Food 101: How To Make Bibimbap, Donburi, Rice Bowls, Etc…
One of my big things I like to preach to people unexperienced in the cooking world is the importance of leftovers. Leftovers are the best utility at your disposal when it comes to making lunch, and can really help out at dinner too. I bring this up because of the versatility of everyone’s favorite starch: rice. Leftover rice is a brilliant tool that can form the basis for an entire lunch pretty easily. The easiest way to do this is through what’s known as a “rice bowl”. They’re delicious, easy, healthy, and can be made with pretty much anything lying around.
Really, a rice bowl can be anything involving rice and a bowl. The general idea is to cook some assorted foods up and toss them into the rice, which acts as a way to bolster what you already have. Interestingly enough, they span multiple cultures and ethnicities, mostly in Asia, which makes sense considering the popularity and importance of rice in Asian cultures. In Korean cooking, they’re referred to as “bibimbap” (bee-beem-bop), and Japan refers to it as “donburi” (dohn-boo-ree). There’s other varieties, but these two are my favorite and the two I’ve eaten the most. Honestly though, any combination of foods chopped and thrown into rice qualifies as a rice bowl.
Rice bowls are incredibly simple. You can make them from scratch with fresh everything, but even easier is making them from leftovers. My favorite method is using leftover rice and chicken, then chopping up whatever vegetables we have lying around. You stir fry them together and then add in a sauce to flavor everything, before tossing in rice afterwards. You can use pretty much aaaaaany sauce or dressing you want. Teriyaki is a good bet since it’s easy to make and find. You could use barbecue sauce too if you’re into that. Chili glazes, chipotle ranch, balsamic dressing, etc… You can even make your own! The point is that it introduces new flavor and moisture to the food which flavors the rice as well, making it go further.
- 1-2 cups any rice, cooked
- 1-2 small cuts of meat (optional)
- Assorted veggies (carrots, onions, peppers, leeks, garlic, bean sprouts, etc…)
- 1-2 tbsp sesame oil OR other cooking oils
- 2-3 tbsp sauce/dressing/etc of your choice
- Begin by chopping up your vegetables and meat if using it. If you wanna go vegetarian, omit the meat and start with all your vegetables from the start. Cut them into either small pieces about 1/2″, or thin, slender strips. Don’t leave pieces too big or they may not cook thoroughly.
- Pour oil into a medium frying pan and heat on medium-high until it coats the bottom. When the pan is hot, add in your meats and tough/hard vegetables.
- If using leftover rice, warm it up now using either the microwave or a stovetop, and then place into a large bowl.
- Saute the meat and veggies for 3-5 minutes, or until warmed up thoroughly. Add in the remaining vegetables and continue stir frying.
- Cook the vegetables and meat for another 1-2 minutes, or until the newer veggies have become tender and slightly cooked.
- Add in your sauce and continue cooking for another minute or two, until the food is all thoroughly coated.
- Pour all the meat, veggies, and sauce from the pan into your bowl of rice. Stir it until well-blended, and enjoy!
Like I said, it’s incredibly easy to do. With leftovers, you can probably whip this together in like 10 minutes flat. And trust me, as someone who grew up not liking vegetables, I will attest that the vegetables in these will be totally delicious thanks to the coating with sauce. It’s a great way to get them into your diet without having to sit down and quietly sob while nibbling on a shitty, flavorless piece of celery.
If you’re not quite sure on what to use for a sauce, then don’t fret! We’ve gotcha covered. Here’s a really quick, generic recipe you can throw together while your veggies saute.
- 1/4 c soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Just throw that together in a bowl, mix well, and you can easily use it in the rice bowl. Another thing I like to do, which you see in bibimbap a lot, is they’ll drizzle sesame oil over the top of the bowl when everything is finished. Sesame oil is delicious, but expensive, so I’d recommend this only if you have a lot of it lying around. Either way, your rice bowl should be delicious and will have taken you less time to make than it does to drive to a Chinese restaurant to pick up a pint of #7. Even better, if you make it en masse, fresh, for dinner, it looks really fancy and impressive too, despite using relatively little food. Because of that it’s great for cooking for friends or family.
- As mentioned, cook tough vegetables like carrots with the meat from the get go. Since they’re hard, they need extra time to cook and become tender. Additionally, chop or slice them very thin to avoid overly crunchy veggies.
- If you’re fortunate enough to find mirin in your local grocery store, or simply live near an Asian market, it’s really handy for rice bowls. Drizzle it over your rice at the end for a sweet zing, or aforementioned sesame oil for a darker flavor.
- If you’re REALLY pressed for time, you can make the laziest rice bowl ever by microwaving leftover rice and leftover stir fry, then mixing together. I mean, I guess technically it’s a rice bowl, but won’t have the same freshly-cooked flavor that you get from sauteing the meat and veggies (even leftover) in a pan with sauce.