There are three dishes in Korean cuisine most people are familiar with. The first one is kimchee, fermented spicy cabbage. Either you love kimchee or you don’t, there are no shades of gray. The 2nd and 3rd most popular are Korean barbecued beef dishes, bulgogi and Kalbi / Galbi. The primary difference between bulgogi and kalbi are the cuts of beef used as well as the cooking method. Traditionally short-ribs are used for preparing Kalbi and is cooked on a charcoal grill or broiled in the oven. Bulgogi on the other hand is thinly (card stock thin) sliced, against the grain rib-eye steak prepared on a hibachi grill, broiled in the oven, or pan-fried. Both dishes use a similar or same type of marinade.
Bulgogi can be served as a main dish over a bowl of hot steamy white rice or as a component in other Korean dishes such as japchae, lettuce wraps, banchan (an assortment of Korean side dishes), bibimbap, and kimbap to name a few. However you decide to eat it, bulgogi will soon become a favorite in your home too! I have also included a gluten-free variation as well. Enjoy!
- 1-1.5 lbs. of thinly sliced rib-eye steak purchased from a Korean market. Or you can slice your own rib-eye or sirloin steak across the grain in paper thin slices. Partially freezing the beef helps with cutting clean slices.
- ⅓ cup of soy sauce or for a Gluten-Free variation, use San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce found in the health food section of your local grocery store.
- 3 Tbl white sugar
- 1 Tbl sesame oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into medium moon shaped slivers
- 2 green onions including the white parts, finely sliced into small pieces
- 2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes
- 2 pinches of black pepper
- optional ¼ 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 marinade with your hands into each slice of beef. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. To pan fry, place a few slices of beef in single layers and completely flat on a hot oiled frying pan and fry each side until cooked. Some people prefer to cook the bulgogi until some of the edges have turned dark brown and crispy. Serve with a bowl of hot rice. Enjoy!
Side note: Many bulgogi recipes call for shredded apples or Korean apple-pears. Because the meat is sliced very thinly, I’ve found the addition of fruit to sweeten and tenderize un-necessary especially when using rib-eye steak purchased from either a Korean or Asian grocery store specifically cut for bulgogi. To learn more about bulgogi, Wikipedia has an excellent article here.
*If you would prefer a Kalbi recipe, I have one here.