BULGOGI (KOREAN BBQ BEEF)
Inspiration for new recipes to try sometimes comes from unexpected places. The latest example: from the recipe e-mail digest I periodically get from the website AllRecipes. Their featured recipe in that particular e-mail was bulgogi, which is Korean-style BBQ beef. Featuring thin slices of beef marinated in a sweet and spicy sauce, the dish didn’t look too hard to attempt and I already had most of the ingredients in my pantry. It was time to give making Korean food a shot.
Thin slices of beef soak up all the flavors of the marinade, leaving you with a sweet, savory, and spicy flavor combination bite after bite.
Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)
Makes 4 portions
~ 1 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced
~ 1/3 cup soy sauce
~ 2-1/2 tbsp brown sugar
~ 1/4 cup chopped scallions
~ 2 tbsp minced garlic
~ 2 tbsp sesame seeds
~ 2 tbsp sesame oil
~ 1/2 tsp black pepper
~ 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
~ 2 tsp. chili paste
- Take your flank steak and cut it against the grain into strips maybe about 1/4″ thick and no bigger than 2″ long. Set that aside.
- Chop your scallions into 1/8″ chunks and store those in a small bowl. Mince up your garlic and drop those in there as well.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and chili paste. Once that is well combined, put the scallions and garlic in there as well.
- Put your flank steak strips into a Ziploc freezer bag before also pouring in the marinade. Shake the bag and work the marinade around until it’s well distributed across all the pieces.
- Throw this into the fridge to marinate overnight. I cooked it after about 12 hours of marinating, and I think that the meat was able to soak up a lot of the flavors during that time period.
- From a cooking standpoint, there are two different ways that you could go from here: stir-frying or grilling. Since I don’t own an outdoor grill, I opted for the former method, which I thought still produced pretty good results.
- Using a medium pan, heat it up to medium-high, dropping in a bit of sesame oil to keep the steak from sticking to the surface. While the pan is heating, also grab a bit of cornstarch from the pantry to set aside on the counter for later.
- Put your marinated meat into the pan, spreading it out evenly so that all the steak strips are contacting the surface. Expect that the marinade will heat up and start to bubble.
- Let the steak cook in the marinade mixture for about a minute or so before turning over the pieces to cook the other side. After about a minute, take the pan off the heat and transfer the steak strips to a plate.
- With the liquid marinade still in the pan, place it back onto the hot surface (while the burner is still off) and add in that cornstarch you set on the counter earlier to help thicken it up, using the whisk to combine. Counter with some small quantities of water if you think the sauce had thickened too much until you are satisfied with the consistency.
- I opted to put the sauce on the side to help control the amount you add to the dish, but an alternative could be to pour it over the steak strips and toss them up a little to coat.
- For my plating style, I went with putting the steak strips onto a bed of jasmine rice, coupled with a fried egg. A few spoonfuls of sauce went on top of the meat, followed by some chopped scallions and sesame seeds for the garnish.
For the first time making this dish, I really didn’t know what to expect. But the end result was delicious. The meat itself had that nice mixture of sweet and savory flavor to it, and each bite that you took gave you a lingering heat that came from the chili paste, but not so much that would build up and overwhelm you.
Two things that I want to experiment with on future attempts of the dish:
- To help make the sauce “cling” onto the steak strips a little more, I might toss the steak in a spoonful of cornstarch to coat the outside before adding in the marinade.
- To see if I can get a crispier texture on the outside of the meat and have the sauce caramelize a little bit, I might take a small sample to bake in the toaster oven instead of cook on the stove. The risk I’d run here is drying out the meat too much and making it tough to chew.
Despite my curiosity to experiment a little bit, I was very happy with how it turned out. My friend Catherine gave it her seal of approval as well, and I’m looking forward to giving the recipe another go.
Alternative Slow Cooker Method:
I was interested to see how this same recipe could potentially adapt to using the slow-cooker instead of the stovetop. One thing I was looking for was to achieve that “melt-in-your-mouth” consistency while packing that same level of flavor that this marinade combination provides. If you are interested in using this alternative cooking method, here are the slight deviations you would need from the above recipe:
- The overnight marinating process would no longer be necessary, as the slow cooking process helps to lock in that flavor. Because almost all the marinade is retained as the sauce base, however, dial back the heat by reducing your chili paste from 2 tsp. to 1 tsp. It was definitely very prominent when I tried it, enough to make me break a sweat.
- After your put your flank steak pieces into a Ziploc freezer bag, toss them with 2 tbsp. of cornstarch before placing them into the slow cooker.
- Add 1/2 cup of water to your marinade mixture outlined above and pour that into the slow cooker. Mix that together before setting it to 4 hours on low heat.
- The end result should retain a relatively “saucy” consistency, which would pair well with a bed of rice.