Bibimbap for one (multiply for more)

Bibimbap is a Korean rice bowl. This is a fiddly recipe; not difficult at all, but it takes a lot of effort to put together. However, it looks awesome and contains all the flavors that characterize delicious Korean food: chili, garlic, sesame oil, and sweetness.

The very best bibimbap occurs when you heat up a serving-sized stone bowl, drizzle a little sesame oil in it, then put the rice in the bowl and let it sizzle and get crispy on the bottom while you put the rest of the ingredients on top. This is called dolsot bibimbap. However, if you’re making this at home for the first time, you likely won’t be able to do that on account of not having stone bowls. I certainly don’t, and so I enjoy it all the more when I go to a Korean restaurant where they do have stone bowls.

Bibimbap for one
All the amounts given here are for one person.
Since it’s really a bunch of tiny dishes all put together in one bowl for each person, it doesn’t really make sense to make enough for leftovers, because you’ll end up with a bunch of tiny containers in your refrigerator. Just multiply the amounts by the number of people you are feeding.

Buy gochujang, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and dried shiitake mushrooms at an Asian grocery store. (If you use dried mushrooms, don’t forget to soak them in water for eight hours before.)

Gochujang is chili paste that is usually sold in a red plastic container with a flip top (I call it a “treasure chest.”) That will be way more than you need for this recipe, but you can always use it up in tteokbokki.

Spicy sauce

  • 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¾ tsp sesame oil

Mix the ingredients together and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.


  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup basmati rice (short-grain rice would be more authentic, but it’s more expensive where I live)

Boil the water in a pan. When it boils, add the rice. Lower the heat, cover, and leave, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal. After 20 minutes, remove from heat.


A note here: this is usually done with beef strips but, in a shocking departure from the usual, I actually prefer deep-fried tofu here, because it soaks up the flavors quite nicely, and most grocery-store beef is not good enough quality to be able to pull this off. If you use beef, make sure it’s good beef. You can get pre-fried tofu at an Asian grocery store, or deep-fry it yourself.

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cm piece of ginger root
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • ground black pepper
  • 40 g deep-fried tofu puffs or beef strips

Whack the garlic clove with the side of a knife blade and then chop it finely. Peel the ginger and grate it. Mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds, oil, and pepper in a bowl. Slice the tofu into strips and coat them in the sauce and leave it while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Raw vegetables

  • one-sixth large cucumber or ½ snack cucumber
  • ½ small carrot
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar

Slice the cucumber very thinly. Slice the carrot into matchsticks. Put the carrots and cucumbers in a bowl, but don’t mix them together. Mix the sugar and vinegar and pour it over the vegetables. Leave it while you prepare the rest of the meal.


  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper

Slice the mushroom into strips. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Fry the mushroom with the salt and pepper.

Sautéed vegetables

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 spring onions
  • 50 g spinach, washed and de-stemmed

Mix the oil, honey, and soy sauce. Chop the white and light green parts of the spring onions into thin slices, and chop the dark green parts into 3 cm sections. Fry the spinach until it just turns dark green, then add half the sauce mixture. Stir briefly and remove to a bowl. Put the chopped spring onions in the same pan and fry them, then add the rest of the mixture. Stir briefly and remove to another bowl.


By this time the rice should be done. Put it in an individual-sized bowl, and arrange the cucumbers, mushrooms, spring onions, carrots, and spinach in pie-chart sections on top of it, leaving space for the marinated tofu (or beef). Stir-fry the tofu over medium heat for 2 minutes; if using beef, do it for 3 to 5 until the meat is brown. Put it on top of the rice.


  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp toasted sesame seeds

Fry the egg until the white just starts to bubble. Flip it over and fry the other side, but not too long — the yolk should still be liquid inside. Put the egg on top of the ingredients in the bowl, in the center. Drizzle the spicy sauce on top. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

It looks very aesthetically pleasing now, but to eat it, you should mix it all together, breaking the egg yolk and letting it coat everything. Eat it with kimchi on the side.

(Adapted from and a now-defunct recipe in The Independent.)


Faux Korean Noodles

In order to use up ingredients for Korean food, I improvised a hybrid of bibim guksu (spicy noodle salad) and japchae (stir-fried noodles) this evening. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, but you can catch a glance of very similar food at the 3:22 mark of Gangnam Style.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4 small carrots or 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • leftover kimchi, chopped
  • lemongrass fake chicken leftover from who knows when, sliced (optional)
  • any other vegetables or meat you want to use up, sliced

First put a pot of water on to boil. In a wok, heat the oils. Fry the onion. When it starts to get translucent, then add the carrots. When they start to brown, add the kimchi and the fake chicken. Add any other ingredients at the appropriate times. When the vegetables are tender, turn down the burner until later.


  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons liquid from kimchi
  • 8 tablespoons gochujang (red pepper paste that comes in a little plastic treasure chest thingy)
  • 1 tablespoon leftover bruschetta from an appetizer the other day (optional)

For the kimchi liquid, use the juice from whatever kimchi you used in the vegetables. If you don’t have enough, just make it up with water. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 baby cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 green onion, sliced coarsely
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped

By this time, the water should be boiling. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the other ingredients and set aside. When the eggs are done, add the noodles (see below) to the pot immediately. Rinse the eggs with cold water, peel them, and cut them in half. Set aside.


  • 250 g dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)

Boil the noodles for 6 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Add the noodles to the wok, turn the heat up again, and stir-fry them for about 3 minutes, tossing them with the vegetables and/or meat. On each plate, put a helping of noodles, then garnish with the garnishes and spoon the sauce over the top.

Serves 3.

Adapted from Maangchi’s japchae and bibim guksu.

