Whisk together the red pepper paste, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, the vinegar, and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Set the sauce aside until serving (it will keep, covered, in the fridge for 1 week). Cover the seaweed with cold water and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place the shiitakes in a small heatproof bowl, ladle 1/2 cup of the boiling water over them, and set aside for 10 minutes to soften. Add the spinach to the boiling water and cook until bright green and completely wilted, not more than 1 minute. Drain the spinach and rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking any further. Squeeze the spinach to remove as much of the water as possible and set aside. Drain the shiitakes, slice off and discard the stems, thinly slice the caps and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until the zucchini is just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the zucchini aside.
Heat another tablespoon of sesame oil in the same skillet, add the bean sprouts and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring now and then, until the bean sprouts are lightly browned and a bit limp, about 3 minutes. Set the bean sprouts aside.
Drain the seaweed and roughly chop it. Heat another tablespoon of sesame oil in the same skillet, add the seaweed, and cook until it wilts, stirring now and then, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set the seaweed aside.
Meanwhile, heat a stone pot or a small cast iron skillet over high heat for at least 5 minutes. Pack the rice into the hot pot or skillet and leave it over the flame for 2 minutes. Carefully take it off the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help it develop its signature crust).
While the rice is resting, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil in the same small nonstick skillet. Add the egg and cook until it's cooked to your preference (I like mine quite runny). Uncover the rice and place the fried egg on top and then arrange the seaweed, shiitakes, spinach, zucchini, bean sprouts, Bulgogi, and Seasoned Radish in small piles around the egg. Eat by adding as much of the reserved sauce as you'd like and mixing everything together (bibimbap translates to "mixed rice"!).
Combine the dried shiitakes and hot water to cover in a small bowl and set aside until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, discard the tough stems, and thinly slice the caps. Combine the soy sauce, soju, soda, sugar, pear, chopped onion, garlic, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a large bowl and stir in the sesame seeds, mushrooms, sliced onion, and steak slices. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
When you're ready to eat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil in your largest skillet over high heat. Working in batches (so as to not crowd the pan and so the meat develops delicious, caramelized edges), add the beef and marinade and cook, stirring now and then, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
Combine the radish, salt, sugar, vinegar, red pepper paste, and red pepper powder in a small bowl and set aside.
Photograph by Andre Baranowski
Presliced ribeye steak is sold in Korean grocery stores as bulgogi. In a non-Korean store, ask your butcher to slice it for you. Or if that isn't an option, put the steak in the freezer for 30 minutes (to make it easier to cut) and then slice it as thinly as possible with your sharpest knife.
Reprinted from: The Kimchi Chronicles (c) 2011 by Marja Vongerichten. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.