Monday, March 5, 2012

KOREAN RECIPE: Rice with Soybean Sprouts

콩나물밥 (Kongnamul Bap or Kongnamulbap)

Kongnamul Bap with Yangnyeomjang (spiced soy sauce)
and healthy side dishes like Dotorimuk or Dotori Muk (acorn jelly) 
and Gimgui or Gim Gui (seasoned & roasted seaweed)

Korean soybean sprouts, Kongnamul (콩나물), may be tasteless at first bite but are actually very, very tasty –adding crunch, nutty taste, and nutrition to meals. Soybean sprouts are rich in vitamin C, vitamin Bs, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, essential amino acids, protein, folate, and fiber.  Many Koreans trim the tail ends but they contain high amounts of aspartic acid or asparaginic acid that protects the liver by stimulating alcohol dehydrogenase  to oxidize alcohol.  This is why Kongnamulguk (콩나물국, “soybean sprout soup”) is great for hangovers. 

Soybean sprouts are a staple, “must have” ingredient that I always keep stocked in my fridge and/or freezer because my family just loves it so much.  There’s one problem though:  It’s more than a 40-minute drive on highway to all the Korean groceries in Minnesota, including my most favorite store.  So I always purchase at least four large packs of Kongnamul whenever I make a trip to the store, and use some to make Kongnamul muchim (콩나물 무침, “seasoned soybean sprouts”), Kongnamulguk, and Kongnamulbap (콩나물밥, “rice with soybean sprouts”), keep some in the fridge, and store the rest in the freezer for later use.  (Click for more refrigeration and freezing tips for Kongnamul.)

Kongnamulbap, “rice with soybean sprouts,” is an easier and simpler to make and lighter-tasting cousin of Bibimbap (비빔밥).  The authentic way to make Kongnamulbap is to cook rice together with the soybean sprouts.  But the major drawbacks of the traditional method are:  (i) It is hard to determine how much water is needed to cook rice; and (ii) it is most likely that the soybean sprouts will be overcooked thus lose the signature crunch.  So, I’d like to give you my fail-proof recipe today.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings): 

● 1 cup short grain white rice*
● 1½ cups water
● 2 cups soybean sprouts**
● ½ lb hard dubu (aka tofu)
● ½ cup well-fermented Gimchi (or Kimchi), finely chopped
● grape seed oil or canola oil

[Meat Lovers]
If you prefer, you can substitute beef Bulgogi for dubu (tofu).
Mix super-thinly sliced beef with marinade below and set aside for
30 minutes.  You may want to grill, or stir-fry in a skillet.
● 3 oz beef, super-thinly sliced
● 1 tsp soy sauce 
● ½ tsp sugar
● 1 tsp wine
● ½ tsp sesame oil
● ½ tsp minced garlic
● ¼ tsp garlic, minced
● ground black pepper to taste

Spiced Soy Sauce
● 2 TBSP soy sauce
● 2 TBSP chopped green onions
● 1 TBSP chopped fresh chili pepper (optional)***
● 1 TBSP chopped dallae (Korean wild chives) (optional)
● 2 clove garlic, minced
● 1 TBSP sesame seeds, roasted
● 1 TBSP sesame oil
● 1 tsp gochugaru (red chili pepper powder) (optional)***

*In case you use a cup that comes with the electronic rice cooker to measure, then it is 1½ cups of rice.  Then pour water or soybean sprout broth into the cooker up to the level 1½.  Brown rice can be substituted for white rice as it is a delicious and healthy alternative to white rice. 
**You can find Kongnamul or soybean sprouts in your local Korean markets.
***If you’re not a fan of hot and spicy foods, then just minus fresh chili pepper and gochugaru.

TOPPING 1:  Kongnamul (Soybean Sprouts)

1. Wash the soybean sprouts several times and soak in cold water at least for an hour to remove any water soluble impurities.  Drain through a strainer.

2. Bring a pot of 2 cups water to boil over high heat.  Add in a pinch or two of salt.
3. Put the soybean sprouts in the boiling water and allow them to boil without the lid on lest the soybean sprouts stink.  Cook until they are tender but not mushy – for less than 7 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook as this will make the leaves mushy and deplete the nutritional value.  Drain through a strainer and set aside soybean sprout broth to use it in rice cooking later.  

TOPPING 2:  Stir-fried Gimchi or Kimchi

1. Place a frying pan over medium heat and pour enough grape seed oil (about ½ TBSP) to generously coat the pan.  Stir-fry finely chopped ½ cup Gimchi (or Kimchi) in the pan.  Set aside.
2. If you feel too lazy or prefer your food milder, just omit Gimchi topping.

Stir fried Gimchi for topping

TOPPING 3:  Stir-fried Dubu or Tofu

1. Remove dubu from package, wash under clean running water, and drain through a strainer.

I prefer organic, non-GMO Dubu 

2. Cut dubu into about ½ inch square cubes and drain the excess water through a strainer. 
3. Place a frying pan over medium heat and pour enough grape seed oil (about 1 TBSP) to generously coat the pan.  Stir-fry the dubu squares for about 7~8 minutes or until toasty brown.

4. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt to taste.  Set aside.


1.  Wash and soak rice in cold water at least for 30 minutes.
2.  Put soaked rice in a rice cooker. (I prefer/recommend an electronic rice cooker or an electronic pressure rice cooker in case you substitute brown rice for white rice.)
3.  Pour 1½ cups of soybean sprout broth in the cooker, and press the “Cook” button – you may add or reduce the amount of water as you prefer.
4.  While rice is cooking, prepare Yangnyeomjang, spiced soy sauce, by mixing all the ingredients above together in a sauce bowl.  If you prefer your sauce milder, add 1 TBSP water.

A bowl of spiced soy sauce

5.  Season cooked rice by mixing it gently with 1 TBSP of roasted sesame seeds and 1 TBSP of sesame oil.  If you feel too lazy or prefer your food less greasy, just use cooked rice as is.
6.  Spoon cooked rice into a large individual bowl and arrange the toppings over it.  (You may garnish with super-thinly sliced toasted Gim (laver) if you prefer.) 

7.  Serve with spiced soy sauce.  Mix with sauce to eat.

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