I have loved most Korean food since I was a little kid. My grandfather worked for the State Department at the time and helped a large number of families to come to the US from South Korea during the unrest. We became quite close with one of the families and ate with them whenever my Grandad was in town.
The only dish I remember really disliking was sea cucumber. Expecting a vegetable, I was pretty grossed out when I realised it was not a vegetable. I remember many years later studying them in school and learned that when a predator went to attack them they would eject their stomach to buy some time and then swim off. Now does that sound like something you want to eat? Yuk! Not me. I also had a Korean roommate in my early 20’s and being poor we would often go to her parent’s house and raid the fridge. There was always rice on the go in the rice maker and usually some bulgogi waiting for us.
It was only when I moved to the UK that I realised how difficult it was to find Korean food, and I have only had the pleasure on several occasions after I had been here for nearly 9 years. I am going to recreate all of my favourites eventually, but as I had all of the ingredients in the house with the exception of the beef, bulgogi it was!
I had a chat with my butcher and explained what I needed from him and he gladly obliged and off I went with my lovely thinly sliced beef to create the bulgogi I had been craving.
After speaking to a couple of friends from home it became apparent that most Koreans have their own recipes and don’t usually keep a recipe to hand, just a mental list of ingredients. From that I had to make many small batches of the marinade until I found the right mix.
Traditional Koreans just have the beef on its own, but I added onion and mushrooms for a bit more texture. Now, for the cooking method. Bulgogi tastes the best cooked over charcoal, however that is a bit time consuming, so I cooked mine over the BBQ (gas) and this can also be done in a wok or frying pan as long as you don’t crowd the meat. This will cause the meat to steam and can lead to tough meat, and not quite the texture you are looking for.
As I mentioned, I cooked mine on the grill and cooked it on the griddle portion of the grill/bbq. Whatever you decide to use, make sure your pan is smoking hot before you add the beef. Also if you decide to add the onion and mushrooms, ensure they are even sizes to one another so that they cook evenly and don’t take long to cook.
I serve mine with plain sticky white rice from the rice maker with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and a side of blanched broccoli, and it is a healthy comfort food for me.