Bap On Into Sputnik for a Vegetarian Bowl of Korean Flavor

For years, Sputnik has been a local favorite for Baker neighbors on South Broadway. By day, patrons come for coffee, food and a relaxed environment to work or meet friends. By night, drinks at the bar and late night eats become the desired accoutrements. While the menu has a generous helping of pork and other meaty bites, it's also well known for an equivalent amount of vegetarian and vegan options. This week, we found ourselves satiated with the Korean-inspired bip im bap.

Sputnik's version of the classic Korean dish — a rice bowl of sorts — substitutes tofu seasoned with the typical Sputnik gusto for the more standard marinated beef (or the pork belly the kitchen serves as a non-vegetarian option). That tofu rests atop a bed of wild rice accompanied by sautéed veggies, kimchi and Korean chili sauce, and a fried egg crowns the dish. 

The tofu is soft, has just a little spice to it and works well with the al dente veggies. A good crunch from the carrots or green beans every few bites gives the meal both texture and a nice helping of vitamin A and C. Once the chili sauce mixes in with everything, it’s still not overpoweringly spicy — until you hit the kimchi, and then comes the pow(!). With a good kick of spice and flavor, the fermented cabbage will lift your spirits and clear your sinuses. But don’t be deterred if you’re not a huge spice fan; it won’t blow your head off (I've even seen customers adding additional spice). The Korean flavors of the kimchi are an important complement to the dish, so it's best left in unless you're a complete chile lightweight.

The fried egg was the perfect topping: a little extra protein and a lot of extra delicious. But if you're going the vegan route,  you can swap out the egg for scrambled tofu. Either way, the topping is just what is needed to complete the meal. Filling, tasty and only $10, this is a satisfying bowl worth putting on your regular rotation. On the off chance you're still hungry, Sputnik's fries — regular or sweet potato — are worth dropping a few extra bucks just for the dipping sauces: sambal mayo, banana ketchup and mango chutney, to name a few.