How to make Bulgogi, the Korean beef
For those who are not familiar with Korean food, Korean beef called "Bulgogi" would be #1 dish they need to try first as an introduction to Korean cuisine 101. Bulgogi is one of the most well-known Korean beef dishes. The very thinly sliced beef sirloin or rib-eye is marinated overnight with soy sauce, onion, garlic, pear, sesame oil, sugar mixture, then fried in a skillet or tabletop grill on the table. It is a Korean comfort food and loved by millions of Koreans from generation to generation.
Every Korean home cook has their own version of making this popular dish. I do have mine. Although the basic ingredients in the marinades are pretty similar, but in order to achieve the best depth to the flavor, I do approach my Bulgogi slightly differently. I will explain how to make the most succulent Korean beef in your kitchen. Quite simple to put together and you will like the result. Hope you can try this recipe and let me know how you like it. And as always, please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions you might have regarding recipes and other Korean food.
Here are the main ingredients you should have for Bulgogi. Beef, soy sauce (I used low sodium), Korean soy sauce for soup (gook-ganjang), sesame oil, onion, Asian pear, garlic. You will also need dried sea kelp, brown sugar, and black pepper as well.
First, soak dried sea kelp in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes. You will get the golden sea kelp stock. I know it sounds weird to add the sea flavor to the beef dish but it will deepen the flavor of bulgogi and you will love the outcome.
For the beef, you have to get very thinly sliced sirloin or rib-eye. Most Korean groceries should carry them in their frozen section. Look for paper-thin slices with a good marbling on the meat.
Separate all the beef slices from each other and put them in a large mixing bowl.
In a blender, combine diced onion, garlic, Asian pear, and the 1/2 cup of the reserved sea kelp stock. Puree them until very smooth.
Pour the onion pear puree to a bowl and add soy sauce, Korean soy sauce for soup (gook-ganjang), brown sugar, sesame oil, and black pepper. Mix well.
The Korean soy sauce for soup (gook-ganjang) is different than regular soy sauce. It is more translucent and has pungent flavor. Koreans use this sauce to season their soups and stews, and loads of side dishes. Please go to my Korean Pantry tab on my site to look for more information about this sauce.
Pour the marinade sauce over the beef slices in a bowl.
Toss the meat slices to incorporate with the marinade as you gently massage the meat. Gentle massaging action will help the meat to absorb the marinade and tenderize the meat.
Important!!! You need to marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator to get the full flavor. I like to put the meat on a large covered baking pan, which allows meat to spread out so that they can soak up the sauce more evenly. You don't have to. Just toss the meat once or twice during the marination time.
Also, when ready to cook, please take your meat out of refrigerator and let it sit on the room temperature for 30 minutes so that it can cut off the coldness of the meat. Cold meat + heat = tough texture!!!
This is an optional. I sometimes add very thinly sliced vegetables when I am ready to cook my beef. This helps the dish to become a one-dish meal so that I don't have to worry about making another vegetable side dish to go with.
If you want to enjoy Bulgogi as beef only dish, don't add vegetables. If you do, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, green onions, mushrooms, chilies (seed removed), or zucchinis are great choices.
When ready to cook, heat your skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the beef (The amount should be just enough to cover the skillet in a single layer) and vegetables (if using). You should hear the searing sound immediately.
You don't need any oil at all. That's a beauty of Bulgogi cooking. It cooks in its own juice.
Stir-fry until the meat is browned. It should only take 2-3 minutes to cook since the meat slices are so thin and the heat is very strong. Do not overcook your beef.
Enjoy your Bulgogi when it is hot. Scoop some rice in bowls and gather up your family or friends to the dinning table.
Drizzle the meat juice over your rice and indulge yourself into a Korean comfort. A little bit of Kimchi on the side would be just lovely!
See! Korean cooking is not so difficult at all if you know some tips and know-hows, right? With this recipe, you will make one the most succulent Bulgogi among your friends.
If you have any questions, please let me know. I am happy to answer.
Until I come back with another recipe next week, have a great week, guys! Happy spring!
Bulgogi, the Korean Beef
Prep time: 30 min + overnight marination
Cook time: 5 min
- 2 lb (900g) very thinly sliced beef sirloin or rib-eye
- 1 large piece died sea kelp (dashima or konbu)
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small Asian pear, peeled, seed removed, and diced
- 3 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon Korean soy sauce for soup (gook-ganjang)
- 3-5 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: choice of very thinly sliced vegetables such as sweet peppers, carrots, onions, green onions, chilies (seed removed), mushrooms, or zucchinis
- Boil 1 cup of water and remove from heat. Add the sea kelp and let it for at least 10 minutes.
- Separate the beef slices from each other and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside
- In a blender, combine onion, pear, garlic, and 1/2 cup of the sea kelp stock. Puree until very smooth. Pour the puree in another bowl and add soy sauces, brown sugar, sesame oil, and black pepper. Mix well.
- Pour the marinade over the beef and toss well to incorporate the meat with the sauce as you gently massaging the meat. Cover and chill overnight. Toss the meat 1-2 times to ensure the even marination during the time.
- Before you cook, take the meat out and let it sit on the room temperature for 30 minutes to reduce the coldness of the meat.
- When ready to cook, heat your skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Place beef (just enough to cover the pan in a single layer) and some vegetables (if using). You should hear the sizzling sounds immediately. Stir-fry 2-3 minutes or until the beef is browned. Do not overcook your beef.
- Serve your Bulgogi warm with rice and kimchi as a side dish. Don't forget to drizzle some of the juice over your rice! Enjoy!