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Vegetarian Bibimbap

(recipe, Jackie Varriano)


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Introduction

This dish is a bit of a labor of love. I recommend making it this way at least once, if only for the beauty of its colorful presentation. In subsequent versions, feel free to swap out the vegetables for your own favorites, and to substitute meat for the tofu, if you wish

Ingredients

  1. 4 cups freshly steamed and cooled rice
  2. 8 oz. firm tofu
  3. ⅓ cup toasted sesame oil, more or less
  4. 2 medium carrots, julienned
  5. Salt
  6. 1 zucchini, julienned
  7. ½ lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  8. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
  10. Toasted sesame seeds
  11. Gochujang
  12. 1 egg

Steps

  1. If you haven’t already made the rice, get it going so it can be cooling down while you make everything else.
  2. Rinse and drain the block of tofu. Cut it into ½-inch-thick slices and place them between clean kitchen towels or paper towels. Place a heavy object, such as a cast-iron skillet, on top to press out excess liquid; let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of the sesame oil in a skillet and fry the tofu slices, turning them once, until they are golden. Remove the tofu slices from the pan and let them cool, then cut them into strips.
  4. Put a tablespoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt into the same pan. Over medium heat, sauté the carrots just until softened but not browned; remove from the pan and set aside. Do the same with the zucchini, then combine the mushrooms and garlic and repeat once more.
  5. Blanch the spinach in a pot of salted boiling water until just wilted and bright green. Drain and plunge the spinach into a bowl of ice water to stop it cooking, then drain it again and squeeze out the excess water. Set aside.
  6. Wipe out the skillet and heat it once more over medium heat with another tablespoon of sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, swirl the pan to coat it with the oil, then add the rice in a smooth, even layer. The rice will begin to sizzle. Arrange the cooked carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, and tofu in sections atop the rice, and cook without stirring or disturbing until the ingredients are heated through, no longer than 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat and top everything with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, a scoop of gochujang, the (raw) egg, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Bring the skillet to the table, then mix all the ingredients together with a spoon, adjusting the gochujang, sesame oil, or salt if needed. Eat immediately.