Bibim-bahp – Some Silly Little Guidelines

Last week, I posted up my adventures in making bibim-bahp complete with lovely pictures! I didn’t put up the recipe, but a few people have asked for it, which makes me *happy*, but I feel *blush* lame, since there’s no real recipe. It would be like saying I have a recipe for scrambled eggs.

The funny thing with Korean food is that it’s very difficult to nail down a single definitive recipe. Not that Korean food is anything like Italian food, but it reminds me of the way Mario Batali talks about the regional foods from Italy. There’s a basic recipe for one thing, for example, ricotta gnocchi (which I will be attempting this weekend), but it will taste different in every household because it has been adjusted to the cook’s taste, even after many a hand-me-down from generation to generation. Now that I think about it, this is pretty much true for any food. Baking, not as much. But cooking, totally.

I have three Korean cookbooks, all written and published by distant acquaintances of my mother’s. I guess this is what you do when you are a bored Korean housewife in America and your children have gone off to college. The cookbooks have many of the same traditional Korean foods, but the recipes, of course, all differ. One of them has multiple recipes for the same thing, from three different contributors. Interesting, since it shows just how much variation there can be, but a little difficult if you’re new to Korean cooking. I don’t use any of the books that much since my most reliable reference is mom.

Bibim-bahp is a perfect example of variations in recipes. Not only can the bibim-bahp itself have different things in it, but the way each of those things are seasoned/cooked can vary as well. About the only consistent things in bibim-bahp are the bahp (steamed rice) and ggoh-choo-jahng (red hot pepper paste). Shoot, I even took the rice out of mine and used crumbled tofu instead. Not purposely trying to get to South Beach – I just don’t love rice. Yes, I’m asian, and if you ate rice three times a day for 18 years, you wouldn’t love it now either. Anyway…

Each of the bibim-bahp ingredients can be made in uber-excess, because in essence, they are all different kinds of bahn-chan. Whatever is leftover from bibim-bahp can be served again with another Korean meal. Actually, the way it would normally play out is that you have a Korean barbecue feast, and the next day, you make bibimbahp with all the leftovers :) So these are each of the guidelines for the individual items – guidelines, not recipes, because everything should be adjusted to personal taste.

Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)


The marinade can be used for galbee (short ribs) as well, though many cooks add tenderizers to the marinade for galbee since the meat is thicker than bulgogee and could be tougher. Friends’ moms use cola, which also adds sugar and makes the galbee very dark. It’s the acid in the cola that tenderizes the meat (and wears away the enamel on your teeth!). Others use crushed pineapple or kiwi, which again, also makes the galbee much sweeter. Mom doesn’t use anything. Our family likes to chew. *growl*

The sugar factor is something to make note of. Galbee and bulgogee are supposed to be slightly sweet, but many Korean restaurants serve galbee that is way too sweet for my taste (as much of a sweet tooth as I have, too!). The recipe below is adjusted to my taste, so the galbee may not be as sweet at what others like or are accustomed to in the restaurants. Like everything, that can be adjusted with more sugar, or the addition of the above-mentioned cola or fruit.

1 lb (or so) of thinly sliced tenderloin, flank steak, or ribeye (Korean markets sell it already sliced and may call it “bulgogee beef”)
2-3 T. soy sauce
1-2 T sugar (this is very low compared to a lot of restaurants, so if you like it sweet, add more)
1-2 T rice wine
2-3 T minced garlic
1 t. fresh miced ginger (ginger powder is fine, just use less)
Coupla turns on the black pepper mill
1 T water (this dilutes the soysauce a bit and helps increase the volume of the marinade for the beef)

Combine all the seasonings, add to the beef, and let marinate for at least a half hour, and overnight is awesome.

Grill to done, or broil in single layer under broiler in oven, or pan fry (this is the easist for me when doing bibim-bahp).

Sook-joo Namul, Dahng-geun, and Ho-bahk (Mung Bean Sprouts, Carrots, and Zucchini)


This makes enough to dress about a half pound of julienned cooked carrots or cooked sook-joo or kong namul, or stirfried zucchini slices. If you’re doing all three, triple the amounts. Also, my experience is that juliennes are better than sliced circles – easier to mix into the bibim-bahp. I also use the same technique for sliced onions, because well, I like onions in my bibim-bahp. And no, usually restaurants don’t put onions in bibim-bahp.


1 T sesame oil
1 t sesame seeds
½ T minced garlic (or garlic powder)
Dash of salt and pepper

Mix the seasoning ingredients together, then dress the vegetables. Gosh, is Korean cooking diffficult or what?

Shi-geum-chee (Spinach)


Same ingredients as above, with the addition of 1-2 T. soy sauce inst
ead of salt

Put fresh spinach in boiling water. When the water return to boiling, drain, let cool, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut into small pieces, and dress.

Moo (Daikon Radish)
½ T rice vinegar
1 T sugar
½ T red pepper powder (ggoh-choo-gah-roo)
½ t minced garlic
½ T sesame oil
dash of salt and pepper

Julienne about ½ a large white daikon radish. Mix with vinegar and sugar and let it hang out for a few minutes. Add rest of seasoning ingredients and combine.

Oi (Cucumber)
The cucumber adds some crisps. It should taste like a blander version of Japanese oshinko. Chopped oi kimchee works great, too, and adds more spice. Spice, around here, is very nice :)

Slice cucumber lengthwise, the slice on bias into long half ovals. Sprinkle with 1 t salt and let sit about 15 minutes to drain water. Squeeze water out of cucumber, then add 1-2 T rice vinegar, 1-2 t sugar and sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Gosari (Fern)
This is a vegetable that I’ve only seen in Korean cooking, and here, I’ve only seen it dried and packaged. Apparently, it grows wild in the mountains of Korea, so our ancestors would just go out and pick it. I don’t usually like to add it to bibim-bahp myself because no matter how long the dried gosari soaks, it’s always a little tough and fibrous.

Soak dried fern in hot water to soften, about 15 minutes. Mix with 1 t minced garlic, 1-2 T soysauce, 1 t sugar.

Gae-rahn (Egg)
Fry an egg, yolk still runny! Some people like to make a thin omelette/crepe with beaten eggs, then julienne the omelet to match the rest of the vegetables.

Ggoh-choo-jahng (Red Pepper Paste)


This comes out of a jar. Add enough water to make the consistency like ketchup, and about 1 tsp sugar for each 2-3 T of ggoh-choo-jahng to sweeten.

To Serve:
Place a single serving of rice (~ ½ c) steamed white rice in a large bowl. Place each of the vegetables and the bulgogi around the bowl; egg goes in the middle. It can also be garnished with julienned gim (toasted seaweed/nori). A drizzle with a little sesame oil on top is also a nice touch. Each person adds ggoh-choo-jahng to his or her own taste, then mixes the dickens out of everything in the bowl.

So there it is. Bibim-bahp. Seems complicated because it’s long, but it’s really quite simple, though it does end up using tons of pots, pans, utensils, etc. All worth it in the end though…and that’s what dishwashers are for, anyway.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nosheteria May 25, 2005 at 9:16 pm

Whew, that’s a long (but not too difficult it looks like) recipe. Thanks for the posting.


2 Peter May 25, 2005 at 9:20 pm

Yum. Despite lots of bibim-bahp while in LA, the best I think I’ve ever had was in Boston of all places. I think at the time I was just discovering the wonders of Korean food, and bibim-bahp was the dish that really epitomized the experience for me. Thanks for an evocative post, and a great picture.


3 Josh May 25, 2005 at 9:50 pm

sounds yummy..ill have to try to figure that into my rotation.
if you can get me the hurry curry, curry’d score tons of points with me :)


4 Anonymous May 25, 2005 at 9:54 pm

Wow I don’t think I’ve ever seen banchans ever look so artistic before. Nice job! Now see if you can do that with doenjang chigae!


5 MEalCentric May 25, 2005 at 11:24 pm

Funny how I was thinking about making bibimbap the other night and was glancing over on-line recipes. I noticed most either blanched or quickly sauteed the veggies. Also most incorporated soy sprouts (my fav!). But your recipe is so much easier with everything raw! Thanks!


6 sarah j. gim May 25, 2005 at 11:28 pm

josh: i have my own recipe for curry, and it tastes somewhat like hurry curry’s, just spicier (how i like it). though i want to find out how they get their chicken so f!@#in’ tender.

mealcentric: actually, all the vegetables do require cooking, which is why bibim-bahp is such a pain in the patootie to make – have to use so many pots and pans!


7 Daily Gluttony May 26, 2005 at 4:05 am

awesome! can’t wait to try it myself. anyways, i don’t care about the tons of pots and pans to be washed…that’s what the boyfriend is for. =P


8 tkic2 February 11, 2006 at 1:36 pm

Just tried your recipe tonight with great success! Your blog is fantastic! :)


9 sarah February 11, 2006 at 11:17 pm

tkic2: glad the recipe worked out for you!!!


10 kosari geek :) July 21, 2007 at 3:23 pm

I love gosari!!! my grandma goes to parks and slips into the woods for hours at a time to pick the stuff!!! this is probably not legal, but she does it anyway. you’re right the frozen, dried, and otherwise packaged gosari is pretty gross, but you can find it growing here in the states!!

when I was growing up, our church used to go on big picnics where we’d spend the day picking gosari in some random person’s forestland. by the way, this was all in michigan so I don’t know whether it grows in such abundance other places in the country


11 Anonymous July 28, 2008 at 2:01 am

The gosari should be parcooked in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes and it’ll soften up. I don’t know why cookbooks mention merely soaking it in hot water. That’s just the first step and they’re much more fibrous than dried mushrooms. Once the gosari has been par cooked it rids it of excess iodine and it can be cooked like any other vegetable.


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