This bulgogi recipe is based on my best friend’s Aunt Tracie’s recipe. I’ve never actually seen her measure anything so this was a bit of trial and error on my part, based on my memories of her making the recipe. My first batch was a salty meat bomb… I added wayyyy too much soy sauce and let it marinate wayyyy too long. When you’re using soy sauce in marinades you have to be careful, things can get very salty very quickly. Feel free to substitute low-sodium soy sauce in this as well.
Once I did get the marinade right, however, it was amazing! You’ll need thinly sliced beef for this. At the Asian markets, sometimes it’s labeled as “shabu shabu” cut. Sirloin or ribeye both work well for this. If you don’t have an Asian market around, you could ask your butcher to cut the meat thinly, or you can freeze a hunk of meat and cut it yourself with your sharpest knife.
Steamed buns can be purchased at Asian markets as well, but it’s so doggone easy to make them yourself! If you’re new to / scared of cooking with yeast, this is a great intro recipe from my friend Jamie. No baking required, just a little time in the steamer!
You’ll find a few recipes below: the bulgogi, a link to the homemade steamed buns (they’re so easy to make, promise!), spicy Korean cucumbers and an Asian pear and kimchi slaw I made up because I wanted something crunchy on top. I know it looks like a lot, but it’s all easy peasy – just mix it all up in a bowl.
One more note and then we can start cooking – once you have some of the basics of an Asian pantry on hand, you’ll pretty much be able to make anything:
- soy sauce
- unseasoned rice vinegar
- rice wine
- toasted sesame oil
- coconut milk
- fish sauce
- fresh ginger
I always have these stocked (and usually different types of each… you mean you don’t have 4 types of soy sauce? dark, light, tamari and low sodium? oh. oh okay). In combination with your other pantry basics (garlic, onions, etc), you’ll be able to whip up Korean, Thai, Japanese and more!
Okay, let’s cook!
While the beef is marinating, make the spicy cucumbers and kimchi slaw.
Time to make the meats!
Let’s put it all together!
- 1 Asian pear, roughly chopped
- 1 small white onion, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1" fresh ginger, peeled
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (Kikkoman)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp rice wine (note: *not rice vinegar, can substitute red wine)
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2lbs ribeye or sirloin, thinly sliced (Asian grocers will carry this sliced, or ask your butcher)
- 12 bao buns / steamed buns (store-bought or homemade)
- sesame leaves (sometimes called perilla or shiso, can substitute lettuce)
- spicy cucumbers (recipe below)
- Asian pear and kimchi slaw (recipe below)
- quail egg (optional)
- chopped green onion
- In a food processor, combine pear, onion, garlic and ginger and puree until smooth. Alternately, you can grate the onion and the pear, reserving juices. In a medium bowl, stir to combine the pureed mixture with soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, rice or red wine, green onion and sesame oil. Add in meat and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours. Any longer than that and it may get too salty.
- To cook on a grill: Line grill grate with foil and grill meat until the edges brown and meat is no longer pink. Since the cut is thin, it takes about 30-60 seconds per side.
- To cook in a grill pan: Let marinade drop off of meat before adding to a very very hot grill pan. You want the meat to sizzle and for it to brown when it hits the pan. Cook in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan or it will steam instead of brown. The meat is thin, so it'll take about 1 minute on each side, until no longer pink. Clean out grill pan between batches as needed.
- to assemble the bao
- Gently open the bao, taking care not to rip it in half. Place a sesame leave in the bun, followed by a few slices of spicy cucumber and bulgogi. Top with Asian pear and kimchi slaw, a quail egg if using, and a sprinkle of chopped green onion.
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp chopped green onion
- good pinch of sugar
- salt to taste
- 2 Kirby or Persian cucumbers, sliced ~1/8" thick
- Combine all ingredients except the cucumbers in a bowl. Dip in a slice of cucumber to taste, and adjust salt and sugar as needed. Serve cold or room temperature.
- 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks (julienned)
- 1/2 Asian pear, cored and julienned
- 1/2 cup kimchi, sliced
- drizzle of toasted sesame oil
- splash of rice vinegar
- pinch of gochugaru (optional)
- Combine carrot, pear and kimchi in a bowl, along with a tablespoon or so of kimchi juice from the jar. Add a drizzle of sesame oil, a little splash of rice vinegar and a pinch of gochugaru, if using. Adjust seasonings to taste. Trust your palate! I'm not eating this, after all... you are.