept in the fridge for 3 days or so. The eggs should be made directly before eating, and the rice can stay in the fridge for a couple of days but won’t be crispy unless reheated.