If you have ever been to a Korean restaurant, you probably had a side dish made from these soybean sprouts (콩나물 Kongnamul). They are also great in soups and stews and Koreans swear that Kongnamul Gook(soup) will cure the common cold. Nutritionally, soybean sprouts contain tons of vitamin C and are also a good source of vitamin Bs, thiamine and folate. The head (the bean part) contains a lot of protein and the root part provides fiber.
Another way to eat these healthy and tasty sprouts is in a complete meal with rice (Kongnamul Bap). This is one of those dishes that was part of almost every Korean home when I was growing up. And I have to say.. as a kid, for me, it wasn’t as exciting to me as kalbi or pork belly. Maybe I just took it for granted since we had it quite often..But, after I started living in the US, it became one of those dishes that I really started to miss. I guess you can say it is my Korean comfort food.
There were some concerns a few years ago in Korea about soybean sprouts that were grown using pesticides and other chemicals. The ones you buy in the US are probably fine but just in case, be suspicious if the white part below the bean is very chunky and looks especially long – like as if it was on steroids compared to other brands. If you can, buy ones that are organic or grown naturally which usually look thinner and smaller.
Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 40 min. Servings: 4
- 3 cups* short grain rice *The cup here is a measuring cup that comes with rice cookers which is meant only to work with the water level measurements given inside the rice cooker. Note that 1 rice measuring cup is actually equivalent to 3/4 C in standard volume measurements.
- 3 cups* of water
- 14 oz soybean sprouts
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 lb seasoned, cooked ground beef (or thinly sliced beef strips)
- seasoning for beef -
- 2 tsp soy sauce (Kikkoman)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp rice cooking wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- sauce for rice (양념장 yangnyum jang)
- 3 T soy sauce
- 2 T chopped green onions
- 2 tsp ~ 1 T red chili powder (to taste)
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- 2 tsp sugar
- dash of black pepper
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 T sesame seeds
- 1 tsp chopped fresh green chili (optional)
1. Prepare the ground beef by mixing in all the seasonings and then stir frying the beef on medium heat until fully cooked.
2. Wash and clean the soybean sprouts. It is customary to clean the sprouts by trimming the root ends of each sprout individually but I usually skip this step because it takes time and since it really doesn’t affect the taste at all. Just pick out any sprouts that are mushy or brownish looking and where the heads have turned black or have black spots on them. A bag of good quality fresh bean sprouts should have very little sprouts that need to be picked out.
3. Wash the rice. Mix the water and salt and pour over the rice.
4. Spread the cleaned sprouts and the cooked ground beef on top of the rice.
If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can also cook as you normally would cooking rice in a pot. When cooking in a regular pot, it is probably best to put the sprouts and the beef first into the pot and add the rice on top (Read my variations below). Don’t open the lid until the bean sprouts are fully cooked (or rice is fully cooked) otherwise the sprouts can come out smelly and tasting fishy. How do you know if they are fully cooked? When you cook rice in a pot, you bring it to a boil and then lower the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes until all the liquid is gone (the sound will change from a bubbling sound to a low hissing sound) while keeping the lid on. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 2 minutes or so before you open the lid.
5. While the rice is cooking you can make the yangnyum jang. Remember that this sauce is quite strong and salty, so little goes a long way. An option is to dilute it by adding water (1 T water).
5. When it is all cooked, mix the rice gently to evenly distribute the beef and sprouts throughout the rice. Now serve the rice with the sauce on the side so that people can adjust the amount to their taste. My husband always ends up adding too much sauce and makes his rice too salty! Please start by adding about 1- 2 tsp to a bowl of rice and add more if you need it. Enjoy it with some kimchi on the side!
- Traditionally, kongnamul bap was made in a huge iron pot over a wood burning stove. And the sprouts were spread at the bottom of the pot first before the rice was added. There were two reasons for this: one is that there is no chance of the sprouts getting a fishy smell this way since it was buried under the rice; two is that the sprouts will lose less moisture. However, in recent times with the use of the electric rice cooker, the moisture and the taste gets pretty much sealed as it cooks. And the sprouts tend to get a little burnt at the bottom which some people don’t like. But for me, I like having the sprouts on top because it leaves them more crunchy.
- There are recipes that add shitake or oyster mushrooms and julienned carrots. I don’t think it can hurt but it’s definitely not a traditional recipe. I personally don’t like adding random ingredients to recipes just for color or texture so please try this authentic recipe first before you go and add other stuff.
- Sometimes, the sprouts and the beef are cooked separately and served on top of the rice instead of cooking together. This produces a bibimbap kind of texture where the vegetables are still quite crunchy and the rice is also less mushy. Texture wise, I like this recipe but it does not have the full kongnamul flavor infused into the rice so it’s not as authentic tasting.
- You can use ground pork instead of beef or mix half and half.