Melissa ELsmo

Serving a thoughtful Sunday brunch has become a near obsession of mine over the past several months. Pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs all have a place at my breakfast table, but to me a proper brunch requires serving dishes that are a true hybrid between breakfast and lunch offerings. Tweaking breakfast traditions recently lead me to rediscover Korean bibimbap. A gentle blend of fluffy rice, marinated meat and sautéed vegetables, bibimbap, is a colorful dish that isn’t complete without an egg making it ideal brunch fare.

I was naturally a little nervous about making one of the three most popular Korean dishes at home; bibimbap is as iconic as bulgogi and kimchee. It didn’t help matters that I had recently enjoyed a truly sublime bibimbap interpretation at Small’s Smoke Shack in Irving Park. Their BBQ beef bibimbap came arranged in rows on a metal tray and the more I mixed it the better it got; the smoked meat was the undeniable star of the dish, but every element, including the fried egg, added an essential layer of flavor to plate; comfort food at its best!

Rather than be intimidated, I remembered that bibimbap has been subject to interpretation for hundreds of years and recipes vary greatly by region. Just because an Irving Park smoke shack makes insanely good bibimbap with smoked beef brisket and a fried egg didn’t mean I couldn’t take a crack at making my own solid version of a Korean classic in the suburbs.

Emboldened and inspired, I acquired shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and aromatic rice to back up the stars of my Korean inspired dish. Traditionally made with beef, I opted to use pork in my version of mixed rice because it is readily available, quick cooking and well suited to the sweet and spicy marinade that gives the dish its signature zing.

I rounded out my rice bowl with an assortment of optional garnishes including chili-garlic paste, bean sprouts and kimchee. After taking a bite I realized my version of bibimbap was as unique as I wanted it to be. The steamed jasmine rice soaked up the egg yolk and meat juices equally, while the sesame seeds brought crunch and texture to the dish. My take on bibimbap manages to celebrate traditional Korean ingredients of meat, egg, vegetables and rice, but maintains a distinct personality of its own.

Bibimbap with Pork and Egg

Whether you make this hearty meal for brunch or dinner be sure to start preparing the recipe the day before you plan to serve it in order to give the meat ample time to marinate.

For the Meat and Marinade:

  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, chopped into 1”x ½” strips
  • 1 Cup 7-UP
  • ¼ Cup Hoisin sauce
  • ¼ Cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ Cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For the Rice:

  • 1 Cup Jasmine Rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ Cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds
  • For the vegetables:
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 1 ½ Cups shredded carrots
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

For the Garnishes:

  • 4 eggs cooked sunny side up**
  • Sesame seeds
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Sliced scallions
  • Kimchee
  • Chili garlic sauce

Marinate the meat: Place the pork in a gallon sized zipper bag. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat. Seal the bag and place on a plate and refrigerate overnight; turn the bad occasionally.

Cook the rice: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the rice well and place in a loaf pan. Sprinkle the rice with the salt. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the rice. Seal the loaf pan tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Check the rice for doneness, fluff with a fork, fold in the sesame seeds and keep warm until ready to serve.

Cook the Meat and Veggies*: While the rice is cooking, drain the meat from the marinade. Heat 2 Tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the meat and stir-fry stirring constantly until meat is well browned and cooked through (about 10 minutes). Take care not to let the sugars in the marinade scorch; if meat appears to be burning reduce the heat. Add the spinach, shredded carrots and mushrooms. Toss until wilted and well combined. Remove from heat and drizzle with the sesame oil. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Assemble the Dish: Place a spoonful of rice in the bottom of a bowl. Top the rice with some of the meat and vegetable mixture. Transfer a fried egg to the top of each dish. Sprinkle the bibimbap with sesame seeds and serve at once with bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, kimchee and chili garlic sauce on the side.

Makes 4 Servings

*I prefer to cook the vegetables and the meat in separate skillets, but cooking them together cuts down on dishes. If you’d like to cook in separate pans sauté the mushrooms first until deeply colored and add the carrots and spinach to wilt. Season the veggies to taste and drizzle with sesame oil.

**To fry an egg, spray a non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium until hot. Crack an egg into the pan and reduce the heat to low. Allow the egg to cook gently until whites are set and yolk is warm and thick, but still runny. Slide out of the pan and enjoy with salt and pepper.

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