Spicy pork bibimbap


For months, I’ve been chatting with my friend Hee-jeong about getting together to make Korean food. I’m not sure where time went, but meanwhile, she had a beautiful baby girl and has moved back to Korea. Hee-jeong’s been offering to cook with me for the past 3 years and I missed my prime opportunity to learn all about Korean food from her! So when I woke up one day feeling inspired to make bibimbap for my friend Angi, I sent Hee-jeong an e-mail and crossed my fingers, knowing that the time difference made it unlikely that she’d respond before I needed to start cooking.

Let me pause to say that I’ve really only eaten Korean food two times in my life: once when Hee-jeong cooked for me and again when we had a Korean restaurant cater a research group meeting. Yet somehow I planned to make it…and I wanted it to taste authentic. So I went ahead and chose a dish I’d never tried just to keep things interesting. So what if I picked bibimbap for the attractive colors with no idea how it should taste?! It’s a good thing Hee-jeong woke up early that day and sent me her bibimbap wisdom first thing or who knows what I would have concocted.

In the meantime, I scoured the internet to discover that, while bibimbap is one of the more common dishes served at Korean restaurants in the US, it’s actually not a dish Koreans typically intentionally set out to create from scratch. In fact, it’s most often served as a way to use up leftovers at the end of the week. The result just happens to be quite tasty in its own right. That information explains why this dish requires so many pieces and steps; if it were meant as the final product, couldn’t you just sauté all of the ingredients together rather than neatly arranging them in separate piles in a bowl? As much as I’m a sucker for beautiful food, it’s a time-consuming process for the visual appeal if you don’t already have the leftovers. I mean, imagine making stir fry by cooking each vegetable separately before combining them to eat. Well that’s what I did because I’m stubborn and I wanted the effect of the separate colors before mixing it up. Just look how gorgeous it looks in my late Great Grandma Ramonda’s turquoise bowl (recently handed down to me from my mom)!

I’m a weakling against the powers of spicy food, but this bibimbap was so delicious that I didn’t even care that my eyes and nose were watering. Most bibimbap recipes call for beef (and that was Hee-jeong’s suggestion too), but since Angi specifically requested pork, I took some creative liberties. Even though I ate more than an appropriately sized serving, I couldn’t tell you whether my blind cooking experiment actually tasted like bibimbap should. Lucas and Angi’s Korean food tasting experience confirmed that it tasted like bibimbap. And not just any ol’ bibimbap, but spicy, textured, and nom-worthy bibimbap with layers of different flavors (as evidenced by Lucas shoveling multiple bowls into his mouth). It’s been decided that I desperately need a mandoline so I can repeat this dish without the hassle of finely cutting every vegetable.

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  1. Veronica says:

    Love it and the bowl is perfect for this dish!

  2. Sheri says:

    Your Great-Grandma Ramonda would be very proud!! Can’t wait to try this dish someday!

  3. Min says:

    I love this! That’s right. We, Koreans, bibimbap is the easiest way to use up all the leftovers! Just throw everything in a large stainless steel bowl, mix with gochujang and sesame oil and dig in! It tastes even better when you share with others from the same bowl! I know it’s quite unsanitary..but for some reason, it just tastes better ;)
    Looks beautiful!

  4. LYO-town says:

    This is gorgeous! I am just like you. I’ve only tried Korean food a couple of times but have made kimchi jiggae from scratch! I love this dish and have been meaning to try making it at home. Yours looks awesome!!

  5. Thank you for the education on Bibimbap. I agree presentation adds so much to this dish. Thanks to you I have decided to prepare a week of Korean recipes in my home so I can build up to a crescendo of “leftover” bibimbap. A very inspiring post!

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