Besides kimchi (pickled vegetables), bulgogi (barbecued beef) is perhaps one of the most popular Korean foods in the West. A soy and herbal marinade is the key to this tasty beef dish, but like many Asian marinades, only a small amount of liquid is used to flavor the meat. Grilled over a hibachi or in a grill pan, or stir-fried, until crisp (or to preferred doneness), the beef is wrapped in a tender lettuce leaf and may be eaten with a dab of pungent fermented Korean bean paste.
You will find thinly sliced beef, chicken, or pork in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese butcher shops. If you do not have these near you, ask your local butcher if he or she can slice the meat for you. If not, buy a large chunk and place it in the freezer for forty-five minutes to facilitate the slicing. Slice against the grain while the meat is still frozen.
1Whisk together the soy sauce and sugar in a bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the vegetable and sesame oils, sesame seeds, garlic, and scallions until well combined. Add the beef, tossing it with your hands to make sure it is evenly coated on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it, allowing the meat to marinate for 30 minutes. Drain the beef, shaking off the excess liquid and scraping off the scallion and garlic.
2Grill the beef, laying the slices flat on a table hibachi. If using a grill pan, brush a generous amount of vegetable oil on the cooking surface and heat it over medium-high heat. When it starts to smoke, add the beef slices and grill to your preferred doneness, but no more than 5 seconds on each side, so the beef remains tender.
Variation: Japanese sukiyaki, pan-seared beef, is similar to bulgogi. Mix together in a bowl 1 teaspoon tapioca starch, 2 tablespoons Japanese dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon sake, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add 1 pound thinly sliced beef sirloin and mix well. (There is just enough marinade; the beef should not be drowning.) Marinate for 30 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon beef suet in a pan over high heat. Sear the beef until done, about 5 seconds per side.
Beverage pairing:Brassfield Estate Merlot, High Serenity Ranch Vineyard, California. A good, dark wine structured with perky acidity, this Merlot has a tinge of soy and pepper, which makes a good pair with the beef. Serve it slightly chilled or at a cool room temperature.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.
Simon & Schuster