Bibimbap inspired rice bowl with a Cucumber Mint Cocktail

So, a Korean rice-meat-veggie bowl might not seem like an appropriate pre-holiday post but trust me, come December 26th (or maybe a few days later if you’re still working on leftovers) you’ll be pining for a quick, easy meal to make that is healthy, packed with flavor, and won’t induce instant food-coma. Plus, if you’re like me, any recipe that can be made with mostly pantry ingredients (if you don’t have soy sauce please stop reading this and go buy some,) and that uses up leftover bits of grains and veggies from the fridge is pretty much a lifesaver. I probably make some version of this dish weekly, and by prepping certain ingredients in mass, you can reheat and recreate this dish for days to come.

Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that usually includes steamed white rice, pre-cooked vegetables, and meat (often Bulgogi- a delicious marinated beef.) The whole thing is topped off with an over-easy egg and a spicy Korean paste. Inspired by the great flavors of this meal, I created my own version, subbing in heartier grains and a few different veggies, and swapping out the traditional beef for pork. This dish would also be just as delicious without any meat- just half the amount of marinade, making just enough to mix-in with your grains and veggies.

Quinoa, Brown Rice Bowl with Vegetables, Marinated Pork, and Egg

Serves 2

2 thin-cut boneless pork chops (approx. ½” thick)
1 cup cooked Brown Rice- cooked according to package
1 cup cooked Quinoa- cooked according to package
2 cups of chopped kale or spinach
½ cup julienned carrots
½ cup chopped cucumber
Kimchi (can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores)
2 eggs
vegetable or coconut oil

For the marinade:

2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 ½  Tbsp rice vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger or ginger paste
½ Tbsp sesame oil
½ Tbsp Sriracha

Depending on cooking times, you may want to get your rice/quinoa started up first before moving onto the rest of dish. When I’m feeling particularly lazy (or very hungry) I’ll pop a frozen rice packet in the microwave right before finishing up this dish. Make sure not to forget about it also! I’ve burnt rice before… it’s true.

Combine all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the boneless pork chops, reserving a little to add to the bowls at the end. Let the pork marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature or for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

While the pork marinates, prep your veggies for your bowl. I like using a combination of raw and lightly sautéed veggies to get a nice variety of textures. For this bowl I used diced cucumber, julienned carrots, and kale sautéed in garlic. Other common veggie add-ins include sautéed zucchini, cooked spinach, lightly steamed bean sprouts, and Shiitake mushrooms. This bowl is the perfect way to clear out those last veggies from the fridge, so use whatever you’ve got.

Remove the pork from the marinade and transfer to a clean plate. Discard the marinade. Heat up a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Cook the pork chops until well browned, about 2 minutes per side. Cut into one to check for doneness. Place the pork chops on a clean plate and let sit for a few minutes before cutting into strips.

Assemble your bowl, starting with the rice and quinoa- ½ cup of each grain in each bowl. Carefully place your veggies and sliced pork on top and add a heaping spoonful of Kimchi. The final touch is the fried egg! Heat up a small skillet with a little vegetable oil and fry your egg. Sunny-side up is best but cook it to whatever you feel comfortable with. Drizzle the last of your marinade over the whole bowl and top with a little extra Sriracha (or the more traditional Gochuchang paste- a spicy Korean red pepper paste) and some sesame seeds. To eat just mix up all the delicious ingredients and dig in!

A great meal isn’t complete without a great drink to go with it! Nowadays many recipes come with recommended wine pairings but I thought why not pair this spicy, crunchy, tangy bowl of goodness with a great cocktail? Something that was cool and refreshing to counter the heat, with flavors that would pair well with the ingredients in the dish. My perfect match: a cucumber mint gimlet. It’s a little sweet, a little tart, and so refreshing. Plus I also happened to have a surplus of mint simple syrup from my attempts at making a grapefruit mint cocktail (see my last post)- so this drink was the perfect way to use up those last bits of minty sweet syrup.

I know this may seem like a summertime drink but I think it’s a perfect pair to any Asian-inspired dish or whenever you’re looking for something light. Which might just be the perfect antidote to weeks of too many Christmas cookies? I think so!

Cucumber Mint Gimlet

Makes 1 delightful cocktail

2 mint leaves
1 oz. fresh lime juice (half a lime)
1 oz. mint simple syrup (see recipe below)
approx. 2” of a peeled English cucumber, sliced
2 oz. gin

Combine the mint, lime juice, mint simple syrup, most of the cucumber slices, and gin into a cocktail shaker. Muddle well. Add a few cubes of ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel or sprig of mint. Enjoy!

Mint Simple Syrup

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
10-15 mint leaves

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until it’s all dissolved. Add the mint leaves, turn off the heat, and let the pan cool for at least 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This makes enough for about 4-5 drinks- double the recipe if you want to a make a pitcher of this!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!