If you’re not a meat eater, then look away NOW!
The word “Bulgogi” literally means “fire meat” in Korean. It refers to marinated meat that is cooked using traditional grilling techniques such as gridirons or perforated dome griddles. The term is also applied to variations such as dak bulgogi (made with chicken) or dwaeji bulgogi (made with pork). The first time I ever ate beef bulgogi was actually in a hawker centre in Singapore, believe it or not. I can remember it being served with kimchi, some kind of soup broth, and plenty of rice. I really enjoyed this meal, and from that moment onwards I was happy to eat bulgogi anywhere – it’s pure heaven!
Bulgogi is made from thin slices of prime beef that before being cooked are marinated with a mixture of soy sauce and garlic to enhance the flavour. Sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat, and once fried, the dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often coated with a dab of ssamjang for good measure! I love my bulgogi with onions and beansprouts, as it gives a heavenly taste! In my opinion, some of the comparable beef dishes I have come across around the world are Bistek Tagalog (and maybe sisig) from the Philippines, as well as Iskandar Kebab in Turkey.
Over the years, Korean cuisine has became more and more popular, especially in the Americas. There is now a hybrid cuisine known as KO-MEX, which is a mixture of Korean and Mexican foods (think burrito = Korrito. Yep?). As such, you can find bulgogi-filled burritos, quesadillas and tacos all over North America and also in small doses in South Korea itself. Of course, being made primarily of beef, these strips are often a good filling for the hamburger, and now you can find quite prominently so-called ‘Bulgogi Burgers” from various fast food chains – even McDonald’s have got in on the act!
Why not try cooking your own Bulgogi, with this recipe and set of instructions from Korean food legend Maangchi.