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Pork Belly with Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe (콩나물밥)

Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe

How to Make Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe
Korean Kong Namul Rice Recipe

I have always loved eating bean sprout rice since I was a child. My mom would always use beef and make a great sauce for this rice, and the beauty of it is that unlike many other Korean dishes, you need for nothing except the rice dish and a soy sauce based sauce.

But the problem with this rice is that despite how simple it is, it’s always going to be one of the most inconsistent when it comes to results. My mother’s is unreliable though she succeeds about 80% of the time, and frankly, I have yet to see one person who truly makes this perfectly 100% of the time. That said, it’s also one of the most difficult dishes to completely fail.

The original way to make this rice is one pot or one rice cooker–and it’s when you’re making rice, and with all of the bean sprouts and meat in the rice cooker. I’ve tried for years to develop a recipe for making it this way, but there has yet to be two times in a row where I get the same results, which is totally not conducive to claiming you have a recipe. I can give you a recipe where I swear what you get will be acceptable and perfectly delicious–but I cannot promise you that it will come out looking the way it’s supposed to look.

The problem is the water. 

There’s no law that dictates how much water each bean sprout carries and will release as it’s being cooked, and there’s nothing that guarantees a certain kind of meat has only x% of water. I know how much water I use to make X cups of rice, and I know how much I usually decrease it to make Korean bean sprout rice recipe but there’s no certain number that will get you the same look and consistency. A little too much water and you have yourself a beautiful bowl of meat and bean sprout porridge–which I don’t mind. Not enough water and it’s just very dry and unexciting.

The Solution to Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe

About two years ago, I was telling my friend Son about this when she says she actually makes the bean sprouts and meat separately from the rice. Now, as I pictured what she was telling me, my first thought was that this was then bibimbap, not really bean sprout rice, but if a certain method will yield the same flavors at 100% consistency, I’m willing to give it a go.

I haven’t looked back since and frankly, I’d never make it in one pot again.

So, this isn’t the authentic Korean recipe for bean sprout rice–but this is a fantastic bean sprout rice that your family will love. 

Let’s do this.

How to Make Korean Bean Sprout Rice | The Recipe

As Son said she did, I do make all parts separately. But it’s important that you save the bean sprout broth so be prepared for this.

Bean Sprout Rice with Pork Belly Recipe | San Francisco Food
Good old pork belly

About 90% of the time, when I make this I will use country-style rib meat–which isn’t really rib meat but cooks to a wonderfully tender piece of meat and has less fat than ribs, never mind pork belly. The other night, when I first decided to do this post, I got everything prepared only to realize my tripod and camera were still in the car and Mr. K had the car with him in Oakland. Hence, my last bit of country-style pork was used up that night.

But I had another bag of bean sprouts and was hellbent on using it to do this post…but in my entire freezer, all I had was pork belly, which I defrosted. So, I’ve used it before for this dish–and for this post, I’m using full-blown pork belly. Obviously, it’s not going to taste worse than leaner country-style pork meat, but it’s a lot fattier than I would ideally want for this dish, because part of the appeal is how light this dish is while having truly good flavor.

Because I have 1.4 pounds of pork belly here, I’m going to base this recipe on three servings instead of two.

Korean Bean Sprout Rice with Pork Belly Recipe | San Francisco Food

Of course, we need some bean sprouts for this Korean bean sprout rice recipe. 

This bag, I bought at the Korean market and it’s 1.5 lbs of bean sprouts. One bag — or 1.5 lbs of bean sprouts–will be appropriate for three servings of one full entree-size serving per person.

Korean Bean Sprout Rice with Pork Belly Recipe | San Francisco Food

Assuming it’s a fresh bag of bean sprouts, there won’t be that much to do except wash them.

I’m usually pretty religious about cutting the “tails” off the bean sprouts, and if I were cooking this dish, I’d have had Mr. K sit in front of the television taking off the skinny long tails that are just ugly, but since it’s for us only — we’re leaving them on today. Leaving them on has no affect whatsoever on taste, but each sprout is not as pretty as it would be without the tails taken off. (Surely they must be called something else, but we call them “tails” in Korean, so tails, it is.)

Just give them a good wash and strain.

Prepping to Make Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe

If you can get started with dinner about 1-2 hours ahead of time, start this part early. As mentioned, we’re going to put aside some of this broth and ideally, you want it at room temperature when you’re using it later to make rice.

