“In an mmmbop they’re gone”
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I feel musical earwigs have an undeserved bad reputation. In case you are unfamiliar, a musical earwig is a song that has a hook so catchy it gets stuck looping in your brain hours or days after you have heard it. In many cases, simply mentioning the title of a musical earwig can trigger the loop. The All-Time #1 Champion Musical Earwig will always and forever be “It’s A Small World.” Even as you read that, it started playing in your head. I maintain, for pop music lovers of a certain age, the theme song for this recipe is a strong contender for the #2 position. An insidious melody hook and nonsense lyrics combine into a subconscious burrowing loop that will assert itself when you least expect it. This is fine as it is a brilliant example of joyous One-Hit Wonder pop music. While I acknowledge Hanson has had a long and successful career far beyond this massive one-hit, I challenge anyone but the diehard fan to name another Hanson song. On a side note, I once rode an elevator with the girl from Hanson, but that’s a story for another time.
Why this recipe name never occurred to me over the decade I cooked professionally is a mystery. Bibimbap was a staple of my college years. Relatively cheap, sort of healthy, and very filling. There was a Korean quick-serve near where I worked that absolutely crushed this dish. Over the years, it’s become my go-to dish for most Korean restaurants.
This is a template recipe where any number of toppings could be subbed in. I chose to go vegetarian as I love a crispy fried egg on mine. You could make it vegan by swapping the fried egg for tofu. Bulgogi seitan is the protein, but chicken or beef would work if that’s your thing. This recipe appears to have a lot of moving parts, but a quick prep leads directly into quick cooking times that end with a simple assembly. The longest time is making and marinating the seitan, but even that can be shortened with a store-bought alternative (not that I recommend it.)
Bulgogi seitan, cucumber kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spinach, fried egg, and bibimbap sauce over rice
Makes 2 bowls plus leftover seitan steaks
6-ounces Seitan Bulgogi (see recipe below)
2 carrots, large, cut into batons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-ounces of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of spinach, chiffonade
2 teaspoons soy sauce (separated)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (separated)
1 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (separated)
1/4 cup cucumber kimchi (see recipe below)
4 cups of cooked rice
Makes about 1 cup
4 tablespoons gochujang paste
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoon white sugar
2 clove of garlic, finely grated
2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Place the carrot in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, toss, leave for 20 minutes then drain excess liquid.
Remove the bulgogi seitan from the marinade and slice into thin shreds. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.
Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and half of the garlic to the skillet. Stir for 1 minute, then transfer to a plate.
Add another 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into the skillet and cook carrot until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the mushrooms.
Add another 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil, and the remaining garlic to the skillet. Saute the spinach until starting to wilt. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. When cool, squeeze to drain out excess liquid. Toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and remaining soy sauce.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the bulgogi seitan to the skillet. Cook until the seitan is browned and caramelized, then remove from the heat.
Fry eggs in a skillet however you prefer them. I go with crispy whites and a runny yolk. Place warm rice in bowls. Arrange the vegetables and seitan around the edges and place the egg in the center. Top with vegetables and beef then the egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with the Bibimbap Sauce.
Makes about a quart
1 English cucumber
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 scallions, chopped in the same length as the cucumber
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon gochujang
2 teaspoons gochugaru
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon MSG
Place all of the kimchi sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Set aside.
Cut off both ends of the cucumber. Divide the cucumber into 5-6 pieces then cut each piece in half lengthways. Cut the halves, lengthwise, into thirds. You should end up with mini cucumber wedges. Put the cucumber into a large bowl then scatter the coarse sea salt around on top. Gently mix them so that the cucumber gets pickled evenly. Set it aside for 20 minutes.
Gently brush off the salt from the cucumber then transfer the cucumber into a clean bowl. Pour in the kimchi sauce then mix them gently. Add the carrots and scallions then toss to mix thoroughly. Transfer into a glass container and cover.
Keep it at room temperature for about 12 to 18 hours then move it to the fridge. Serve once chilled.
Makes 4 6-ounce seitan steaks
For the seitan
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup cooked small red beans
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons red miso
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon MSG
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pear, grated
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon gochujang
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 scallions, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
Add all of the seitan ingredients to a food processor except the vital wheat gluten and blend into a smooth sauce. Add the vital wheat gluten and blend until well mixed, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed until everything is well mixed. There will be some dry spots but that’s ok.
(Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor you can first mash the cooked beans with a fork or potato masher, then add everything together in a large bowl and mix well.)
Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and begin to knead it together. It may be a bit crumbly at first, but keep kneading it for a few minutes until it comes together into a tight ball. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes on the counter covered by a clean towel.
After the dough has rested, knead it for 2-3 minutes. Then cut the ball into 4-ounce pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out each section into 1/2″ thick steaks. The dough will be very tough and stretchy, but just keep working at it until you get your desired steak shapes.
Put the steaks in the steamer basket and cover with a lid. It’s ok if they are overlapping a bit. Steam for 28 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through so they steam evenly. They will double in size. Remove from steamer and let cool for 15 minutes.
Take one steak and slice it into thin pieces. Place in a large ziplock bag or air-tight container, mix the marinade ingredients, and pour into the bag. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking, or even better, overnight.
You can freeze the remaining steaks to make more BibimMMMBop or marinate them using the recipe below for grilling or making seitan steak sandwiches.
Seitan Steak Marinade
2 scallion, white & greens minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper