[Bul: fire, Gogi: meat]
Bulgogi is one of the most well-known Korean dishes. It is also the first dish I ever learned how to cook, which explains how simple it is to make.
Moreover, the beauty of making this dish, I think, is that its’ sauce can be used in many other Korean dishes, such as galbi (갈비), royal tukbokki (gungjung-tuckbokki, 궁중떡볶이) or dduckgalbi (aka Korean meatballs, 떡갈비) to name a few. My specialty is also using this sauce as a base to make my “Mom’s Chichen Galbi.” I always make at least double or triple the amount of what I need that day and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for future uses.
- 1 pound (about 450g) of thinly slice ribeye or sirloin [All Korean markets have meat specifically cut for bulgogi, but you can easily ask your butcher to cut it for you.]
Ingredients for Korean BBQ marinade:
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar or white sugar
- 1 table spoon of garlic, minced
- 1 scallion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried ground ginger or 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger
- 1/2 yellow onion, pureed
- 1/4 Asian pear or 1/2 kiwi or 1 slice of pineapple, pureed (optional)
- 1 1/2 table spoon of maesilchung (Korean apricot syrup, 매실청) – optional
- A pinch of fresh black pepper
- 1 table spoon of sesame oil
- A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- Mix all the sauce ingredients. If you have a blender, you can puree and mix everything together instead of pureeing the Asian pear and onion separately. Pour the sauce over the meat just enough to coat all the layers and let it sit in the refrigerator at least half an hour. You can always add more sauce later when cooking if needed.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or sauté pan on high heat and sautee the marinated meat. Garnish with sesame seeds and you’re done. It’s that simple!
Today, I decided to grill the bulgogi directly on the stove fire by using a grilling basket, which is usually used for grilling fish. This gave the bulgogi a char and taste that you can only get in restaurants that use charcoal. It was pretty awesome.
Below is a picture of pan fried bulgogi with sliced onion and whole shitake mushrooms. You can also cut the mushrooms in thin slices.
- If you do not like your food too sweet, you can increase the soy sauce to about 1/3 cup or take out some of the brown sugar. I like to keep the ratios simple so it is easy to remember—Soy sauce: sugar= 1:1
- Instead of pureeing the onion, you can also thinly slice it and sauté it with the meat on a skillet. I also like to add mushrooms and julienned carrots when I sauté them. If you like to use vegetables, saute the onions first, add the carrots then add the meat and mushrooms.
- If you are planning to make more sauce for future use, do not add sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds until you are ready to cook. I usually drizzle sesame oil right on the frying pan and cook the marinated meat. Today, I added the sesame oil into the sauce since I was going to grill it straight onto the fire.
- The Asian pear and Korean apricot syrup is optional. These two ingredients help tenderize the meat and give it a fruity sweetness. If you add both ingredients you might want to add a few more table spoons of soy sauce to balance the sweetness. Asian pears can be found in even American supermarkets these days during the fall and winter, but easily found in Asian supermarkets during these seasons. When I buy Asian pears, I puree them and store it in the refrigerator or freezer depending on when I plan to use it. You can replace the Asian pear with pureed kiwi or fresh pineapple juice. You can use a couple splashes of canned Asian pear juice found in Korean supermarkets as well.
- Korean apricot syrup is made only with sugar and Korean apricots. You can easily find this in Korean supermarkets these days. It is sometimes is called Korean apricot tea because you can drink this as a tea simply by adding hot or cold water. Whether added to food or drank as a tea, Korean apricot syrup is known to help the liver function, detoxifying and digestion as well as beneficial to the skin. I personally like it to drink it as a cold tea after a night of too much wine.