By Casey Seidenberg
There is a Korean restaurant in Washington where my kids love to eat bibimbap. We haven’t been there as often since our daughter was born because dining out with a 2-year-old isn’t always a leisurely experience. So instead of eating out, we have mastered our own bibimbap at home. “Bi-bim-what?” you might ask.
For those unfamiliar, bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with vegetables, meat, a sunny-side-up egg and some seasonings. Bibimbap, meaning “mixed rice” or “mixed meal” in Korean, is one of our favorite ways to use leftovers. Whenever we have leftover steak, we make this for dinner. The meal also works with vegetables that are about to plunge past their prime but will still saute nicely. The flavorings that are so critical to the dish, such as sesame oil and hot chili paste, are staples that, once purchased, will last a while in the pantry or fridge. In other words, bibimbap makes a wonderful weeknight dinner.
If you have picky eaters under your roof, allow them to select their own toppings and season their own bowl of rice. Kids are more likely to eat healthful foods when they are offered some choice, and because every possible ingredient in this meal is healthful, there is no wrong selection.
And don’t even think about skipping the egg. The sunny-side-up egg on top does more than garnish; it makes the meal. When it breaks and is mixed into the rice, the yolk prevents the dish from becoming dry and adds a subtle but crucial creaminess. Traditionally, bibimbap is served in a hot stone bowl so the rice crisps on the bottom and the egg cooks against the heat of the stone. I don’t know about your kitchen, but ours is lacking in stone bowls. I assure you that regular ones function just fine, especially when they are warmed in the oven first.
●Julienned, sauteed carrots
●Julienned, sauteed zucchini
●Sliced, sauteed shiitake mushrooms
●Steamed or sauteed bean sprouts
●Steamed or sauteed spinach
●Thinly sliced, sauteed scallions
●Julienned, sauteed daikon radishes
●Leftover sliced steak
●Leftover sliced chicken
●Seafood of choice
●Fried eggs, sunny side up
●Gochujang (Korean red pepper sauce, available at many groceries or on Amazon.com)
●Brown rice vinegar
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, April 24, 2014.