Korean Bean Sprout Rice with Pork Belly Recipe | San Francisco Food
The secret to cooking bean sprouts

There is a cardinal rule when it comes to cooking bean sprouts. If you have boiled bean sprouts often, then you are sure to know this rule.

[alert type=red ]YOU DO NOT, NO MATTER WHAT, OPEN OR CLOSE THE POT WHEN COOKING BEAN SPROUTS. IF YOU STARTED WITH A LID ON THE POT, STAY CLOSED. IF YOU STARTED WITHOUT A LID, KEEP IT OPEN.[/alert]

If ever you have broken this cardinal rule, you would have experienced bean sprouts that smell foul and just off-putting in every sense. I have no idea why this happens, but I must have been barely walking when my mother first started telling me this. And to this day, I will religiously watch a pot of bean sprouts while they cook to ensure nobody even comes close to the pot.

While cooking bean spouts is as easy as it gets, the only thing you have to make sure is that if you started without a lid–you will finish this boil without a lid. I just threw all the bean sprouts in the pot and just turned on the heat; if it’s open like this, that’s fine–but you keep it open. If you put a lid on it right now, then you won’t open it again  until they’re (1) full boiling and cooked, and (2) ready to come off the heat.

When I make bean sprout soup, I start with the lid closed since it’ll boil a lot longer than the quick boil I am giving these sprouts today. Since this is quick and I want to be able to see how cooked they are, I’m opting to be without a lid this time.

Start with cold water in a pot (about 6 cups), and put all of the sprouts in the pot. Put it on heat, bring to a full boil for 5-6 minutes until they are slightly limp (not full blown limp, if possible), then remove from the heat. You will strain these sprouts immediately, but remember–we’re keeping 3 CUPS of the broth, so strain accordingly into another pot or bowl to catch the broth.

If you’re starting early, put aside the bowl of broth to cool to room temperature. Also, depending on how much you’ve cooked the bean sprouts — either let them cool naturally and continue cooking in their own heat, or wash them with cold water if you’ve cooked them just right or too much.

Remember: limp but not dead limp. If you bend one, it should just bend, not snap.

Prep the Ingredients for Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food

If you’ve prepped the bean sprouts early, the rest is as easy as pie.

First thing  I do here is put on the rice. I personally think it’s important you use white, sticky rice—or at worst, brown rice, but nothing fluffy like jasmine rice. This dish requires sticky rice to taste and look right.

Assuming your bean sprout broth has cooled, wash your rice and drain as much water as possible, and then simply use the bean sprout broth instead of the usual water you would use. In my rice cooker, so long as the broth is cooled, I use it the same exact way I use water to cook rice. This merely adds a little more bean sprout flavor and aromas to your rice–but if you skip this part, it’s perfectly fine. It’s merely adding an exclamation point to your dish.

Now, we prep.

Slice the pork or beef into the size you want. I’m using about 1/4 inch thick slices of pork belly cut into bite-sized pieces. (I’ve sliced all of the pieces you saw above.)

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food

Because everything else is either plain or lightly seasoned, the real flavor of this dish comes from the sauce. It’s crucial that you make a good, strong sauce so that each ingredient in this dish comes to life.

For my sauce, I use the following:

16-20 blades of chives
1-2 Serrano peppers
3 thin green onions (or 2 thick)
Handful of garlic — sliced thinly as possible
Ginger — 1 T

You can dice or slice but don’t grate anything. Korean bean sprout rice is always better with a slightly chunky sauce.

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food
The Super Sauce

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food

The exact ingredients of this sauce will be in the recipe listed at the bottom of this post–but combine all of the ingredients, stir and let it rest while you begin to cook the pork.

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food
Fry the pork

korean bean sprout rice recipe-13

In a super hot frypan, toss in the meat and brown them a bit. I do season the meat at this point because I don’t want to chew on unseasoned meat, but you can easily just use a teaspoon of salt or about 1.5 tsp of soy sauce. In my case, I used Sempio Hyangshin Sauce (Spicy Version) — one of my favorites these days. It’s a mushroom and kelp-based soy sauce with a little bit of sweetness and a texture that is slightly thicker than plain soy sauce. (While I have linked to the product on Amazon, I’d keel over and die before I spent that amount on this sauce. If you have a Korean market near you, I highly recommend it, but if not — use plain soy sauce or salt with a small sprinkle of sugar–or hell, keep it plain.)

korean-bean-sprout-rice-recipe-15
Oh yes.

