As part of the work I’m doing with Ontario Corn-Fed Beef, I’ve been working on recipes to share with you that use the most common cuts of beef available. Then I realised: I still haven’t shared my bulgogi recipe.
For years I’ve been teasing and taunting you with our House Bulgogi recipe, implying subtly and not so subtly that it produces the best bulgogi I’ve ever had. Better than any recipe, than any restaurant I’ve tried and I try it almost everytime I see it on a menu. Now in fairness, I have not had bulgogi in Korea. And I have not had your grandmother’s bulgogi which I’m sure is famous in all the villages around your hometown for being the best bulgogi ever. (Because everyone knows your grandmother’s/mother’s/father’s/second-cousins-twice-removed’s [insert recipe name here] is the best [insert same recipe name here] in the world.) However, it’s the best bulgogi recipe I have ever tried.
I had bulgogi for the first time as a lunch special at Hosu Bistro on Queen West in Toronto. They had a spicy and non-spicy version. I went for spicy and I was in love.
I started ordering it everywhere I saw it on the menu, and back then it really was only in Korean restaurants. So I started looking for recipes in cookbooks and online, and I started trying them out to find that perfect balance of sesame and ginger, garlic and beef, the balance of umami, salty, sweet and hot.
In the last 4-5 years, bulgogi has been popping up everywhere and I’ve been trying it all. I’m sure there are many which are more “authentic”, but this is by far my favourite. This recipe is inspired by both Hosu Bistro and adapted from Clare Ferguson’s recipe from her Streetfood cookbook.
It’s quick and easy, and very flavourful! And of course, can be adapted for your own personal flavour preferences. Like it spicy? Toss in some Korean chili flakes (like I do). Like it with more vegetable? Toss in some more peppers (like I do) or zucchini (I don’t). Like more garlic or ginger? The sky’s your limit! (And I push that limit!) Want to try it just as it is? Follow the recipe below.
Traditionally bulgogi, aka “fire meat” is grilled, often on the Korean grill table like you’d see at a Korean Barbecue, but these days it is often stir-fried. For a quick weekday meal, I find stir-frying it in a wok is quick, easy, and gives me a tasty sauce to pour over my rice. If you want to grill it, just drain the meat and grill. You’ll get beautifully crispy and flavourful slices of beef with beautifully crispy char-grilled edges which is a slightly different experience. (I like them both but am lazy so I usually do the stir-fry method.)
- 1.5 lbs beef – usually I use a sirloin roast.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown or palm sugar
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1.5-2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
- 2 T sesame oil
- 1 T sesame seeds – toasted
- 1 red pepper – sliced into matchsticks (optional)
- 1-2 T Korean chili flakes (optional)
- Thinly slice the beef against the grain into small to medium stirfry-style strips.
- TIP: if you put the beef in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing it is much easier to get razor thin slices which is what you are going for
- Combine the remaining ingredients to create the marinade and pour into a ziplock bag (or just mix it in the bag, that works just fine too)
- Add the sliced beef to the bag and leave to marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes but optimally 1-3 hours. (Overnight in the fridge is fine too. Or pop it into the freezer to cook later.)
- Heat the wok to high.
- Add oil and heat until it shimmers
- Remove beef from marinade, shake off extra marinade and add the beef to the hot wok.
- If you have a lot of beef, or a small wok, this can be done in batches, so the beef doesn’t overcrowd and steam or boil rather than stir-frying.
- add some of the remaining marinade (1/4-1/2 cup) to the hot wok, including chunks of ginger, garlic and green onion, and bring to a boil
- add peppers to the wok and stir-fry until the sauce is thickened and peppers are done to your taste. (I like mine a little crunchy, Gerry likes his soft. We fight.)
- if you want it spicy, sprinkle on some Korean chili flakes (gochugaru – dried, course and aromatic chili flakes with no seeds) or spice it up at the table with ssamjang (Korean chili paste).
- serve over rice and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- OR serve wrapped in lettuce leaves
- garnished with sesame seeds
Korean cuisine is famous for its sides, known as banchan, so if you want to put more effort into the meal you can whip up some killer sides including
- Kim Chi – use this great recipe from Chef Ilona Daniels
- fresh pickled daikon and carrot
- steamed spinach tossed in sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic
- japchae – stir-fried sweet potato noodles
- wakame – seaweed
- lotus roots
- and SO many more