Tuesday, April 12, 2011

beef bulgogi

Bulgogi is a type of Korean barbecue. Traditionally, it's grilled on a hibachi, but it works pretty well done in a pan on the stove top, too.

Bulgogi is dead simple to make, as long as you've got some Asian kitchen staples hanging around. The meat is marinated in a mixture of soy, toasted sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, fresh ginger, and chili oil for 15 minutes to a few hours, and then grilled or seared in a hot pan. The veggies are tossed in a little of the marinade as well and grilled or stir-fried. Bulgogi is sometimes served wrapped in lettuce leaves, but I prefer to just eat it straight-up.

For this batch, I used a really cheap piece of meat that was labeled as "london broil" when I bought it. I was curious what cut it actually was, so I started Googling and asking around, and the best guess we can come up with is that it's another name for flank steak. It would make sense, given the texture of the meat, especially when I cut it across the grain. It was nearly falling apart to begin with, and it didn't toughen up one iota when I cooked it. It was literally melt-in-your-mouth. So good.

Here is the recipe I use, if you want to try it:

1/4 cup soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium tamari)
1 tablespoon hot chile sesame oil (you can substitute 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil plus a dash of red pepper flake for this. Sometimes I use sriracha and toasted sesame oil instead, too)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (have used molasses to good effect a couple times)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

I used two red onions cut into wedges, a green bell pepper cut into strips, and sometimes a bunch of white button mushrooms for veggies. For meat, try to get flank steak (or london broil?), about 1.5 lbs. You'll also need oil to fry in. I used coconut oil this time and it worked great.

You can either put the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm it up before slicing, or if you have a super sharp knife like I do, you can just go at it. Cut it across the grain as thinly as possible and toss it in the marinade. Let it sit for 15 minutes to a few hours.

When you're ready to cook, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in a large pan. Stir-fry the veggies first. You may have to work in batches, depending on how big your pan is. When the veggies are done, set aside. Wipe out the pan, add 2 more tbsp of oil, and add strips of meat. You want to do this in batches so as not to crowd them, and keep in mind that the meat is sliced very thinly so it really only needs a sear on each side to cook through. You can cook it longer if you WANT to, of course...;)

Combine the veggies and meat with any accumulated juices, and serve on lettuce leaves or just heaped happily on your plate. YUM!