Bulgogi is addictive. There’s no other way to say it. Besides kimchi, it is probably Korea’s most popular culinary export, and for good reason. Slightly charred sweet and salty meat should be a food group all its own. Plus there’s the fun communal aspect of bulgogi. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Korean BBQ restaurant, it’s common to have tabletop grills where everyone cooks their own meat. And the wide variety of banchan, or little side dishes typically served with bulgogi, means there’s a wide variety of textures and flavors to play with. There are an endless variety of Bulgogi recipes, and this one is mine. It’s fast and streamlined without sacrificing one drop of the addictive flavor.
A bulgogi marinade is a perfect balance of sweet and salty. And I’ve seen so many “secret” ingredients used to achieve this; all different kinds of fruits, and even Coca-Cola. I use pear because it’s readily available. Asian pear is great if you can find it. Pineapple and kiwi is also frequently used. The enzymes in the fruit help to make the beef really tender.
Koreans marinate lots of meats for the grill like chicken or pork, but beef is king. And for Bulgogi, ribeye is commonly used because it’s so tender and flavorful, but tenderloin and sirloin make good choices too. The meat is shaved or sliced very thinly. This allows it to both absorb the marinade and cook very quickly. I usually buy beef that has already been sliced to save time. If you are slicing it yourself, freeze the meat for about a half hour. That will make it easier to get very thin slices.
The beef only needs to marinate for a half hour. You can use that time to prepare some banchans. Some really quick ones you could include are:
Of course no Bulgogi spread would be complete without kimchi and rice. Now that you have some delicious sides ready, it’s time to cook the beef. Bulgogi actually means ‘fire meat’, and grilling it is traditional. But a grill or sauté pan works well too.
The beef will cook really quickly. We like it on the rarer side, so it’s done in just a couple minutes. Serve it with your sides and also some lettuce leaves to make little rice/kimchi/bulgogi tacos!
Try this beloved dish this weekend, and let me know what you think. Rate and comment on the recipe below and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 1 pound thin sliced or shaved rib eye, sirloin, or tenderloin
- 1 scallion minced
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 small pear*
- ¼ large onion, roughly chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon peeled minced ginger
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Quarter and core the pear. Add it to a blender cup. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, soy sauce, salt, and brown sugar. Blend until smooth.
- Place the beef in a bowl and pour the marinade over it. Add the sesame oil, scallion, and black pepper. Using clean hands, mix to combine and evenly coat the beef with the marinade.
- Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the beef and leave for 1 minute and then stir. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1-3 mins until the meat is cooked to your liking. (If cooking at the table, you can do this in batches rather than cooking it all at once.)
- Eat it either directly from the pan if cooking at the table or transfer the meat to a plate and serve.
*you can use regular bartlett or bosc pear in addition to an asian pear. I’ve also used fresh pineapple and kiwi with good results.
*you can make bulgogi either in a grill pan, in a regular saute pan, or on a korean bbq grill. If you plan on cooking it outside on a grill, use a perforated pan to keep the meat from falling through the grate.
Keywords: bulgogi, beef bulgogi, korean, korean bbq, banchan