Cooking for One: Sort-of Bibimbap

by Weeknight Gourmet Guest Blogger Elizabeth Terry

I live alone, but love to cook, which can be a tricky combination. I’m sharing with you one of my go-to dinners. It’s ready in a snap, and uses ingredients that for the most part keep for a long time, so it’s perfect for when you get home late or exhausted and don’t want to go to the market. More than once, I have found myself lying in savasana at the end of a yoga class, projecting myself half an hour into the future, when I’ll be cracking open a beer and digging in to a bowlful of this. Ommm… yummm…

I’ve never come up with a name for “this,” but it’s sort of a bibimbap, or Korean mixed rice bowl. If you order it in a Korean restaurant, it will likely come in a hot stone bowl that creates a toasty rice crust on the bottom, and it will be topped with half-a-dozen kinds of vegetables and some seasoned meat. My version simplifies things greatly. The only exotic ingredient required is gochujang (aka kochujang), a brick-red, sticky, Korean hot pepper paste. It’s probably available in some regular supermarkets, alas, not in my neighborhood, which our local alt-weekly refers to as “Episcopalia”.  So find an Asian market and get some gochujang – look for a shelf of bright red boxes. I don’t know if different brands are different, I just get a small box with a nice photo. It’s cheap and lasts ages in the fridge.

I know rice can be intimidating for some people. Frozen cooked rice is widely available these days, and is OK. But if you have a cute little saucepan, try making it yourself. I usually use between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of raw jasmine rice, swirl it around in some water to rinse it, drain it, put in a little more water than rice, cover, heat on high until boiling then turn all the way down and let simmer until done. You can lift the lid to check on it. If all the water’s gone and the rice is still hard, sprinkle in a little more water. If the rice is cooked and there’s still water making it soupy, take off the cover and turn up the heat a little and let the extra water boil off. Takes 15 minutes. I use my great-aunt Mary’s ugly little pea-soup-green pot.

While your rice is cooking, put a few big handfuls of spinach in a microwave-safe bowl. About half of one of those salad bags full is a good amount. If it’s not triple-washed, or even if it is, rinse it off, top it with a paper towel, and cook it for about 2 minutes in the microwave, until it’s wilted. Squeeze out any excess liquid and set aside. Then, take out a little skillet, splash in some vegetable oil, heat it up, crack in an egg and fry it!

Assembly: Put the rice in whatever bowl you’re eating from. Pile the spinach on one side and drizzle it with about 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Put a heaping spoonful of the gochujang on the rice (taste it first, it’s not crazy hot, to decide how much you want to use). Place your fried egg on top of the gochujang. Take a moment to admire how nice it looks.

Then, take a fork and mix it all up until the rice is orange with pepper paste and egg yolk. Eat! Enjoy! Makes a great dinner-for-one, but if you have a dining partner, just scale up accordingly.

Elizabeth Terry is a freelance editor and writer based in Washington, DC. She used to be a picky eater but now is up for just about anything.

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