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How to cram all your nutrients in one bowl - Korean Bibimbap

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching an immersion session for Newell Brands, a company that specializes in marketing appliances and cookware such as Crock-Pot and Rubbermaid. I was assigned the task of developing a healthy, trendy and cutting-edge recipe using ingredients that can help expand the skills of typical Americans in the kitchen. The only catch was that the participants had a few dietary restrictions...

*Gluten-free

*Dairy free

*One vegetarian

*One vegan


Okay. No big deal. I'm almost a dietitian. I've worked in foodservice for over a decade. I got this.


That's when the light bulb blinked on.

Asian food. Asians have spent hundreds of thousands of years mastering plant-based meals that appeal to everyone, even meat-loving westerners.


One of my favorite asian meals is a Korean Bibimbap. This dish literally means "mixed rice". It consists of a medley of Korean herbs and veggies, called "namul", served over a bed of rice in a dolsot, or stone pot. This makes the rice on the bottom a little crispy, adding some more texture to this already lively dish. It is usually topped with a raw egg, meant to cook in the hot dolsot as the rice is being mixed. I love this dish. It is so colorful and flavorful. I was first introduced to it while I was working at Nobu Miami Beach, and ever since discovering it, I MUST order it every time I have Korean BBQ.


So, obviously I had some substitutions to make. Not only is the Bibimbap not super vegan friendly, but it also isn't very gluten-free, considering most soy sauce is made with fermented wheat. But this was simple for me to manage, since food allergies and sensitivities are a must-know for anyone who works in the bizz. Especially in the hipster bizz, like Nobu. I also had to bump up the nutritional value of the dish, even though it is already a nutrient haven. Also, to appease the meat eaters, they requested I don't completely dismiss the animal protein and just make substitutions for the vegans and vegetarians. Against my original wishes, I agreed. I thought, "what a perfect opportunity to use tofu as the main protein for the dish. It's something everyone can enjoy, it's trendy, and many people don't know what to do with it (unless you're asian, of course. Then you've got about a million different delicious ways to prepare it.)" Alas, they wanted their meat, so we agreed on chicken.


Mind you, against all my training, using recipes to cook a meal kind of hurts my soul. I like to cook from the heart. My mother never uses recipes in the kitchen. She just adds a little of this, a pinch of that, and lets her taste buds decide on how many tablespoons of what to add. So with that in mind, I empower you to take creative liberty in the kitchen and stray from the recipe by incorporating your own twists to this dish. The recipe is only here to guide you. You're the chef.


For this particular recipe, i decided to use an aromatic brown Jasmine rice. Its nutty flavor and floral aroma add so much character to any dish you choose to substitute white rice for. Brown Jasmine rice also has more insoluble fiber (the roughage needed to keep your digestion moving along) than its white counterpart, as the husk of the rice remains intact. It provides more protein and more mono- and polyunsaturated fats (heart healthy!), and it also has more minerals. Another quick note is that I used the Crock-Pot Express Crock to make the rice. I NEED one of these in my kitchen. It made four cups of rice in 13 minutes. WOW! it normally takes 35-45 minutes to make brown rice. But this baby used half the water in a third of the time! Highly recommend it.


Chicken or Tofu:

Servings: 2

Serving Size: 4oz

- 8 oz chicken breast or extra firm tofu, diced

- 1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce - GLUTEN-FREE!

- 1 Tbsp sesame oil

- 1 Tbsp minced garlic

- 1 tsp sugar

- 1 tsp ground ginger

- 1/2 Tbsp chili flakes (optional, add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)

- 2 scallions, chopped


1. Mix all ingredients and marinate chicken for 30 minutes in refrigerator.

Chicken: Sauté over med-high for 3-5 minutes until no longer pink and juices run clear.

Tofu: Preheat oven to 355°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning over halfway through.

**Before baking the tofu, wrap it in paper towels and place it on a flat surface with something heavy on top, like a wooden cutting board for 15-20 minutes. This helps remove all the excess liquid it's been sitting in and makes for a crispier end product.


Spinach & Carrots

Servings: 8

- 20 oz spinach

- 8 carrots, peeled & grated

- 2 Tbsp sesame oil

- 1 Tbsp minced garlic

- 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce

- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar


1. Heat sesame oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure not to let it smoke, as the smoke

2. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.

3. Add spinach and carrots , tamari soy, and vinegar. Sauté until wilted.


Mushrooms

Servings: 8

- 12 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced

- 2 tbsp sesame oil

- 1 tsbp olive oil

- 1 tbsp minced garlic


1. Heat sesame oil on medium heat in a large skillet.

2. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add mushrooms and sauté on med-high for 4-5 minutes.


Mung Beans & Edamame

(While the edamame aren't traditionally Korean, I decided to include these for the vegans and vegetarians for some added protein.)

Servings: 8

- 4 C mung bean sprouts

- 12 oz steamed, chilled & shelled edamame

- 2 tsp sesame oil

- 2 tsp minced garlic

- 1/2 tsp tamari soy sauce

- 1 tsp sesame seeds


1.Toss all ingredients in large bowl until evenly coated.


Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Servings: 8

- 3 Japanese or Hotbox cucumbers, thinly sliced

- 1 C rice wine vinegar

- 1 C water

- 3/4 C sugar

- 1 Tbsp salt


1. Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil.

2. Remove from heat.

3. Add cucumbers and let sit for 10 minutes.


Now, you're ready to make your bibimbap!


1. Use your rice as a base. The recommended portion size for rice is 1/3 C.

2. Add your "namul" and choice of protein over the rice in a circular pattern.

3. Optional for meat-eaters: Fry an egg, sunny side up, and serve over all the ingredients.

4. Drizzle some gochujang (make sure it's gluten-free if necessary. Otherwise, use sriracha) over everything.

5. Top it with scallions and sesame seeds and enjoy!


Stay tuned next week for what we had for dessert, a smooth and decadent vegan, gluten-free chocolate pudding that my boyfriend wants me to make all the time now!

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