Korean

Tower Bap

by:
July 22, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Jessica Faria. Food Stylist: Sam Seneviratne.
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 4 towers
Author Notes

Though I happily ate anything my mom made growing up, I was especially delighted on days I’d see Tower Bap on the dinner table. The dish was informally named by my mom (her version of what other recipes call "rice tower" or "sushi tower") because it resembles a tower of different treasures: shredded crab sticks slicked in a savory mayo, thinly sliced fried eggs, and vinegary cucumber strips, all on a foundation of sticky bap (Korean for rice). The ingredients are pressed into a cup (preferably one that skews wide rather than tall) and unmolded onto a plate, revealing colorful layers stacked on top of each other. Back then, Tower Bap felt fancy and festive, especially for a weeknight meal; there was something whimsical (and in hindsight, even a bit retro) about eating dinner that looked like a little sculpture. Tower Bap is just as fun and satisfying now. The assembly is more therapeutic than arduous, and the composed dish falls apart into a delightful, complementary mixture of flavors and textures as you dig in. The key is to season all the ingredients well, including the rice; don’t be afraid to use a slightly heavier hand when doing so, tasting and adjusting as you go. Sufficiently seasoned, Tower Bap is flavorful as is, but you can spoon the optional honeyed soy sauce on top for extra oomph. If you’re short on time, the crab sticks, fried eggs, and cucumbers can be prepared up to two days ahead and assembled with freshly cooked rice on the day of serving. Any leftover ingredients make for an easy, throw-it-together rice bowl for lunch the next day. —Joy Cho

Ingredients
  • Tower Bap
  • 2 cups warm short- or medium-grain white rice
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons mirin
  • teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayo
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 pound imitation crab, preferably in stick form (in the frozen section at Asian grocery stores)
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 4 large eggs
  • Neutral oil, like vegetable or canola
  • Toasted sesame seeds and/or thinly sliced scallions, for serving (optional)
  • Sauce (Optional)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoons sesame oil (pure or toasted)
  • ½ teaspoons Sriracha
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Tower Bap
  2. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and gently mix with 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, the mirin, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt until combined. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the mayo, Sriracha, honey, and several cranks of freshly ground black pepper until smooth.
  4. On a cutting board, halve the crab sticks crosswise, then shred them with clean or gloved hands into the bowl with the mayo mixture. Toss the shredded crab sticks and mayo mixture together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  5. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, julienne the cucumber into thin strips (about 3 inches in length) and transfer to a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, mix to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk the eggs with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Grease a large nonstick pan with oil over medium-low heat. Pour in just enough egg to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. (You will probably have to cook the eggs in 2 to 3 batches, depending on the size of your pan.) Cook the egg until the edges are set, 1 to 2 minutes, then use a big spatula to gently flip and keep cooking until the other side is set.
  7. Transfer the fried egg rounds to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut the egg in thirds crosswise, then thinly slice lengthwise.
  8. To assemble: Firmly press ¼ of the egg strips into a wide glass or pint container. Squeeze the water out of the cucumber strips, then firmly press ¼ of them on top of the egg. Now firmly press ¼ of the crab stick mixture on top of the cucumber. Add ¼ of the rice on top and firmly press it down with your fingers.
  9. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to create three more towers. (Depending on your containers’ sizes and eaters’ appetites, you can also create smaller or larger towers; just follow the same order and adjust the quantities to sight.)
  10. To serve, carefully invert the towers onto a serving plate, pressing into place any straggler ingredients. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions if using, and top with soy sauce (below) if desired.
  1. Sauce (Optional)
  2. Whisk the soy sauce, honey, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and Sriracha in a small bowl until smooth. Taste and adjust if needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Joy Cho
    Joy Cho
  • Darian
    Darian

2 Reviews

Darian September 12, 2021
I bookmarked this as soon as it showed up on Food52, and finally got around to making it last night - wow! I can't believe I waited so long! It was so delicious with a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. I did use chicken instead of imitation crab due to an allergy, and I used Greek yogurt instead of mayo for personal preference, but otherwise followed the recipe. The "optional" scallions, toasted sesame seeds, and soy-sauce-sauce were perfect and should not be skipped. My family thought perhaps adding a layer of avocado between the protein and rice would also be good? I might try that next time.
 
Joy C. September 12, 2021
Thank you, Darian, for giving it a whirl — the avocado is a great idea for additional textural/flavor contrast!