Korean food may not be as well known as Chinese, Japanese, or Thai cuisine, but the fresh, pungent flavors make it one of my favorites. Largely based on rice, vegetables, and ingredients like ginger, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and soy sauce, Korean food is naturally wholesome and healthy—just the way I like it.

One of my favorite dishes is the traditional bibimbap, which is typically served with steamed white rice topped with an array of seasoned vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, bean sprouts, carrots, spinach, and tofu. A dollop of gochujang (chili pepper paste) finishes it off, and the dish is transformed into the perfect, warm, meal-in-a-bowl. Because I am typically short on time, however, I want to enjoy the fresh flavors of bibimbap at home without the laborious preparation of the various vegetables. This quick and easy recipe does the trick, and I save experiencing the more classic version for when I dine at Korean restaurants.

For my Healthy Vegan twist, I've swapped out rice for nutrition-packed quinoa and then topped with steamed soft tofu, sautéed garlicky spinach, fresh carrots, store-bought kimchee (fermented cabbage), and then the secret sauce … a spicy gochujang. I stir all of the ingredients together, grab my chopsticks, and am transported to the streets of Seoul. Enjoy!

Serves 1

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa (I like red and black quinoa)
  • 1-1/4 cup water, divided (plus more for tofu)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 4 ounces soft tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon kimchee
  • 2 teaspoons gochujang sauce

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the quinoa, place guinoa, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  2. For the tofu, place tofu in a baking pan in 1/4-inch water. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and white pepper. Place pan in oven and heat
    for 20 minutes.
  3. For the spinach, heat 1/4 cup water in wok until boiling. Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add spinach, sauté for 1 minute, and then add soy sauce. Cook for 30 more seconds and remove from heat.
  4. To assemble, place quinoa in a bowl and top with tofu, spinach,
    carrots, kimchee, and gochujang sauce.

Healthy hints:

  • >> There are a few brands of gochujang that have a clean ingredient list (ie, no MSG or highly processed sweeteners). My favorite is Chung Jung One, which says "vegan" right on the packaging.

  • >> For even more authentic flavor, top with toasted sesame seeds or gomasio (a Japanese condiment of ground sesame seeds and salt).

    >> Triple the recipe and have your next few meals ready to go. At the very least, it's always good to have a batch of cooked quinoa in the refrigerator, as it makes a great addition to salads,
    breakfast bowls, or wraps.

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