I’ve always been interested with how food intersects with culture. I like to connect with other cultures that are not my own to experience other places. Partly it satisfies my interest to travel. Partly it feels like I’ll making up for a lack of culture. You see, I’m embedded in the nondescript culture of California. I know that someone far away imagines we’re the land of sunshine, fresh produce, and wine, and maybe we are, but when you’ve only grown up with this, you don’t know anything else and you take it for granted. It’s mundane and not so exciting or unique. What you don’t have is more interesting. The grass is greener on the other side.
Not to get all deep on you guys, but sometimes you just have to go outside of the box and make something you’re completely unfamiliar (and maybe even uncomfortable) with to learn from the experiences you’ve never had. This has lead me to trying new Asian dishes lately. Today, I share with you bulgogi, which is a South Korean dish I can barely pronounce, but absolutely love. This recipe is probably not authentic, but it’s fast and delicious, and it exposes me to a bit to Korean culture.
This “weekend-style” bulgogi recipe comes from the Kitchn. Naturally, I changed it, but more by accident than anything. I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, the marinade. Unlike most marinades I’ve made, this owe uses shredded pears with the juices to tenderize the meat. Who would have thought?! Combined with ginger, garlic, onions, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes, it screams Asian flavors. I almost wish there was a candle for it because it smelled that good.
Next, slice up a steak in thin strips.
This is where I went off course. Instead of grabbing the 2-pound package of flank steak from the back of my fridge, I accidentally pulled out the 1-pound package of skirt steak. Doh! A steak is a steak, but not exactly. It turns out that skirt steak has a super meaty taste (more so than flank steak) and holds up to marinades better than flank steak. Cool! Sounds like I chose the wrong meat wisely! Fortunately, it’s perfectly acceptable to use other cuts of beef (such as rib-eye) in bulgogi, or even chicken or pork.
After adding the meat, I had a lot of marinade going on and no idea why. What a weird recipe. No, I was just missing a pound without realizing it. Sort of wasteful, but no harm to the beef.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. After that, it’s time to cook it up. But where are the veggies? Green onions count, right? This is a meat-lovers dish although you can add green peppers if you like. I used a cast iron pan, hoping to get a good sear. Bulgogi is typically grilled, but it was cold outside. Probably 60 F. Welcome to California culture.
When it’s done, garnish with sliced green onions and serve over rice, if you wish. I had mine plain. The meat wasn’t as seared as I had hoped for, but the steak was so incredibly tender that it practically melted in my mouth. I might need to start marinating everything in pears.
- 2 large pears grated
- 2 inches fresh ginger grated
- 3 cloves garlic grated
- 4 green onions thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1-2 pounds skirt steak
- 1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- cooked rice optional
- Grate the pears on the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Make sure to collect the juices along with the peel and flesh of the pear. Grate ginger and garlic on the small holes of the grater into the same bowl.
- In the same bowl, add the white parts of the green onions, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Slice the steak into thin pieces across the grain of the meat. Add to the marinade and toss to coat.
- Cover the bowl and let the beef marinate for 30 minutes to 8 hours.
- When ready to cook, heat a large, wide cast iron or other pan over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of the oil to the hot pan and about a pound of meat. Sear until slightly charred and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving dish. If you are using more than a pound of meat, repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the rest of the meat.
- Garnish with the green parts of the green onion. Serve over rice (optional).