Once the pork is done, I have no qualms of using my regular country-style pork by lifting out each piece with a chopstick, but with pork belly, I suggest draining it for your health but also because this dish isn’t supposed to be really be “oily,” or fatty.

Now, we’re ready to plate!

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food

Your bean sprout broth rice should be done by now.  (Note: once I use the rice for this dish, I usually just chuck any leftover rice since it’s not really that the rice tastes better than plain water rice; it’s merely that it adds a bit more bean sprout flavor than plain water rice. I don’t like the idea of storing bean sprout broth rice, so I chuck it. Make only as much as you need.)

I use about 1/2-3/4C of rice per person for this dish, because I’m putting in lots of meat and lightly boiled bean sprouts that take up a lot of room. And since this version of Korean bean sprout rice is not boiled down in a rice cooker, you need to leave some mixing room. 

Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe | San Francisco Food

On top of hot rice, lay the bean sprouts down (and if you used 1.5 lbs of uncooked bean sprouts, it amounts to about 1/3 of the much smaller portion you have left once cooked.) Place the meat on top, and then place about 3 tsp of the sauce on top to start. You will have to mix it up and taste before adding more sauce (which you will need) but it’s always better to have each person add additional sauce than arbitrarily placing X teaspoons per portion. On this day, just to give you an idea, I used 5 tsp by the end.

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food
Mixed bean sprout rice

When mixing, I always take a spoon and “break” the sprouts to make mixing easier and to keep the strands a little shorter. But mix in the sauce, sprouts and pork belly so that each grain of rice is covered in the sauce and the meat and bean sprouts are spread evenly through the entire dish.

Korean Bean Sprout Recipe | San Francisco Food
Spoonful of goodness

And that’s it! Start eating and you’ll find that you really like this simple and easy Korean dinner. Korean bean sprout rice is a very popular dish in Korea and while some households make it religiously, other households always seem to just order this if/when they find it at a restaurant. 

I think that once you try it this way, you’ll like it enough to continue making it at home for your family. It’s also a fun dish to make for friends when having people over for dinner, and you’ll find that my sauce is a huge hit, too.

Give it a try and let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.

Here’s a shot from another night when I made it with ground beef:

How to Make Korean Bean Sprout Rice

Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe -- with Pork Belly
Here's a variation of Korean bean sprout rice that makes it easier and equally delicious, if not better, when cooked at home.
Author:
Cuisine: Korean
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 3-4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 LB fresh bean sprouts
  • 1.4 LB country-style pork or ribeye/ground beef works well
  • 2-3 C rice, depending on portion size
  • For the Sauce
  • 1T Minced ginger
  • ~ 1T Garlic -- thinly sliced, depending on preference
  • 16-20 blades of chives
  • 3 green onions (thin, or 2, if large)
  • 1-2 Serranos, chopped
  • ¾ C soy sauce (expect some leftover)
  • ½ T sesame seeds
  • ½ T sesame oil
  • T of vinegar
  • T of Sriracha Sauce (or to keep it authentic, use gochujang, 1T)
  • 1T - gochugaru (chili pepper powder)
  • 2T Sugar
Instructions
  1. Ahead of time, cook the bean sprouts uncovered. Put the bean sprouts in and bring to a full boil uncovered and let it boil for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Save 3 C of the broth that the bean sprouts were cooked in and put aside to cool to room temperature. Use the broth once cooled to prepare the rice as usual.
  3. Mince/chop/slice the sauce ingredients -- garlic, ginger, chives, green onions, ginger and peppers (if you like spicy)
  4. Add the liquid ingredients, mix and put aside.
  5. Saute/fry the sliced pork or beef, or ground beef--your choice. Season with salt, soy sauce OR Hyangshin sauce shown above in the recipe writeup (
  6. Place ½-3/4C of rice per portion, or less--depending on desired portion
  7. Place ⅓ of the sprouts on top of the rice
  8. Place the hot meat on top.
  9. Pour approximately 3 tsp of sauce on top, and add more while mixing to taste. (Usually requires about 5-6 tsp of sauce, depending on preference.)
  10. Serve immediately. Mix thoroughly before eating.

 

 

 

Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

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1

RT @EatDrinkLucky: Pork Belly with Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe (콩나물밥) https://t.co/9dPA6BmQdS

2

Pork Belly with Korean Bean Sprout Rice Recipe (콩나물밥) https://t.co/9dPA6BmQdS

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