Want a quick, healthy meal that’s as flexible as you are unorganized? Same.
Kidding, sort of. I’m sure plenty of you are extremely organized and have your meals planned out two weeks in advance. But I’m not one of those people. I try, I honestly do, but execution always seems to fall short of the plan…. and then I end up with a fridge full of produce that’s going to get wilty if I don’t use it TODAY.
Thankfully, Koreans figured out a great way to deal with this situation, and that’s Bibimbap (or, translated, “mixed rice”). It’s a dish of rice (obvs) that’s topped with individually cooked and seasoned vegetables and meat, typically with an egg and spicy sauce. The only problem with it, or rather, me, is that I eat a ton of white rice. Myles and I love Asian food, and more than half of our meals seem to feature rice as the main carb. I’m also kind of picky with how brown rice is used, so I end up never touching it. The solution? Soba. The Japanese buckwheat noodle isn’t actually made from wheat, has more fiber than regular pasta, and, in my opinion, tastes phenomenally better than whole wheat pasta. I don’t use meat and the egg is totally optional, so it’s super easy to make this a vegan recipe (you can use tofu for some extra protein like pictured above), and if you get 100% buckwheat soba noodles, it’s gluten-free too. Celiac peeps, I see you.
I also want to point out how insanely flexible this meal is. In my recipe, I fry/sautee each vegetable individually and use different seasonings on each one, but that’s totally not mandatory. You can cook them all together to save yourself a ton of time, or even leave them raw (super good cold). It’s also completely possible to steam the veggies instead of frying if you want to cut out the fat. The best part? You can use whatever veggies you want. I happened to have carrots, bell peppers, zuchinni, spinach, and mushrooms. Don’t have all those? Don’t sweat it. I’ve made meals like this with pretty much every combination of vegetables out there… need ideas?
- Bean sprouts (or any sprouts)
- grilled lettuce (not as weird as it sounds)
- green cabbage
- red cabbage
- napa cabbage
- ALL THE CABBAGE
- baby bok choy
- bellflower root
- string beans
- yellow squash
- any peppers/chilis
- or seriously anything else you can think of.
There are only two rules: 1. avoid anything super starchy, to so it doesn’t turn into mush and 2. cut any vegetables with a strong or bitter flavor thinly, so it doesn’t overpower. Now go, be free, follow your heart. Clean out your fridge.
I’ll also note that as far as seasonings go, you can stay as simple as salt and pepper. The sauce with this recipe has plenty of flavor and can be changed to your taste. I use a lot of individual spices for each veg, but that’s completely optional.
Soba bibimbap, aka “clean out the fridge noodles” (vegan + Gluten Free)
2 bundles soba noodles*
1-2 small zuchinnis
5 cups uncooked spinach
2 bell peppers (any color, I used red and yellow)
2 medium carrots
approx. 8 oz white or cremini mushrooms
olive oil (or other mildly flavored cooking oil)
miso or dashi paste
fresh garlic or garlic powder
fresh or powdered ginger
egg or tofu
green onions and sesame seeds for garnish (if desired)
For the sauce:
2 T Gochujang or Ssamjang**
2 T honey
2 T rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
1/2 t sesame oil
Fill a medium sized saucepan halfway full of water and bring to a boil. Add soba noodles and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add all sauce ingredients and mix until simmering. Taste and adjust to your liking (more honey for sweetness, more soy sauce if it’s not salty enough, more water if it’s too strong, etc.). Remove from heat and set aside.
Chop all vegetables thinly or into matchsticks. Heat a frying pan or wok over medium heat and add oil. When the pan is hot, add sliced mushrooms and about a teaspoon of miso or dashi paste if desired. Stir until mushrooms have shrunk and darkened in color. Remove from pan. While pan is still hot, add carrots and a small amount of honey (about 1 teaspoon or to taste). Cook, while stirring, until soft and lightly browned. Remove from pan. Leave pan on heat and add chopped bell peppers with a little bit of sesame oil and soy sauce, both according to taste. Make sure you have tasted your sesame oil before using…. I learned the hard way that some brands are more potent than others. Cook peppers until soft and slightly charred. Remove from pan. Keep pan on medium heat, and add more oil if needed. Add a small amount of chili paste, fresh or powdered garlic, and a tiny pinch of ginger. Mix the seasonings thoroughly with a splash of water and adjust if needed before adding the spinach. Add spinach and stir until fully wilted and coated in the seasonings.
Keep pan hot and fry egg or thinly sliced tofu if desired. You can fry your tofu plain, or, like I did, marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, chili paste, and honey for about thirty minutes prior to cooking. Just remember to pat it dry with paper towels before adding it to the pan.
Add a portion of the cooked noodles to your plate or bowl and arrange desired amounts of each vegetable on top. Top with egg or tofu. Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds if desired. Drizzle on sauce to taste. Dig in!
*Soba noodles typically come in packs with three or four “bundles” of noodles inside. In my experience, each bundle is about 1.5-2 servings, depending on how much you eat.
**Gochujang is a Korean chili paste that can often be found in the Asian/ethnic isle of your grocery store (I bought mine at Fredmeyers), Ssamjang is similar, but has more seasonings and is considered a Korean bbq sauce. It’s still quite spicy and not nearly as sweet and mellow as a typical American bbq sauce and works great in this recipe. If you can’t find it at your regular grocery store, any Asian grocer should have it, and if not, Amazon! If you don’t want to go searching for ingredients though, you can use good old sriracha instead. It won’t taste the same, but it’ll still be delicious!