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[Weekender] Bibimbap: Perfection in a bowl

Bibimbap, essentially rice mixed with meat and vegetables, often tops surveys on Korea’s signature dishes. It has been popular as a health food both domestically and overseas for quite some time.

But the basic recipe of cooked rice with vegetables, beef, garnishes and red pepper paste is not all there is to it.

In fact, bibimbap can be a whole lot more, according to “World’s Choice for Well-Being, Bibimbap,” a book that introduces 75 takes on the dish, written by Jhun Ji-young and published by Leescom in 2010.

Jhun said bibimbap was the dish that best captured the idea of harmony and fusion in Korean culture. Not only is it visually pleasing, with a lot of color, but it is also nutritionally balanced.
Tofu bibimbap in soy sauce (Leescom)
Tofu bibimbap in soy sauce (Leescom)

There may be a standard recipe, but bibimbap is a mixture of rice and other ingredients. In other words, you can use any ingredients you want.

In her book, Jhun introduces bibimbap in forms that are both familiar and new to us.

It shows that bibimbap is a dish with no limits ― a dish that can be served with dishes that are not normally thought of as natural partners for bibimbap, such as pizza, crepes and dessert.

There are also simplified but health-conscious takes on the dish, which the author has included to cater to those who live busy lives.

One of them is tofu bibimbap in soy sauce. Unlike the traditional bibimbap, which takes a lot of time and effort to make, this dish is easy to make but filled with the taste of Korea.

■ Ingredients (2 servings):

2 bowls of rice

1 small block of tofu, 2 teaspoons of salt and a bit of olive oil

50 g each of lettuce, sesame leaves and leeks and a bit of furikake

Soy sauce mix (3 regular spoonfuls of soy sauce, half a spoonful of sugar, 1 spoonful each of Japanese apricot extract and table vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of chili powder and ground sesame mixed with salt)

To make this simple bibimbap, chop the tofu into small pieces, and season them with a dash of salt. Oil the frying pan with olive oil and fry the tofu.

Julienne lettuce, sesame leaves and leeks and soak them in water.

Combine the ingredients for the soy sauce mix.

Put cooked rice in a bowl. Place vegetables on the bed of rice and tofu on top. Sprinkle furikake ― dry Japanese seasoning ― on tofu and serve it with soy sauce mix.

By Lee Hee-ju (hjlee0301@heraldcorp.com)
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