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Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)


Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)

Bulgogi is a marinated meat dish made with thin slices of beef, usually rib-eye. It is no doubt one of the most well-known Korean dishes to non-Koreans.

The important thing is to find the right balance between saltiness and sweetness. Using generous amounts of garlic and sesame oil is important to create authentic bulgogi. The same marinade also can be used for chicken or pork. The best way to enjoy Korean barbecued meat is to wrap a bite-sized piece in a lettuce leaf with a dollop of ssamjang (spice paste) or doenjang (soybean paste).


*Note: Pre-sliced bulgogi meat is sold at any Korean market. Pay a little more to get good-quality meat. If cutting the beef at home, partially freeze for about an hour to firm it up for easier slicing. Cut across the grain into about 1/8-inch-thick slices.


For the marinade

  • 6 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine or mirin
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 Teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Asian pear (optional)
  • 1/8 Teaspoon pepper

For the bulgogi

  • 2 Pounds thinly sliced beef rib-eye or top sirloin*
  • 3 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 10 mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
  • Sesame oil, for the grill or skillet


For the marinade

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

For the bulgogi

If using packaged pre-sliced meat, separate the slices. Add the meat and vegetables to the marinade and toss gently to combine everything well. Marinate for about 1 hour, then drain.

If grilling the meat and vegetables, build a charcoal fire under a grill and let the flames die out. (For gas, preheat the grill over high heat.) Lightly oil the grill and cook the meat and vegetables together until the meat is slightly caramelized, about 3-4 minutes total. Cook in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the grill.

If pan-frying the meat and vegetables, heat a skillet over high heat until hot and coat lightly with sesame oil. Again, cook the meat and vegetables in batches, about 3-4 minutes total. Transfer each batch to a plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.