Citizens, the delicious main course of Korean Bulgogi is normally associated with beef short ribs, but it can also be made in a fantastic pork variant as well that TFD is especially fond of.
Bulgogi (불고기]), literally “fire meat”, is a gui (구이; Korean-style grilled or roasted dish) made of thin, marinated slices of beef or pork grilled on a barbecue or on a stove-top griddle.
It is also often stir-fried in a pan in home cooking. Sirloin, rib eye or brisket are frequently used cuts of beef for the dish. The dish originated from northern areas of the Korean Peninsula, but is a very popular dish in South Korea where it can be found anywhere from upscale restaurants to local supermarkets as pan-ready kits.
Bulgogi came from the Korean word bul-gogi (불고기), consisting of bul (“fire”) and gogi (“meat”). The compound word is derived from the Pyongan dialect, as the dish itself is a delicacy of Pyongan Province, North Korea.
After the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese forced occupation in 1945, the dish became popular in Seoul and other parts of South Korea, by refugees from Pyongan. It was then listed in the 1947 edition of the Dictionary of the Korean Language, as meat grilled directly over a charcoal fire.
In the Standard Korean Language Dictionary published by the National Institute of Korean Language, the word is listed as meat such as beef that is thinly sliced, marinated, and grilled over the fire.
The word is also included in English-language dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary of English. Merriam-Webster dated the word’s appearance in the American English lexicon at 1961.
Bulgogi is believed to have originated during the Goguryeo era (37 BCE–668 CE), when it was originally called maekjeok (맥적, 貊炙), with the beef being grilled on a skewer. It was called neobiani (너비아니), meaning “thinly spread” meat, during the Joseon Dynasty and was traditionally prepared especially for the wealthy and the nobility.
In the medieval Korean history book Donggooksesi (동국세시), bulgogi is recorded under the name yeomjeok (염적), which means ‘fire meat’. It was grilled barbecue-style on a hwaro grill on skewers, in pieces approximately 0.5 cm thick. Although it is no longer cooked skewered, this original type of bulgogi is today called bulgogi sanjeok (불고기 산적).
Bulgogi is typically made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef. Ribeye is also commonly used due to its tenderness and easy to cut complexion. In addition to beef, chicken and pork bulgogi are also one of the most common types of variations used to prepare the dish.
Pork belly, or samyeopsal in Korean, is a popular cut for pork bulgogi. Much like the ribeye, it is tender and fatty which can give the meat a better taste.
Before cooking, the meat is marinated to enhance its flavor and tenderness with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ground black pepper, and other ingredients such as scallions, ginger, onions or mushrooms, especially white button mushrooms or matsutake.
In most cases when cooking Bulgogi, these are common ingredients. However, the ingredients used to marinate the meat can vary from chef to chef and even from family to family depending on one’s preferences and traditions.
Pureed pears, pineapple, kiwi, and onions are often used as tenderizers. Sugar or other types of sweeteners such as Coca-Cola may sometimes also be used to add a sweeter taste. The length of time in which the meat is left to marinate also varies depending on preferences.
Generally, bulgogi meat is left to marinate for less than an hour but many top chefs will even leave it overnight for the best taste. Sometimes, cellophane noodles are added to the dish, which varies by the region and specific recipe.
Meaty, spicy and savory yet light, this is an easy and delicious recipe that can serve as a great introduction to the glorious Korean cuisine scene! 🙂 I would love this as part of a multi-course Korean feast, which to my taste would best include some japchae!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 1 ¼ pounds pork, ideally a combination of pork belly and pork neck, sliced (see Note)
- ¼ cup peeled and chopped Asian pear (or use a Western pear or an apple if unavailable)
- ¼ cup kimchi
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp finely chopped peeled ginger
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 5 tbsp Korean chili paste (kochujang) (see Note), plus extra to serve
- ½ tbsp Korean chili powder (kochugaru) (see Note)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sake (see Note)
- 1 tbsp mirin (Sweetened Japanese Sake) (see Note)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil (Kadoya brand strongly preferred)
- 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
- lettuce leaves, to serve
- steamed rice, to serve
- kimchi, to serve
- White sesame seeds, to garnish
- Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Add most of the marinade to the pork, (reserving some for eating with the cooked pork) turn the meat to coat and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3 hours or preferably overnight.
- Place an oiled char-grill pan or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, in batches, for 2–3 minutes, turning a few times, until cooked and slightly charred around the edges. Wipe out the pan after each batch, adding more oil when necessary.
- To serve, garnish the cooked pork with sesame seeds and scallion, place a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, top with warm rice, kimchi, a piece of pork and reserved Ssamjang (쌈장) chili paste and roll to enclose.
- • Pork belly and pork neck are available sliced and in packets from Korean and some Asian grocers.
- • Kochujang and kochugaru are available from Korean food stores.
- • Sake and mirin are available from Japanese food stores, many Western grocery stores and some Asian grocers.
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