Ah, the lowly condiment—it got no respect. That’s kind of how it used to be, and not too many years ago, the condiments I typically had on hand weren’t worthy of much. Ketchup, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, mayo, and sometimes, soy sauce. But over the years, as my palate has expanded and new tastes and flavors have come across my plate, the condiments in my fridge are taking over and that’s fine with me, and they are now given due respect!
Sesame and chili oils, miso, capers, liquid smoke, harissa, mirin, vinegars galore, pickled EVERYTHING, and the can’t-live-without Sriracha! Oh I still have ketchup (but now it’s organic and with no high-fructose anything), mustard (five different varieties), Worcestershire (but now it’s the vegetarian kind), my mayo’s gone vegan, and soy sauce has been upgraded to tamari. I pretty much had it all—I was condiment-complete.
And then I was introduced to gochujang, and I realized there’d been something missing in my life. This perfect harmony of spicy, savory and sweet is a Korean concoction of red chilies and glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and a sweetener like sugar, honey or corn syrup (not high fructose). A staple in the Korean signature dish bibimbap, I can see it making its way into many meals in my house, but after coming across a recipe for bibimbap in co-op flyer, I decided to start there. Bibimbap apparently means “mixed rice” in Korean and usually contains a variety of vegetables, sometimes meats, and is often topped with a cooked egg. My wheels got spinning and I decided to create a vegan version, opting for rich, nutrition-packed avocado in place of the egg. This is sort of a dolsot bibimbap, with a cast iron pan being substituted for the dolsot (stone pot). The cooked rice will become crispy on the bottom, a fresh assortment of veggies and tofu placed on top, then crowned with beautiful avocado slices and drizzled with the sauce made from my new dear, respected friend, Gochujang! Enjoy this beautiful comfort food dish.
¾ cup uncooked brown basmati rice
5 oz. haricots verts (French green beans)
2 tablespoons grape seed oil, divided
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
2 large handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup mung fresh bean sprouts
4 scallions, sliced
8 oz. baked tofu, cut into bite-size squares (store-bought or homemade–I used Trader Joe’s)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
2 teaspoons tamari
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon seeds
Additional sesame seeds (a mix of black and white is nice)
Cook the rice according to package directions in a rice cooker or on the stovetop.
Meanwhile, mix together all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Blanch the haricots verts in boiling water for 4 minutes, drain, and rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking; drain again and set aside.
In large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon grape seed oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil over medium hot heat. When oil is hot, add carrot and cook for a couple minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes. Add cabbage; cook another minute. Stir in spinach and cook until it’s wilted. Add bean sprouts, tofu, and scallions and cook until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and move vegetable mixture to a large bowl.
Return cast iron skillet to burner over medium heat and add remaining tablespoon of grape seed oil and teaspoon of sesame oil. When oil is hot, add cooked rice to skillet and pack it down evenly in pan. Cover and cook for several minutes until rice develops a bit of a crust on the bottom. Add vegetable mixture and spread evenly over rice. Remove from heat.