Mexican Sushi

A while ago I thought up the idea of combining Mexican food with sushi. I thought I probably wasn’t the first one to come up with that idea, and Google confirmed that I was right. But still, the Google hits for “Mexican sushi” ranged from not sushi at all (basically burritos sliced into chunks) to rolls served at actual sushi places. One was even a recipe on a vegan blog which started out with a rant against both eating out and eating animals, which I refuse to link to. However, if non-sushi and vegan Mexican sushi recipes can get in the top Google results, then I figured I at least had to try to improve upon them.

Mexican Sushi

Photo credit: Remco van Bree

I was even so convinced that it would be tasty, that I decided to try it out on a guest for the first time. In fact, a discerning dinner guest. My friend Remco (who has already twittered pictures of this, of course) also likes to cook and neither of us has any reservations in mercilessly critiquing food. On the evening itself, my housemate Tom also decided to join in.

What I’d planned on was probably more Tex-Mex than Mexican, but minus all the deep-frying. The fillings would be guacamole, something with chorizo, and black bean chili. I ran out of time for the chili so I made something simple instead: seared strips of beef, red pepper, and onion.

I figured I’d make a variety of dipping sauces to replace the soy sauce and/or wasabi: salsa, enchilada sauce, and sour cream. The guacamole filling also worked well as a sauce.

How did it work out? I thought the nori worked quite well with the fillings. The fillings all had a lot of flavors in common though, so next time I would definitely go for the black bean chili, and perhaps add something else that was different, like migas. Also, there was no cheese involved whatsoever, which is a little strange for Mexican food.

Here are the recipes I used. Most of them are originally based on Internet recipes. As I make this dish again, I’ll go back and update them.

Sushi rice

  • 250 g sushi rice
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander

Rinse the rice and bring it to a boil in the water, in a pan with plenty of room for expansion. Once it boils, turn the heat down, cover, and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave for another 10 minutes.

Mix the remaining ingredients and pour them over the rice. Mix well and leave in the refrigerator until needed.

I originally wanted to leave out the sugar, since I thought it wouldn’t combine well with the cumin and coriander. I didn’t know, however, that rice vinegar is really rank! It needs the sugar to make it palatable. I made the mixture without sugar first, but it smelled nasty, so I panicked and mixed in the sugar, hoping I could save it. I probably ended up putting in too much, but after that it tasted OK.


  • pulp of 1 avocado
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1/2 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

Mash the avocado pulp with the lime juice and the salt. Mix in the other ingredients.

Chorizo fillingChorizo filling

  • 1 chorizo sausage, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Sauté the chorizo in the olive oil, then add the onion and garlic. When the onion gets soft, add the tomato and cilantro and keep on the heat for 5 more minutes.

Seared beef, pepper, onions

This isn’t really a recipe, just something I improvised. Take strips of beef, strips of red bell pepper, and sliced onions, and sear them in a frying pan on high heat.


  • 1 1/2 Roma tomato, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3/4 onion
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

Mix everything together and let sit in the refrigerator.

Enchilada sauceEnchilada sauce

  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 25 g chili powder
  • 250 ml tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • splash of Tabasco sauce

Make a roux of the oil and flour. Add the chili powder. Then add the rest of the ingredients, stir, bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.

This was originally an Emeril recipe. I’m not sure I like it so much, so I’ll be looking for a different one next time. It had a nice texture, but it turned out extremely spicy even for me, and therefore almost inedible for my Dutch guests. Aside from the heat it didn’t have much taste. Also, the “cook for 30 seconds” instruction in the original seems kind of ridiculous.

Sour cream

  • 250 ml sour cream

This was the easiest sauce.

Putting it all together

  • 1 package of nori wrappers

I’m not going to reprint instructions on how to roll sushi here, either you already know or you can Google it. At this point in the proceedings, Remco and Tom came in, so we had a good time rolling the sushi together. In some of the rolls we combined the chorizo and beef fillings — I’m not sure it added anything, but it certainly made all the ingredients come out even with the number of wrappers.

Mexican Sushi arranged on a plate

Guacamole rolls on the left; combined chorizo-beef rolls on the right

Mexican Sushi

Chorizo rolls on the left; beef-pepper-onion rolls on the right

The table

What it looked like just before we ate it

All in all, I’d say the experiment was a success, with room for future improvements.

Toilets imitating art

I recently ran across this toilet with these unbelievable instructions on how to flush it (mouse over if you can’t read it):

Toilet instructions

"...push the handle in the direction which best suits your needs..."

It reminded me of this gem I read in high school, by the famous Dutch poet of light verse, C. Buddingh’:


van september ’35 tot juni ’38
studeerde ik middelbaar engels a
de lessen werden gegeven
in het gymnasium
aan de laan van meerdervoort te den haag
het was een zich deftig voordoend gebouw:
de stortbak van de wc
had dan ook twee deftige trekkers,
er hing een stukje ivoorkarton naast
waarop in deftige drukletters stond:
“voor grote spoeling gebruike men de lange trekker
voor kleine spoeling gebruike men de korte trekker”
een vermoedelijk iets minder deftig
iemand had eronder geschreven:
“in geval van twijfel
wende men zich tot de rector”

ga niet bij het onderwijs,
en als u toch bij het onderwijs gaat
word dan liever geen rector

This is my amateurish translation:


from september ’35 to june ’38
i studied intermediate english a
the classes were held
in the high school
at laan van meerdervoort, the hague

it was a very posh-looking building:
the tank on the top of the toilet
had two posh pull-chains,
and there was a bit of ivory board next to it
that said, in posh printed letters:
“for a large flush, please use the long chain
for a small flush, please use the short chain”
someone, who was presumably less posh,
had written under it:
“when in doubt,
please consult the principal”

moral of the story:
don’t become a teacher,
and if you become a teacher anyway
try to avoid becoming a principal