The toppings in this recipe are pretty basic and open to modification. Substitute bulgogi for the tofu if you eat meat; try mushrooms, radishes, zucchini, onions... Burdock and lotus roots are two of my favorite mix-ins but I wanted to keep this version fairly accessible. Just keep in mind that a variety of colors and textures will make this beautiful to look at and fun to eat. Bibimbap is also a great way to eat leftovers if you have little bits of various vegetables and grains in the fridge.
Vegetarian Korean Dolsot Bibimbap
Makes 2 hearty portions or 4 regular portions
1/2 cucumber, julienned
8 ounces firm tofu
Toasted sesame oil
1 large carrot, julienned
1 cup soybean sprouts
5 cups spinach leaves
Toasted sesame seeds
4 cups cooked rice
1/2 sheet roasted seaweed (preferably Korean-style kim, but Japanese nori also works), cut into small strips with scissors
Gochujang (red pepper paste)
Cucumbers: Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water.
Tofu: Rinse and drain tofu. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and place between clean kitchen towels (or paper towels). Place a heavy object such as a skillet or cutting board on top to press out excess liquid. Let sit 15 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan and fry tofu, turning once, until golden. Remove tofu from pan. When cool enough to handle, cut into strips.
Carrots: Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir fry until cooked through. Remove from pan.
Soybean Sprouts: Blanch in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds.
Spinach: Blanch in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted and bright green. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds.
To assemble: Place a dolsot or 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. When it's good and hot, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to coat. Add the rice and pack it down evenly; it should sizzle at the bottom. Arrange the cucumber, tofu, carrot, soybean sprouts, and spinach on top. Cook for a few minutes until ingredients are heated through. Place the egg on top and garnish with sesame seeds and seaweed.
To serve: Bring the pot or pan to the table. (It's hot, so make sure to protect your hands and the table with a trivet!). Add a tablespoon of gochujang and a drizzle of sesame oil and mix well with a spoon. Divide into individual bowls. If desired, each diner can add more sesame oil and gochujang to taste.