Bulgogi

We had some left over beef tenderloin in the freezer. It was the part called the “chain”, which is a long thin strip that runs along the whole tenderloin. Not much you can do with it except cut it thin and stir-fry it. So I thought I would try making the Korean dish Bulgogi, which can be made with pork tenderloin, boneless short ribs, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, hanger steak, or in this case beef tenderloin.

Freezing the beef aids in slicing it very thin, which is critical for developing tenderness. Also letting the meat sit in a bit of baking soda, helps tenderize it without imparting any soda flavor. (Traditional Korean recipes call for adding a bit of grated pear, which tenderizes the meat with the fruit enzymes.)

I made the marinate the day before, added the beef, and let it sit in the refrigerator over night. Because you always have Banchan (small appetizer plates) with Korean food I also made some Sookju namul, which is a Korean bean sprout salad, and Oi Jee, a quick cucumber pickle, recipes to follow.

To do this right you really need Gochugaru, the traditional Korean hot pepper flakes, used in many Korean dishes, notably Kimchi. But you can get by using red pepper flakes in a pinch. I bought my Gochuaru online from Amazon.

We served the Beef Bulgogi wrapped in iceberg lettuce leaves, which, with their coolness, help to offset the heat of the Bulgogi. It is also fun to top the meat with the bean sprouts and pickles like a Korean “taco.”

Bulgogi

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru (coarse Korean hot pepper flakes), or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed hanger steak, boneless short rib, or skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • Sliced scallions (for serving)

Method:

1. Place meat on large plate and freeze until very firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Once firm, stand each piece on 1 cut side on cutting board and, using sharp knife, shave meat against grain as thin as possible. (Slices needn’t be perfectly intact.) Combine water and baking soda in medium bowl. Add meat and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.

2. Combine garlic, soy sauce, gochugaru, ginger, sugar, and sesame oil in a large resealable plastic bag or medium bowl. Add meat to marinade, seal bag, and squish everything around until the meat is coated. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes, or chill up to 8 hours.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat until oil is shimmering. Remove half of meat from marinade, letting excess drip back into bag, and cook in a single layer without moving until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Toss meat and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through and crisp at edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, salt and more meat.

4. Top with scallions and serve with iceberg lettuce leaves.

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