Call me crazy but the best bibimbap I’ve had in NYC is from The Smith. It may be tied with the bibimbap from Do Hwa but it’s definitely top two.
Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? Bibimbap is (and pardon the oversimplification) Korean food’s answer to fried rice.
Rice is cooked until it gets crispy around around the edges, then topped with a mix of sautéed, raw and pickled veggies and doused in a sauce that’s equal parts sweet and spicy.
Meat is optional. A runny egg on top is not.
I think it’s the ultimate comfort food. But, like most comfort food, it’s not exactly compatible with the diet you may or may not be on.
But, thought I on a recent Monday night, this could be easily remedied by, say, replacing real rice with the cauliflower variety.
The result? Still delicious, still completely satisfying.
Vegetable bibimbap with cauliflower rice
(Adapted from My Korean Kitchen)
Yields 3 servings
Note: The key to the sauce is gochujang, a type of red chile paste. I found it easily at Whole Foods (this brand) and these days it’s sold at most grocery chains. If worst comes to worst, check out your local Asian grocery store!
4 cups spinach leaves
12 ounces sliced white mushrooms or other mushroom variety
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for frying the eggs
Salt to taste
16 ounces riced cauliflower
2-3 tablespoons broth, preferable vegetable but chicken or beef will do if not vegan
3 eggs, one per serving
2 cups shredded carrots
For the sauce
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar – raw, if you have it
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
Add all ingredients for the sauce to a small bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil and one teaspoon sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cauliflower rice and cook, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of broth, stirring to incorporate. If rice still seems dry, continue to add broth one tablespoon at a time. Cook until rice has softened and the broth is absorbed.
Meanwhile, cook the spinach. Heat one tablespoon olive oil and one teaspoon sesame oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add spinach and cook until just wilted, adding salt to taste. Place cooked spinach in a bowl, then wipe out the sauté pan.
Add butter to the same pan and melt over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they’ve released their liquid, the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are browned, about 7 minutes. Place mushrooms in a bowl and wipe out the pan.
Finally, add a pat of butter to the pan and melt over medium-low heat. Crack eggs into the pan and cook until whites are set and yolks are still runny – or to your desired level of done-ness.
Optional step if you’d like to achieve the “crispy” rice affect: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Once oil is hot, spread cauliflower rice evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cook without stirring for 3-5 minutes or until the rice on the bottom starts to get crispy.
To serve, distribute rice into three bowls. Top with a tablespoon or so of sauce. Then top with spinach, mushroom, carrots, an egg and a scoop of kimchi if desired. Drizzle with additional sauce.