Dish of the Week: Bulgogi

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're looking at bulgogi.

Bulgogi is Korean dish of grilled, marinated beef that is said to have originated during the ancient Goguryeo era (37 BC-668 AD). Literally meaning "fire meat" in Korean, the beef is cooked on a gridiron over an open flame. Variations on the dish include dak bulgogi (made with chicken) and dwaeji bulgogi (made with pork).

Traditionally, bulgogi is made with thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef that are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and spices that works to both flavor and tenderize the meat (sometimes, things like ginger, scallions, and pureed pears are added to the mix). It is often grilled alongside cloves of garlic, sliced onion, and green peppers before being served with whole lettuce leaves and ssamjang (a spicy Korean chili paste) -- though many variations on the dish exist.

Today, you'll find it in everywhere. Here in Houston, you can get everything from Koagie Hots' bulgogi cheese steaks to bulgogi-smothered fries at places like Oh My Gogi! Food Truck.

This recipe, from Saveur, uses a simple mixture of soy, toasted sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and scallions to make a bold marinade. Feel free to play around with the flavors, adding things like freshly grated ginger for extra zip or a hint of chili paste for heat. Mushrooms, peppers, and steamed rice also made a great addition to the dish.

Bulgogi (Korean Barbecue Beef)

Ingredients serves 4 to 6 2 lb. beef sirloin 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced ½ cup soy sauce ⅓ cup toasted sesame oil 2 tbsp. sugar 2 tsp. ground black pepper 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 6 scallions, sliced 1 tbsp. sesame seeds Green leaf lettuce, for serving Gochujang (Korean chili-bean paste), for serving


For easier slicing, wrap the beef in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. Unwrap and slice across the grain as thinly as possible, about 1⁄6". Place in a bowl along with onion. In a blender, combine soy sauce, oil, sugar, pepper, garlic, and scallions, pureeing until smooth. Pour over meat, and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a large cast-iron grill pan or griddle over high heat. Working in batches, spread beef and onion mixture in one layer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and cook, turning as needed, until charred and just cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Serve bulgogi atop lettuce leaves with gochujang on the side.

See more Dishes of the Week: Dish of the Week: Coq Au Vin Dish of the Week: Argentine Chimichurri Dish of the Week: Flourless Chocolate Cake Dish of the Week: New England Clam Chowder Dish of the Week: Beef Stroganoff Dish of the Week: Hushpuppies Dish of the Week: Irish Soda Bread Dish of the Week: Pastitsio Dish of the Week: Chicken Tikka Masala Dish of the Week: The Cuban Sandwich Dish of the Week: Chicken and Chorizo Empanadas Dish of the Week: Potato Kugel Dish of the Week: Korean Fried Chicken Dish of the Week: Wiener Schnitzel Dish of the Week: Mexican Chilaquiles Dish of the Week: Falafel Dish of the Week: Fish and Chips Dish of the Week: Jucy Lucy Dish of the Week: Gazpacho Dish of the Week: Baklava Dish of the Week: Steak au Poivre Dish of the Week: Fried Green Tomatoes Dish of the Week: Turkish Shish Kebab Dish of the Week: Alabama White Sauce Dish of the Week: Plum Clafoutis Dish of the Week: Spaghetti alla Carbonara Dish of the Week: Homemade Pierogi Dish of the Week: Scallion Pancakes Dish of the Week: Mofongo Dish of the Week: Summer Risotto Dish of the Week: The Chicago-Style Hot Dog Dish of the Week: Beer-Battered Apple Fritters Dish of the Week: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Dish of the Week: Chicken-Fried Steak Dish of the Week: Soufflé au Fromage Dish of the Week: Manhattan Clam Chowder Dish of the Week: Klobasneks Dish of the Week: Moussaka Dish of the Week: Arancini Dish of the Week: Classic Bread Pudding Dish of the Week: Étouffée Dish of the Week: Mexican Hot Chocolate

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano