One of the ways I have tried to make Great Lent a more positive experience for my children is by using it as an opportunity
to do a little “stove top traveling.” Rather than just thinking about all of the things I don’t make because “Mommy and Daddy can’t eat that right now,” I want my children to look forward to some of the special things that we do eat at this time of year. If they can learn a little about other cultures, broaden their palates, and develop appreciation for and curiosity about other parts of the world, so much the better. And best of all is when we can make really great children’s books come to life and
trick encourage them to eat healthy meals all at the same time.
We owe this beautify meal to Miss Theresa at the the Olive Branch Public Library, who not only read Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park to the children at story time, but also gave each of the children a paper plate frying pan with a construction paper egg and each of the parents a photocopy of the recipe at the back of the book. We have checked the book out several times since then, and last year I finally developed a vegan version of the recipe.
Vegan Bee Bim Bop (also spelled bibimbap)
Serves 4. Apparently bee bim bop, like so many beloved and iconic dishes, is more of a method than an exact recipe. The basic ingredients are the same, but every family has it’s own twist. So feel free to vary the veggies a little, according to what’s available and what your family likes.
5 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP sugar (or whatever sweetener you like)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 green onions, chopped
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil optional (My daughter is allergic to sesame seeds, so we keep the oil on the side and those who want it can sprinkle a little in their bowl. You can leave it out or replace it with rice vinegar for a slightly different flavor if you can’t find/don’t like sesame oil)
3 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP sugar
1 clove garlic
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
1 lb fresh spinach
1 lb mung bean sprouts
1 egg per person (Obviously I only make eggs for the kids, but this does make it a nice meal for feeding kids, pregnant women, and non-Orthodox family members. It’s easy to add extra protein for those who are not fasting without making a separate meal.)
2 cups rice, cooked (I like brown jasmine rice – try my method for Faster Brown Rice!)
1. Cut the tofu into strips or squares. Mix all of the ingredients for the tofu marinade. Pour over tofu (I like using a flat container with a tightly sealing lid. That way I can just turn it upside down every so often to make sure the marinade is soaking into all parts of the tofu evenly). The longer it sits the better. Half an hour will do in a pinch, but overnight is also good.
2. Wash the vegetables and cut the carrots into matchsticks. (I often can’t find bean sprouts at my local grocery store, so I substitute various crunchy, mild flavored vegetables, like snow peas, celery, or water chestnuts. Other vegetables that seem to be common in Korean cooking are soybean sprouts, cucumber, zucchini, and shitake mushrooms.)
3. Cook the rice.
4. For maximum flavor: fry the tofu in batches with plenty of oil till it is brown and crispy on both sides. When the last batch is almost done pour any leftover marinade into the pan to heat up. Put all the tofu in a bowl together with theleftover marinade.
To make it oil free (and really easy): Put all the tofu and marinade in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s nice and hot and most of the marinade has been absorbed (15 minutes or so – all that liquid makes this very forgiving).
5. For a more traditional presentation: quickly steam each of the vegetables, one kind at a time, then either give them each separately a quick stir-fry or simply season them with salt, pepper, and (optional) sesame oil and/or seeds. Put each vegetable in its own bowl on the table.
For a “quick and easy” method: put all of the vegetable marinade ingredients in a large pot over high heat. Add carrots and cover. After 2-3 minutes add bean sprouts. After another 2 minutes add the spinach. Cook for 1-2 more minutes, until everything reaches desired tenderness. Put all the vegetables in one bowl or serve them straight out of the pot.
6. For the egg, if using: there seem to be several different traditional ways of fixing the eggs. You can scramble the eggs, then pour about 1 egg at a time into a hot pan, tilt the pan to spread it out, cook for about 1 minute, then flip the whole thing and cook the other side. Roll the egg “pancakes” up and cut them in ribbons. OR you can fry the eggs. OR you can put all the other ingredients in your bowl and crack a raw egg on top.
7. To serve: pile rice in everyone’s bowls, then add some of each of the other ingredients, making sure to get some of the marinade from the vegetables onto the rice. For a traditional touch serve with gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste – you could probably get away with Srichacha instead), kimchee (spicy, fermented napa cabbage – King’s Kimchee is vegan and available at my local grocery store! Hurray for vegan probiotics!), or seaweed strips
This is how we feel about bee bim bop!