Love lots of flavor? Why not try making bibimbap, the nutritious and delicious meal in a bowl that’s a culinary icon of South Korea.

A close-up view of a bowl of bibimbap, a Korean rice dish which also contains vegetables and shredded meat. Alongside the black bowl containing the food is a small bowl of sauce and a pair of chopsticks.
Bibimbap is eaten throughout South Korea © Alexander Prokopenko / Shutterstock

What is it?

A colour wheel of vegetables, spicy red pepper paste, meat and egg make for good looks, but it’s the medley of fresh, cooked and fermented flavours that make bibimbap a firm favourite with both Korean and international diners.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Pinch of sugar 
1½ tbsp soy sauce 
¾ cup sesame oil 
3 tbs garlic, peeled and crushed 
Salt and pepper 
400g (14oz) Scotch beef fillet, finely sliced into 5cm (2in) strips 
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and finely sliced 
2 small carrots, peeled and julienned (cut into thin strips)
1 small daikon (or radish), peeled and julienned 
2 small courgettes (zucchini), julienned 
1 small bunch of spinach 
1½ cups bean sprouts 
2 cups short or medium grain rice, cooked  
4 egg yolks 
gochujang (red pepper paste)

A top-down view of a bowl of bibimbap; a Korean rice dish full of vegetables and shredded meat. The food is held in a thick stone bowl.
Bibimbap dates back to the 14th century and was eaten to get rid of leftover food before the lunar new year © norikko / Shutterstock

How to cook

Step 1: Mix together the sugar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, 3 tsp of garlic and a pinch of pepper. Add the beef and mix well.
Step 2: Stir-fry until the beef is browned, then set aside.
Step 3: Mix together the remaining soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, 2 tsp of garlic and pepper. Mix in the mushrooms and set aside.
Step 4: Stir-fry the carrot in a splash of sesame oil with 2 tsp of garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Step 5: Repeat with the daikon and courgettes (zucchini).
Step 6: Repeat with the bean sprouts.
Step 7: If using ceramic bowls, line the bottom of each bowl with a teaspoon of sesame oil. Put rice in each bowl and arrange small mounds of beef and vegetables over the rice, with an egg yolk in the middle. If using stone bowls, pour another tablespoon of sesame oil around the edge of the bowl and place on the stove to heat on high for 5 minutes, or until you can hear the rice crackle, then remove from the heat. 
Step 8: Serve with a dish of gochujang for each person to mix into their bowl to taste.

A crowded street in the Myeongdong district in Seoul. Walkers pass shops and stalls that flank either edge of the long street.
Feel like you're wondering through a night market in Seoul by whipping up a bibimbap at home © estherpoon / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

It’s icy in Seoul and you take shelter in a tiny restaurant, slipping off your shoes. You’re presented with a heavy stone bowl containing a kaleidoscope of carrots, shiitake mushrooms, spinach and courgette (zucchini), all perfectly julienned. The race is on to mix it all together while the bowl is hot – wait too long and the raw egg won’t cook in the hot rice, and the rice will stick to the bottom. Mixing through the thick red gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) and meat means you can control the flavour intensity to your own taste. Crisp radish, juicy bean sprouts, rich beef and fermented soy bean paste keep your tastebuds constantly dancing between excitement and comfort. 

Other recipes in this series:

German currywurst
Israeli shakshouka
Louisiana jambalaya

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Bowl Food.

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