It is completely serendipitous that the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, because this winter, all I want to do is curl up on the couch and devour bowl after bowl of delicious, spicy bibimbap. I always get excited when I realize the Olympics are around the corner, and now I have the perfect opportunity to pair the host nation’s cuisine with my probably-not-live viewing (South Korea is on the other side of the sphere, after all) of these 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Whether you are looking for some vibrant Korean dishes to try because you enjoy flavor (you do enjoy flavor, don’t you?) or because you’re a bit Olympics-crazy, like me, and you want to celebrate in any way you can, we have some excellent Korean recipes to explore.
We’ll start out with bibimbap for a few reasons, and those reasons are: It’s spicy! It’s amazing! It’s a bowl full of vegetables and either meat or tofu, and definitely an egg (unless you’re definitely vegan)! There is an endless variety of recipes for bibimbap, but a good version to start with is our recipe for Brown Rice Pork Bibimbap. It has that mix of colors, textures, and flavors that makes bibimbap so great, and it includes pork, a popular meat in Korean dishes. For the next level of homemade bibimbap, I recommend trying this recipe for Vegetarian Korean Bibimbap bowls. This version is going to take a little more work, as it requires pickling vegetables, pressing tofu (always necessary for pan-cooking tofu), and whisking up a gochujang chili sauce—but it’s so worth it! When you have those beautiful, colorful bowls of pickled and browned vegetables, fried tofu, sunny-side-up eggs, and gochujang sauce, you will be so grateful you put in the extra time.
If you’re committed to cheering on U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, but not committed to a full Korean meal to accompany the experience, then you may want to start out making just a batch of kimchi. Spicy and fermented, kimchi will appeal to those who like heat or pickled flavors in their food—it’s essentially fermented vegetables (usually cabbage) and spices. Our recipe for Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi will get you along your way, but make sure to budget out at least a few days for proper fermentation. Once your kimchi is ready, you can add it to rice bowl meals (including, of course, your bibimbap!), serve it alongside beef or pork, or even use to spice up avocado toast, like in this Avocado Kimchi Toast recipe. And, bonus, kimchi is full of probiotics!
For the grilled-meat minded, a staple of Korean cuisine is bulgogi, which is marinated, and usually grilled, beef or pork. Try our Pork Bulgogi recipe, and while it requires you to venture out into the cold to use your grill, isn’t that only enhancing the whole Winter Olympics experience we’re creating here? Like the veggie bibimbap, this recipe uses gochujang (or kochujang) for that signature Korean heat. Whether this recipe pairs best with the luge event or with ice dancing, well, that’s up to you. If you’ve already covered up the grill for the season, and you are craving comfort food, try this recipe for Korean Bulgogi Grilled Cheese. It uses beef instead of pork, and a pan instead of the grill; and it doesn’t require gochujang, so it might be a more convenient way to incorporate some Korean flavors into your Winter Olympics eating.
If you’re looking for a full meal to accompany watching a full-length ice hockey game, then you’ll want to supplement that main dish of bulgogi with an assortment of Korean sides. Balance out that meat dish with our Korean Soybean Sprout Salad, as well as our Korean Scallion Salad. And if you include a side of kimchi, as well, then you’ll have plenty to nosh on throughout all three periods.
Perhaps you want to cozy up with some lighter Korean fare, in which case our recipe for Japchae, or Korean Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Noodles, is worth a try. Spinach, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots commingle with light, clear, sweet potato noodles in this very veggie-forward dish, perfect for taking in a few ski jumps. Or picture sipping our Soondubu Jjigae, or Kimchi Tofu Soup, while cross country skiers traverse powdery paths, and imagine the total atmosphere of Olympics, spicy broth, and snowy scenes.
Whichever event you choose to watch, and whatever recipe you try, savor the moment. The chance to pair warming Korean dishes with Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is once in a lifetime!