Beef Bulgogi and Why I Love Korean Food

Beef Bulgogi and Why I Love Korean Food

Story time! One of my best friends for nearly the last decade (that makes me feel old!) is Korean-American. She lived down the street from me with her Korean mother and decidedly un-Korean stepfather. During high school, we rode the bus (and then later her hand-me-down car) to and from school together; more often than not, we’d get off at either her bus stop or mine together and hang out. If you’ve ever been a teenager you’ll know that a sacred ritual is the after school snack: it’s one of the only times of the day that what you eat isn’t designated by your parents or the school or even the fast food you could walk or drive to during lunch if you were lucky enough to be allowed to eat lunch off-campus. Well, we weren’t allowed to leave school grounds to get lunch which made the after school snack an even bigger deal. The days that my friend A and I went to my house, we subsisted off of pizza rolls, hot pockets, and other stereotypically “American” freezer food. But on the magical days that we went to A’s house after school, I was treated to food from a whole ‘nother continent! At A’s house, there was always a rice cooker full of perfect rice on the counter, always a gallon jar (or 2) of homemade kimchi in the refrigerator, and sometimes there would be leftover kimbap or egg rolls and I could die happy (and full). On these days at her house, A would either join me in my quest to eat as much kimchi as possible or she’d make herself a hot dog while I chowed down. These “snacks” and my friendship with A have made me into a lover of all things Korean (at least food-wise); it didn’t exactly hurt matters that for a good part of high school, A worked as a waitress for the premier (and only–but it was still awesome) Korean restaurant in town.

Until recently, I have never dared to replicate any food item that I could get better at a Korean restaurant. However, I will be moving out of the state next year and I know three things: that A and I will spend less time together than we have been even these past 4 years, that my favorite Korean restaurant might not be in my hometown the next time I visit, and that no matter what, Korean food always tastes like home to me. So with these thoughts in mind (and after a visit to a local Korean restaurant that I found deeply unsatisfying), I decided to tackle the quintessential Korean food: beef bulgogi.

Bulgogi is, simply put, a dish made of marinated beef, pork, or chicken that is cooked in a pan or over an open flame. It is traditionally served over rice with a host of sides (for example: kimchi, boiled bean sprouts, and occasionally, at my favorite Korean restaurant, coleslaw).

I check for a recipe and found one that looked suitably inexpensive and “right.” The original recipe is from the blog at Sweet Savory Life but I have posted here the modified recipe that I used. I hope you enjoy it, even if you didn’t grow up with a wonderful ambassador to Korean food like I did šŸ™‚

*Sorry, this still isn’t the one I made; I found it on Google again. However, mine did look quite similar to this! Minus the carrots on top–I’m not that fancy.


  • 1.5 – 1.75 lbs. of thinly sliced steak (it’s recommended to use rib-eye but we used the sirloin tips that come pre-sliced. Tip: have the butcher slice it for you if it’s not pre-sliced!)
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 1/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbspĀ  sesame oil
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into medium moon shaped slivers
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced into small pieces
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds (toasted or not toasted; omit if you dislike them)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (adjust for how spicy you want it)
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. of ginger, finely minced


  • Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl except beef and onions. When most of the sugar has dissolved, add beef and onion slices to the bowl and massage the marinadeĀ  with your hands into each slice of beef.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • To pan fry, heat a few tablespoons of oil until shimmering (I used olive oil but sesame or vegetable would probably work just as well). Place beef slices completely flat in a large skillet and cook stir-fry style until done (usually 3-5 minutes).
  • Enjoy over a bowl of long-grain or jasmine rice and with a side of kimchi! (a good store brand is King’s Kimchi)

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