Thanks so much to everyone who voted for us! We made it to Round Two of Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog. For this challenge we were tasked with taking on an “ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with.” We’d like to say that we poured hours over cookbooks to decide what to make, but our classic dish came to us pretty quickly. We both love pork (hello, magical beast!) and Brownie loves her some Korean food, but she always has it out at a restaurant. Clearly this was a call to action to bring some Daeji Bulgogi home…
Daeji Bulgogi is a traditional Korean barbecue dish consisting of very thin slices of spicy marinated pork. It’s typically served wrapped in lettuce often with hot peppers and miso paste and/or gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste). It’s Brownie’s favorite dish to order at Korean barbecue joints. The trouble with Korean barbecue joints is they don’t come cheap and well…we are cheap. Daeji Bulgogi alone can run you around $22 per order and when you can get satisfying Korean stews like Kimchi Jiigae (spicy kimchi and pork stew) or Sundubu Ijigae (spicy seafood and tofu stew) for $10, it’s hard to justify ordering barbecue except on the rarest of special occasions. If we could crack homemade Daeji Bulgogi that would be a huge boon to our culinary skill set.
Brownie first announced our plan to make Daeji Bulgogi to one of the new ladies at work. “You’re making Daeji Bulgogi?! That‘s so awesome. I always ask my mom to make me it for me. It‘s sooooo good. Don‘t forget to add kiwis to the marinade. That’s what my mom does and it makes the meat super tender.” Point taken.
After a few frantic calls to Brownie’s friend Vero. “Ahhhh! I’m standing in a aisle full of lettuce. Which one do you use for the wraps?” Two minutes later “Ahhhhhhh! What is the pepper paste called again? The one for the Bibimbap? Ok, got it.”
Daeji Bulgogi is typically a barbecued dish. When you get it out at a Korean restaurant, it‘s typically prepared in front of you on a gas grill, if you‘re lucky some places do charcoal, but in our experience the charcoal places do charcoal exclusively for beef Bulgogi because the fattiness of the pork can really stoke the charcoal flames, which makes for perhaps less than safe dining in close quarters.
We considered firing up the baby bbq in the back alley of Brownie’s apartment building, but with the threat of rain, that didn’t seem prudent and besides, if we were going to learn to make Bulgogi, it would be great to figure out a recipe that we could have all year round, not just during outdoor bbq season to come up with a recipe we cruised the interwebs, probed the minds of several Korean friends and Brownie’s sister-in-law, a fearless home chef. Here’s what we came up with:
3lb boneless pork country ribs
1/4 cup soy sauce
15 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 kiwis, peeled
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Quickles (Korean Quick Pickles, see recipe below)
Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)
1 large head red leaf lettuce
Miso paste, to taste
Gochujang, to taste
Put pork in freezer for around an hour to make the meat easier to slice. While meat is in the freezer, in a food processor puree: soy sauce, garlic, tahini, gochujang, onion and kiwi.
Once meat has entered a semi frozen state, slice it into thin pieces. Sprinkle with sugar, then pound with a mallet until super thin.
Place the pork in a gallon sized zipper close bag and pour over the marinade. Let as much air out of the bag as possible and seal it. Turn and knead the bag to distribute the marinade. Place bag in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Heat vegetable oil in cast iron pan. When pan is hot, cook pork in batches for a couple of minutes per side until cooked. When pork is done, remove from heat and set aside on a platter for serving.
Serve family style with lettuce leaves and dipping sauce. Have guest make their own lettuce wraps adding miso and Gochujang paste and pickles to taste.
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon tahini
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
In a small bowl combine soy sauce, vinegar and tahini.Top with sesame seeds and scallions.
Quickles (aka quick Korean style pickles)
2 Kirby cucumbers, very thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon gochujang
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¾ cup white vinegar (or enough to cover)
Layer Kirby cucumbers in a wide and shallow dish. Add garlic, gochujang, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Add white vinegar to completely cover. Stir to mix ingredients and then refrigerate until serving.
When all was said and done this recipe proved to be easier than we imagined. It’s all about having the right ingredients and the time to prep the marinade. This would be a terrific dish for a crowd either as a picnic or even in Bulgogi taco form for watching the big game. It’s great to think that Korean barbecue can be so accessible.
A warning to prospective barbecuers--if you are making this in your home kitchen, choose your pan wisely. With all the sugar in the meat tenderizer, this dish has serious potential as a pan killer. If you have a self cleaning oven, I suggest tossing the pan in on the self cleaning setting and putting your feet up. If you don’t have a self cleaning oven, well…hopefully you have some grateful dinner guests who are willing to put in a little elbow grease…
Thanks for sharing our first Bulgogi experience. Voting for Challenge #2 of Project Food Buzz begins on September 27 at 9am EST and ends September 30th at 9pm EST. If you have the time to throw a vote our way, that would be most excellent!