Bulgogi, a Korean classic of marinated grilled beef, is easy to make and fun to eat; it’s no wonder it is one of the country’s most successful culinary exports. As with most Korean barbecue, the meat is seasoned with sesame and scallion, and has ripe pears in the marinade to tenderize the meat and add a characteristic sweetness. Round, pale yellow Asian pears are traditional, but Bosc pears are just fine.
The meat is only half the recipe: Just as important are the crunchy vegetables, pungent herbs and savory sauces that all get wrapped together into delicious mouthfuls. Perilla is a common Korean herb in the mint family, but if you cannot find it, you can try other herbs like shiso or cilantro. Make sure to wrap your bundle tightly: According to Korean tradition, you must finish it in a single bite!
- 1 pound well-marbled, boneless sirloin, tenderloin or skirt steak
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 cup peeled, chopped ripe Asian or Bosc pear
- ¾ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar or honey
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
- Wrap beef in plastic wrap or butcher paper and place in freezer for 1 to 2 hours to firm up.
- Cut beef across the grain into thin slices. If cooking in a skillet, slices should be less than 1/8 inch thick; do not worry if they are a bit ragged. If cooking on the grill, uniform slices, 1/8-inch thick, are best.
- In a food processor, combine garlic, pear, onion and ginger and process until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
- In a bowl or sealable plastic bag, combine steak, marinade, scallion, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and pepper and mix well. Cover or seal, then refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- When ready to cook and serve, prepare garnishes. Lettuce leaves should be mounded in a large basket or platter; small dishes can hold remaining garnishes. Keep vegetables cold.
- If using a cast-iron grill pan or large skillet, heat over high heat. Add all the meat and its juices to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to brown around the edges. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately, directly from the skillet (this will keep the meat hot). If using a charcoal or gas grill, heat to high. Working in batches if necessary, place the sliced meat on the grill and cook, turning often, just until cooked through and browned, about 2 minutes. If desired, heat an empty cast-iron skillet and use as a serving dish; this will keep the meat hot. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- To eat, lay a lettuce leaf open on your palm. Add a perilla leaf (if using), a small lump of rice, 1 or 2 pieces of meat and any other garnishes on top, then dab with sauce. Wrap by lifting up the edges of the lettuce leaf, then twisting them together to make a tight bundle. Eat each bundle in one bite, according to Korean tradition.
Most of ingredents can be purchased at SFMart.com