Korean Beef Bulgogi

Korean Beef Bulgogi

Who remembers Genghis Khan? Not the warrior who created the Mongol Empire in the 12th century, the largest empire in the world until the British Empire came along. I’m talking about the hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans back in the ’90’s. Korean-born Henry Lee, the first violinist for the New Orleans Symphony for 20 years, opened Genghis Khan in 1975 and it was the first Korean restaurant in the city. My husband and I ate there once a month without fail and we always ordered the Beef Bulgogi (commonly referred to as Korean Beef). Korean Whole Fish was the restaurant’s signature dish, but I never had the guts to try it. Mr. Lee was always there dressed in a suit and tie or his symphony tuxedo. He’d play the piano or take out his violin and serenade his customers. The waiters all sang opera and occasionally a diner would chime in. To the dismay of the entire city, this one-of-a-kind restaurant closed in 2004.

Authentic Korean food was an exotic and rare treat back in the day. Thankfully, in recent years, it has taken off like a rocket.  Korean restaurants dot the landscape, there are at least 6 here in New Orleans. I’ve come across a dozen recipes for Korean Beef (or Bulgogi) on internet food blogs. I just had to try my hand at it. So on a house-bound Saturday in July, with time on my hands and Tropical Storm Barry fizzling out over the Gulf, I made Korean Beef Bulgoki.

Thinly sliced rib eye steak, shaved carrots and green onions marinated in Korean soy sauce, ginger, garlic, grated apple, and sesame oil—all of it flash sautéed in a hot as hell cast iron skillet. I served it (for my husband) with jasmine rice and (for me) wrapped in crisp red leaf lettuce. It was as heavenly as I remembered, even better! I’m told you should also eat this with kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage) or ssamjang (a spicy dipping sauce).  My husband ate his with a Cajun chow chow and it was fab!

How to thinly slice beef for a stir fry

The key to any stir fry is to slice the meat as thin as possible. The thinner the slices, the more tender your meat will be. Partially freezing the meat for 30 minutes to an hour helps with this (frozen meat is easier to slice against the grain). The thin cuts of meat also make it easier to soak up the marinade in a shorter period of time. Don’t worry about the meat being frozen. The thin slices will thaw out within minutes.

Tips for making korean beef

  • You want a tender cut of beef here, I would’t use flank or hanger steak. The preferred cut is the rib-eye. I bought one big rib eye and it was plenty for 2. Tenderloin or top sirloin will also work.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan when you’re quick-sauteéing the meat; it’ll produce too much moisture and end up steaming the meat. A big no-no. Cook the bulgoki in batches.
  • Heat your skillet or grill pan before you add the meat. The beef should sizzle when it hits the pan.
  • If you want a really authentic dish, go ahead and spring for some Korean soy sauce via Amazon. You can use your usual Kikkoman, but the real deal is so good. I taste/smell tested my Korean soy sauce with the Kikkoman and there’s a distinct difference. The Korean version had a deeper, more mellow flavor and taste; the Kikkoman had a  sharper, more acidic bite to it.
  • Not a red meat eater? No problem! You can substitute chicken breasts or thighs or pork tenderloin. Just make sure you thinly slice it. And I’ll bet bulgogi would also be fabulous with some kind of Asian noodle cooked in broth. 

Korean Beef Bulgogi

July 16, 2019
: 2 (easily doubles)
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 rib-eye or tenderloin, thinly sliced (no more than 1/4 inch, preferably 1/8)
  • 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, 2 in. pieces, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp. toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. untoasted sesame or other neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine (mirin)
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 apple (e.g. Fuji), grated (or an Asian pear if you can find it!)
  • 2 tsp. ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
Directions
  • Step 1 Put the rib eye steak in the freezer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. You want it partially frozen.
  • Step 2 While meat is in the freezer, prep your veggies. Thinly slice the onion and cut the green onions into 2 inch pieces, then slice them length-wise. Reserve the tops for garnish.
  • Step 3 Use a vegetable peeler to peel off slices of the carrot, or you can use pre-packaged shredded carrot.
  • Step 4 In a ceramic or glass bowl, mix the marinade ingredients, adding the sesame oil only after you’ve mixed the rest of the ingredients.
  • Step 5 Take the meat out of the freezer and thinly slice it (the thinner the better).
  • Step 6 Toss the meat with the marinade, cover with plastic and let sit for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight.
  • Step 7 Using a cast iron grill pan or regular 12-inch pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and let the pan heat.
  • Step 8 When pan is sizzling hot, using tongs or a fork, sauté the meat and vegetables in the pan for 2-3 minutes (it won’t take long). Don’t overcrowd the pan, cook in batches.
  • Step 9 Using tongs or a fork, turn the meat over after approx. 1 minute.
  • Step 10 Place the cooked veggies and meat on a platter lined with a paper towels and repeat until all the meat is cooked.
  • Step 11 Serve over hot cooked jasmine rice or with fresh lettuce leaves, such as red leaf or bibb lettuce. I