Rice and beef, starch and protein. That looks pretty bland and uncomplicated, doesn’t it? Looks are deceiving.
The surprise comes when you taste the meat. It’s not just beef, it’s Bulgogi.
Bulgogi originated in what is now North Korea. At the end of World War II, refugees from the north brought it south. In South Korea, it’s now practically the national dish.
I used a recipe from Bon Appétit. The key to bulgogi’s taste is the marinade, which is a combination of soy sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, light brown sugar, toasted sesame oil, grated garlic, grated peeled ginger, and…grated pear? That puzzled me, so I researched it. Turns out that grated pear is a meat tenderizer, which allows you to use a cheaper cut of beef—flank steak, hanger steak, whatever—in the bulgogi.
The recipe said to let the steak marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, or eight hours in the refrigerator. I let it sit overnight.
I removed the thin slices of beef from the marinade and cooked them undisturbed in a single layer in a hot skillet for a minute, then stirred them occasionally, until they were brown on all sides.
The marinade’s unlikely combination of sweet and spicy and hot and cool ingredients gives the finished dish a unique and, well, addicting taste. I made bulgogi twice in one week.
This is sort of a cheat, because I’d never post a low-rated dish unless it went spectacularly, memorably wrong. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.
★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.