Ready to make this Korean staple your new go-to dish? We've got your back with this simple recipe. —INGRAIN, Summer 2019
RECIPE / Debbie Yoon
Almost every home cook has his or her own version of bulgogi, or “fire meat”; the dish is a staple in Korean households. (The word gogi can refer to any meat that is off the bone.) Typically made with thinly sliced marinated beef (pork or chicken may also be used), it is grilled over high heat and then eaten with rice or, more often, wrapped in lettuce leaves. My family usually makes a mixture of beef and pork bulgogi; I like ribeye and pork tenderloin.
The standard bulgogi marinade consists of soy sauce, a sugar source (brown or white sugar, honey), sesame oil, scallions, garlic, and the most important ingredient: Asian pear. The fruit imparts a subtle sweetness and contains calpain, an enzyme that conveniently acts as a meat tenderizer. (Pineapple or kiwi can be substituted, but the meat shouldn’t marinate for as long.) Probably the only challenge with making bulgogi is to slice the meat very thinly. It’s best to have your butcher do it, but if you need to be one, throw the meat in the freezer before slicing. It will be much easier to cut into thin, even pieces.
Pairing 312 Urban Wheat (Goose Island) is the perfect choice to cool the palate after the fire of the bulgogi.
Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds beef ribeye (or pork tenderloin)
¼ medium Asian pear
1 medium onion
2 bunches scallions
1 head garlic
6 garlic cloves
4 Korean peppers (or serranos)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted)
⅓ cup gochujan (Korean red chile paste; only if using pork)
FREEZE 3 pounds beef ribeye or pork tenderloin (trimmed) for about 1 hour and slice thinly against the grain (¼- to 1/8-inch is ideal). Place sliced meat in bowl with preferred marinade (beef or pork).
MIX 3 tablespoons soy sauce + 2 tablespoons mirin + 3 tablespoons brown sugar +1½ tablespoons sesame oil + 4 garlic cloves (minced) + 2 scallions (chopped; white and light green tops only) + ¼ Asian pear (puréed or smashed in a mortar and pestle) + 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper + 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted) in a large bowl to prepare the marinade. If marinating pork, add a 2-inch- piece ginger (peeled, finely grated) and ⅓ cup gochujang.
Marinade and meat together well (if using the spicy pork marinade, use a rubber spatula or your hands to make sure each slice is covered with the Korean pepper paste mixture). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
PREPARE Fresh toppings: 1 onion (thinly sliced) + 1 bunch scallions (sliced into 1-inch pieces) + 2 inch-piece ginger (peeled, diced, or julienned) + 6 garlic cloves (thinly sliced) + 3 to 4 Korean peppers (or serranos, thinly sliced).
Meat from marinade (do not pat dry). Preheat a charcoal grill over medium-high heat. When grill is hot, cook meat until charred, about 3 minutes; flip and grill until meat is well done, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
SERVE Bulgogi family-style with reserved lettuce leaves (red or green leaf, for wrapping meat) + fresh toppings + rice (optional) + assorted banchan.
In the mood for more Korean food? Check out Gimme Ssam.