Except that my bulgogi wasn’t really barbecued; I hope nobody minds. This is something I’ve been meaning to try for years, ever since tasting it at a teeny Korean restaurant; when I saw packages of paper-thinly sliced beef at Arirang Market (beside Community Natural Foods on 10th) I bought one, which landed in the freezer when I didn’t get around to making bulgogi.
Bulgogi is very thinly sliced beef (to do it yourself, freeze the meat first, to make it easier to slice paper-thin) marinated in soy, sugar, sesame oil and garlic, then barbecued (or in my case, quickly stir-fried), then served with rice and spicy little salads and garnish; all I could come up with in less time than it took for the rice to cook was a quick cucumber salad, spiced up with a squirt of red chili paste. Sometimes bulgogi is served with lettuce leaves and garlic and chilies, with instructions to make your own lettuce rolls with the beef.
So my New Wednesday Resolution is to use at least one thing from the freezer every day for the next while, so as to free up some real estate for the impending onslaught of applesauce, cranberry-applesauce and so forth. As it stands, I can’t even make ice. One down, an avalanche of barely identifiable yogurt containers and zip-lock baggies to go.
3/4-1 lb. thinly sliced beef (I used ribeye; apparently sirloin is acceptable as well)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. white or brown sugar
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
canola or sesame oil, for cooking
1/2 onion, thinly sliced, or 2 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated (optional)
Put the beef into a zip-lock bag; add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and garlic, seal the bag and squish it around to combine it all well. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, or freeze for up to 6 months.
Heat up a large skillet and add a drizzle of canola and sesame oil (if you have it). If you are using white or yellow onions and want to cook them a little longer than you will the beef, saute them for a few minutes, until starting to turn golden. Otherwise, add the onion and carrot to the beef in a bowl, and saute the mixture a little at a time, without crowding the pan, just until the beef cooks through (it will be quick). Transfer the cooked beef to a plate or bowl and add extra oil as you need it. When the beef is cooked, serve immediately with steamed rice, pouring any excess liquid that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl overtop.
Marinated Cucumber Salad
1/2 sweet onion
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar or honey
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 squirt hot chili paste (the stuff in the squeeze bottle)
Put the onion in a medium bowl, cover it with cold water, add the vinegar and let it sit for 15 minutes (this will mellow out the onion a bit); drain well and add the cucumber and grated carrot.
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and chili paste, stir with a fork and pour over the cucumber mixture. Serve right away, or let it marinate for an hour or two. Serves 4-6.