You know, everyone is all about “power bowls” and “poke” these days. But the reality is, those are just bowls of rice topped with stuff. Okay, yummy, delicious stuff, but still, just rice bowls topped with stuff.
You maybe could argue that the Koreans were the first to create such a thing. The term “bibimbap” literally means, “mixed rice.” Yup. Originally, you’d be looking at a bowl of rice topped with thinly-sliced meats (often beef), vegetables and pickles. Boy, the Koreans love their pickles. It’s very often also topped with a sunny-side-up egg, which, when you cut up and mix in with the other ingredients, makes a kind of jammy egg yolk sauce. It’s a pretty magical dish, filled with every different flavour and texture you can imagine.
I was inspired to try this in a vegan format after getting my hands on some vegan Kim Chi. I was testing a new vegan cookbook a few weeks back, and one of the recipes called for kimchi. Now, I love kimchi, I even sometimes make a version of it myself. I try to incorporate as many fermented foods (for their health benefits) as I can into my diet. But most kimchi includes fish sauce, which makes it not appropriate for vegans.
Then I found out that a local gal was starting up her own line of vegan kimchi, and I got my hands on some. It makes a perfect addition to this dish.
These are the toppings I put on mine:
- Gochujang tofu
- quick-pickled cucumbers
- shredded carrots
- blanched spinach
- stir-fried shitakes
- Salty Cabbage Kimchi
Start by making the rice. Traditionally, this would be white rice, but I used brown for the extra health benefits.
Next, make the gochugang tofu. Take a block of firm tofu and cut it into small, 1″ squares. Toss the squares into a bowl, and add to the bowl 2 tbsp of cornstarch, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Toss well. In a cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of canola oil. Toss the tofu into the pan, and stir-fry until crispy, about 5-8 minutes. While the tofu is frying, mix together the sauce: 1 tbsp gochujang, 1/4 cup warm water (warm will help the gochujang dissolve better), 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Once the tofu is browned, toss the sauce in the pan with it, and stir well. The sauce will thicken and stick to the tofu. Remove and place to the side.
To make your Vegan BiBimBap: scoop cooked rice into the bottom of a bowl. Top with gochujang tofu, quick-pickled cucumbers, grated or spiralized carrots, fresh or quickly-blanched spinach (or if you want to be real fancy, gomae), stir-fried shitake mushrooms, and finish it off with a big blob of kimchi.
Mix everything together in your bowl and enjoy!