Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitakes

Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitakes

Okay, so before we launch into today’s Kidney Bean Bibimbap I have one very important and painfully obvious disclaimer to get out of the way: I am not Korean and I have never been to Korea. I’m sure I didn’t really need to clarify that; the last name Keefe and my general whiteness probably did that for me. But I think it is appropriate to acknowledge from the outset that I am far from an expert. In fact, I didn’t know the name of a single Korean dish until I hit my early twenties. Yes, I was less than worldly.

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Kidney Beans
Marinated Kidney Beans

But in spite of my slow introduction to Korean food, I’ve spent the last decade making up for lost time. I seem to have made it my mission to seek out every scrap of kalbi beef and every nugget of pickled radish this city can afford me. But no matter how far my palette may wander, I will never forget the dish that started it all: bibimbap. Yes, bibimbap was the gateway drug to my Korean food addiction and it can be yours too.

Mirin Braised Shiitake Mushrooms

It’s not entirely surprising that bibimbap captured my imagination early. It is arguably one of the more accessible dishes in the Korean culinary canon. It is essentially a rice bowl served with an assortment of seasoned vegetables, paired with some kind of protein and topped with a fried or raw egg. You get the bowl artfully arranged, which is charming at the outset. And then, you get to indulge your destructive side when you, without mercy, stir the whole thing together and inhale it. None of this is difficult for the North American palette to grasp. And bibimbap is endlessly adaptable. You can substitute and rearrange the crap out of it. So if the more traditional raw egg and raw beef wig you out, skip ’em. Plenty of bowls of bibimbap feature fried eggs and stir-fried beef and they are still plenty authentic.

Carrot and zucchini ribbons

It is the bibimbap’s customizable nature that emboldened me to create my own version of the dish. I knew that I wanted to make the dish vegetarian because I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat less meat. But tofu felt like a cop-out. Honestly, the internet doesn’t need another bibimbap recipe, let alone another tofu bibimbap recipe. I liked the idea of using a bean because they do come up in traditional Korean cuisine. Granted, they’re usually soybeans or adzuki beans and yes, they are typically used in desserts. But is a savory Kidney Bean Bibimbap really such a leap? It could very well be. I wouldn’t know because, as I pointed out, I am not Korean.

Bibimbap toppings
Building a Bibimbap

While I may have been too liberal with my choice of toppings, this Kidney Bean Bibimbap adheres to the rules where it counts. It has the gochujang-based sauce that brings the heat and signature flavor to the dish. And the toppings are seasoned appropriately and arranged according to color. And, speaking of color, this Kidney Bean Bibimbap features all the colors that are vital to an artfully balanced bibimbap.

Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitake Mushrooms
Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitake Mushrooms

A well-composed bowl of bibimbap is meant to bring equilibrium to the body. The black or dark colors, represented by the beans and mushrooms in this dish, signifies the North and the kidneys. The red and orange, brought to you by the carrot, represents the South and the heart. The spinach and zucchini bring the green, which signifies the East and the liver. White, which stands for the West and the lungs, is repped by bean sprouts. And, finally, the yellow, which represents the center and the stomach, is found appropriately enough in the center of this dish in the form of a glossy egg yolk.

Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitake Mushrooms

Due to the symbolic importance of these colors, darker ingredients, such as soy sauce, are reserved only for brown or black foods. Items like carrots, zucchini, and bean sprouts are flavored with salt and a dash of sesame oil in order to keep their natural colors pure. Not only does this tradition preserve the natural beauty of each component of this dish, but it also makes them fairly easy to prepare. But although each item is a snap, you will find yourself running through dishes like nobody’s business. The steps involved in making this Kidney Bean Bibimbap are numerous but none of them are particularly difficult. I say, embrace the inevitable pile of dishes and jump in with both feet.

Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitake Mushrooms

So that’s the skinny on this Kidney Bean Bibimbap. This recipe makes a mess of the stuff, so invite some pals around and tuck in because bibimbap is a meal built for sharing.



Kidney Bean Bibimbap with Mirin Braised Shiitakes

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


Marinated Kidney Beans

  • 1 can kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Mirin Braised Shiitakes

  • 200g (7 oz) shiitake mushrooms sliced
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth low sodium

Gochujang Sauce

  • 2 tbsp Gochujang
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Kidney Bean Bibimbap

  • 2 carrots cut into ribbons
  • 1 zucchini cut into ribbons
  • 2 cups baby spinach tightly packed
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 tsp salt divided
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil divided
  • 6 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 batch Marinated Kidney Beans
  • 1 batch Mirin Braised Shiitakes
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 baby cucumber thinly sliced
  • 6 fried eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 batch Gochujang Sauce


Marinated Kidney Beans

  • In a large bowl, whisk to combine the garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Add the beans and toss to coat. Transfer the beans to the fridge and marinate for 30 minutes or until ready to cook.
  • Once ready to cook, heat a small amount of neutral oil in a large wok or skillet until shimmering. Add the beans and cook until warmed through. Transfer the beans to a bowl and keep warm until ready to serve.

Mirin-Braised Shiitakes

  • While the beans are marinating, start making your Mirin-Braised Shiitakes by heating a small amount of neutral oil in a large wok or skillet until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and immediately reduce the heat to medium. Sweat the mushrooms a bit, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl whisk to combine the mirin, soy sauce, and veggie stock. Pour the mixture over the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Take the mushrooms off of the heat and keep warm until ready to serve. At this point, your kidney beans should be ready to cook, so wipe out the skillet and start cooking your kidney beans.

Gochujang Sauce

  • While the beans are marinating and the mushrooms are simmering, whip up your gochujang sauce. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer the sauce to the fridge and chill until ready to serve.

Kidney Bean Bibimbap

  • Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the bean sprouts and a pinch of salt and cover. Boil the bean sprouts until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the sprouts and plunge into cold water. Drain the sprouts again and transfer to a bowl. Add a pinch of the salt and a dash of the sesame oil. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Set aside.
  • Fill the saucepan with water once more and return it to the heat. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, heat a quarter-sized amount of neutral oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the carrot and zucchini and saute until softened. About 5 minutes. Place the zucchini and carrot in separate bowls and add a pinch of salt and a dash of sesame oil to both. Toss to coat and set aside.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the spinach and boil uncovered for 1 minute. Drain and plunge the spinach into an ice bath. Drain again and transfer to a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of sesame oil. Toss to coat.
  • Divide the rice amongst 6 bowls. Add a bit of carrot, zucchini, spinach, beansprouts, kidney beans, and shiitakes to each bowl in a rainbow-like fashion. Add a few cucumber slices and top each bowl with a crispy fried egg. Garnish the bowls with fresh mint leaves and serve with a small bowl of the Gochujang Sauce on the side. Serve immediately.

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