In its purest form, Bibimbap is basically as bowl of rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and from then on it can be as simple or elaborate as you like. White rice goes on the bottom and then a myriad of ingredients are placed on top and finally mixed together. Typical toppings can include seasoned beansprouts, carrots, spinach, cucumber, courgette, gosari (fern bracken), doraji (bellflower root) along with Gochujang, Yukhoe (marinated raw beef) and a raw egg yolk (or fried egg for those who are a bit hypochondriac).
The different colours present in Bibimbap is highly symbolic to the Korean psyche as it is a clear example of Obangsaek, a Korean philosophy which is meant to harmonise nature with the human body. There are five colours (blue or green, red, yellow, white & black) which form obangsaek representing the five cardinal directions (east, south, centre, west & north) and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal & water).
Sometimes, Bibimbap is cooked in a Dolsot (Hot stone pot) but it is not essential. I actually used a typical Spanish earthenware pot instead. The advantage of using a dolsot (or earthenware pot, maybe even works in a normal pot) is that the rice touching the pot will crisp up transform into Nurungji (누룽지), much like the highly prized Socarrat in a proper Spanish Paella.
2 cups cooked short grain rice (sushi rice is good)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 small cucumber, cut in half moons
Toasted sesame seeds
Pure sesame oil
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. Gochujang
1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional if you make Kongnamul Guk)
White pepper, to taste (optional if you make Kongnamul Guk)
1 Blanch spinach in boiling water and then rinse with cold water. Do not throw away the hot water. Season the blanched spinach with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. Reserve.
2 Cook beansprouts in a pot of boiling water from blanching the spinach for 10 minutes and make sure the lid is on as otherwise it can smell really bad. Once they have cooked, remove them and season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. Optionally, you can leave some beansprouts in the water and make Kongnamul Guk (Beansprout Soup) to go with the Bibimbap.
3 Lightly fry the carrot and then season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil. Reserve.
4 Lightly fry the cucumber and then season with salt, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp pure sesame oil and sesame seeds. Reserve
1 Heat a dolsot (or earthenware pot) and then add 2 tsp. sesame oil and the cooked rice and flatten down. Arrange the beansprouts, spinach, carrots and cucumber in small bunches on top of the rice. Add the yukhoe, gochujang and place the egg yolk in the centre. Cook the dolsot on a medium heat for a few minutes. You should hear sizzling, this is where the Nurungji is achieved.
2 After a few minutes, mix everything well and dig in!
For the Kongnamul Guk (optional):
Season the water from making the beansprouts with salt, white pepper and garnish with spring onions. Serve this soup alongside the Bibimbap if you wish.