Bulgogi, thin strips of beef marinated and then grilled or sauteed, is one of Korea's most popular dishes and has become ubiquitous in America, and not only in Korean restaurants. You can buy ready-to -cook bulgogi trays at Costco, and they are quite good. But I still had to make my own bulgogi for my Korean meal, and I'm glad I did. It was relatively simply to do and absolutely delicious. So much so that I've been eating the leftovers straight out of the refrigerator.
The secret to bulgogi are very thin slices of beef. In Korea, you can buy pre-sliced beef at supermarkets, and apparently this is also available at Korean supermarkets in the US. Rib eye is the beef of choice, but you can also use top sirloin or flank. Personally, I used boneless NY strip because it was on sale at the supermarket. Given how incredibly expensive beef is in the US right now, buying beef that is not on sale is not feasible. Fortunately, NY strip worked perfectly. I might try it next with tri-tip, another cut that goes regularly on sale here in California. Cutting the steak in thin strips is not difficult if you have a sharp knife. Do put it in the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand to help it keep its shape.
The only somewhat exotic ingredients this dish calls for are Asian pear and mirin. Asian pears are easily available at supermarkets here in California and they have an enzyme which helps tenderize the beef. They also provide flavor and sweetness. If you can't find them, you can substitute with kiwi or coca cola for their tenderizing purposes, or leave it out altogether. You can use any rice wine in this recipe, but mirin, a Japanese version, is easy to find in the Asian section of supermarkets.
Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but it's easier and just as tasty to make it on the stove.
- 2 lbs steak, thinly sliced
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 Asian pear, grated
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 scallions, sliced (optional)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- ground black pepper to taste
- vegetable oil
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix very well. Marinate in the refrigerator from 1 hour to overnight. Remove the meat from the marinade, squeezing out excess.
Pour a thin film of oil on a saute pan or wok. Heat over medium-high heat.
Working in batches, add the beef and attached onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the beef strips are cooked through - how long will depend on how thin you cut them. Alternatively, cook on a grill.
Adapted from several recipes.
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