A vegan version of a Korean classic, these tofu bibimbap rice bowls are filled with veggies and dressed in spicy red pepper sauce.
This is a favorite that I forget often about. For a while I was under the mistaken impression that this dish wasn't doable at home, and since I don't live within convenient distance of any Korean places, I kind of let bibimbap fall off my radar. What a shame.
If you don't live near any Korean restaurants, you may not even know what I'm talking about, but trust me, you want to know.
Bibimbap is a seemingly simple Korean rice bowl that's typically made up of rice topped with veggies, and in traditional versions, meat and a fried egg. I'm told that tofu is totally not traditional, but my old favorite Korean restaurant made it for me that way and it was delicious, so that's how I make my vegan bibimbap now.
The secret is in the sauce. Bibimbap sauce is some of the most insanely flavorful stuff I've ever tasted. Now that I have my own recipe (which is pretty darn easy to make), I might just put it on everything. Gochujang is the key. This fermented Korean red pepper paste has a deliciously distinctive tang. You can actually get it at lots of regular old supermarkets these days. If yours does't carry it though, try an Asian market or online.
Once I started eating the bibimbap I prepared for this post, all dressed in bibimbap sauce, I realized I had a big problem with my photos. Not that a bowl of veggies and tofu with some sauce on the side isn't great, but you don't get anything near an adequate idea of how freaking delicious bibimbap is until you see the rice and veggies coated in red peppery goodness and stirred up into a big rice bowl mess. Of course, this dawned on my while I was eating my bibimbap, and at that point I sure wasn't stopping for a photo op'. Apologies. <— Since writing that I went and updated the post with snazzy new photos of my sauced-up bowls. See? Delicious!
Another awesome, but by no means necessary, part of many a killer bibimbap, is the stone bowl it's served in, known as a dolsot. This is what held me back for a while from making my own bibimbap. I thought I absolutely needed the bowl. Now that I have the bowl and started making bibimbap, I know that was pretty silly of me. Don't get me wrong, the bowl is amazing. You heat it up before filling it, so the rice forms a crispy crust everywhere it contacts the bowl, and your food stays sizzling hot through your entire meal. I've included steps in the recipe for how to make dolsot bibimbap if you've got a bowl, but you can ignore them if you don't have a bowl. I love the crispy rice crust that the bowl creates, but I will no doubt be making this on lazier days and skipping the bowl heating step.
Tofu Bibimbap (or Dolsot Bibimpap)
For the Rice
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
For the Bibimbap Sauce
- ¼ cup gochujang
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Rice Bowls
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into strips
- 4 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
- 1 cup fresh spinach, sliced
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and pressed at least 15 minutes, and cubed
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- 2 scallions, chopped
- Toasted sesame seeds
Prepare the Sushi Rice
Place the rice into a fine mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1 minute. Place the water, vinegar and salt into small saucepan and set over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add the rice, lower heat and cover. Simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for at least another 10 minutes.
Prepare the Bibimbap Sauce
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. You can thin with some additional water if needed.
Prepare the Rice Bowls
If using dolsots, place them in oven and turn on the heat to 450° degrees.
Place 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in medium skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add 1 garlic clove and shiitakes mushrooms. Stir-fry until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Keep the skillet over heat.
Place another 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into the skillet. Add 1 garlic clove and carrots. Stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove the carrots from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Keep the skillet over heat.
Place the remaining 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into skillet. Add 1 garlic clove and zucchini. Stir-fry until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Remove the skillet from heat.
If using dolsots, remove them from oven. Optionally, if you have a gas stove, you can place them over the burners for a minute or so to get them even hotter. Remove them from the heat and transfer to heat resistant surface.
Divide the rice into dolsots or 4 conventional bowls. Top with spinach, followed by shiitakes, carrots, zucchini, tofu, bean sprouts, scallions and sesame seeds.
Serve with bibimbap sauce.
I like to leave the tofu uncooked and simply let the rest of the ingredients warm it up when I eat this dish. But free free to pan-fry it using this method if you prefer.