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Bulgogi translates to ‘fire meat.’
Korean Beef Bulgogi is traditional Korean street food and ridiculously uncomplicated to make. Plainly speaking, bulgogi means ‘fire meat.’ Hugely flavorful and incredibly aromatic, it is undoubtedly one of the tastiest of dishes to prepare on a grill. Neighbors in close proximity will swoon and linger. Tender pieces of caramelized beef with gorgeous green onions create a tantalizingly sweet & smoky aroma. Anybody who has a favorite Korean restaurant or who has ever experienced Korean street food, will surely not have missed this popular dish. My first time ever eating Korean Beef Bulgogi was in Chatham, New Jersey with my friend Christy. I can recall it being served atop a bed of rice and with a fried egg on top. It was heaven, although I never mastered the fried egg with my chopsticks…
Using a grated Korean pear in the marinade tenderizes the toughest cuts of beef, and adds a unique flavor to the finished dish.
Made with tender beef, pork or chicken, bulgogi is a quick and simple recipe. The key is to slice whatever meat you are using ultra-thin. Shaved meat is best. I can sometimes find shaved beef in the butcher case at my local grocery, and other times I have to make a selection from what’s already in the case and bring it to the butcher and ask for him to shave it.
I always make bulgogi with beef, and in particular rib eye. It is on par with other popular steak cuts, but not as expensive as tenderloin. I’ve used tenderloin for my Korean beef bulgogi but prefer to enjoy tenderloin as it is. Since bulgogi is marinated, I go for the rib eye for this recipe. Additionally, rib eye is marbled, and the more fat in the beef, the less issues you will have with the meat both sticking during the cook and drying out too soon after the cook. If I am forced to shave my own, I typically place the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes, and then use a mandoline or my sharpest knife to get even and consistent shavings.
Undoubtedly, Korean Beef Bulgogi is one of the most well-known traditional Korean street foods.
Once the beef is done marinating with just a handful of simple ingredients I generally always have on hand, the most difficult part is over. I heat my grill to around 500 degrees and oil my cast iron with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. I allow the cast iron to heat for 5 minutes with the lid closed, then add the marinated beef into the scalding hot skillet. In seconds, I am experiencing that smoky, sweet-savory aroma and a beautifully charred meat that is about to put me (and my lingering neighbors!) over the edge…
Ingredients for Korean Beef Bulgogi
1 lb of rib eye, tenderloin, or sirloin beef, shaved or sliced ultra-thin
2 tbs of soy sauce
1 tbs of brown sugar
3 tbs of water
1 tbs of honey
1 tbs of sesame oil
2 chopped green onions
1 Korean pear, grated
3 cloves of minced garlic
½ teaspoon of black pepper
It is helpful to fold a plastic quart-sized baggie folded back over a bowl to combine the marinade ingredients. Add the beef to the marinade and refrigerate for 1 hour but not more than 4 hours.
Heat your grill to 500 degrees. Using a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil, liberally coat the inside of a heavy cast iron skillet. Place the skillet directly over the grates on the hot grill and close the lid. Allow the skillet to heat for 5 minutes. Add the beef and all the marinade. Cook for 5 minutes using tongs or a large meat fork to keep the beef moving in the skillet.
Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the bulgogi to a platter of rice or lettuce leaves.
Sprinkle with finely chopped green onion and enjoy.
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