Beef Bulgogi (불고기)
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
There is no better pairing than soy sauce and sesame seed oil.
Bulgogi is a gateway to Korean food for most of us non-Koreans. I take it every year for our work potluck and people go nuts for it. If only they knew how easy it was!
Bulgogi's both familiar and exotic at the same time. It's another culture's take on something American's know well, beef. It's slightly sweet, but has a deep umami flavor that makes it irresistible. The bulgogi marinade is a pretty simple combo of onion, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil (different recipes may vary) and it can be used on almost anything. I've made bulgogi burgers, bulgogi salmon, bulgogi chicken etc., but beef bulgogi is the best.
The meat used in the recipe is typically a thinly sliced rib eye. It's a little expensive, but worth it. If you go to a Korean market, they'll have pre-packaged stacks of it. I haven't seen similar cuts at my local grocer, but the butcher might be able to slice it for you if you ask.
I never really loved bulgogi until I tried my wife's aunt's recipe (jjagunumma to my wife - I don't know of the exact right Korean word that I would use). My wife's recipe (love you, honey) is too sweet and I feel like I'm eating beef candy.
This recipe, though, turns down the sweetness and adds black pepper to give it a little kick. I love ginger, so I added a bit more than the recipe calls for. It was perfect. Everything in here goes into a blender to be mixed and chopped. My wife's recipe calls for sliced and minced dry ingredients, but using the blender gave the beef more levels of flavor beyond soy sauce.
This recipe was passed on to me and I'm passing it on to you, Dear Readers.
When you cook the beef, add sliced onions to add some texture.
You can also freeze the beef after you marinate it. Buy a large quantity, marinate it, and freeze what you won't eat in the near future. Skip the sliced onions to freeze and just toss some in when you're ready to cook. It makes for a quick and delicious future meal, just add rice!
It goes great with rice and kimchi, but can easily be thrown into tacos, sandwiches, and eggs for an amped up meal.
Note: The recipe is "per lb of meat." Also, the amount of pepper is high, so you may want to use less if you're not a fan. You can taste the marinade BEFORE you add the beef.
INGREDIENTS (per 1 lb of meat)
1/2 a medium onion
1 tablespoon of garlic
1 tablespoon of ginger
5 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar (I usually sub in apple or Asian pear puree instead of sugar)
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of mirin
1/2 tablespoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of water (omit if you're using apple or pear puree)
Add: frenched carrots and sliced onions when you cook. Add green onions and sesame seeds when you serve!
Add ingredients to blender or food processor (In the video, I'm making enough for 5 lbs)
Add marinade to bowl and mix with meat. Using hands is easiest
Refrigerate for at least a few hours, but overnight is recommended
Cook beef over medium high heat. I prefer to cook in batches to make sure everything is evenly cooked, but my wife will throw all of it in a pan at once.
Serve with rice (and kimchi, obviously)