Project Food Blog Challenge 2: Korean Beef Bulgogi

by Andie Mitchell on September 26, 2010

I’ve always been a dreamer. Imaginative, fanciful even. At seven I was packing up my pink pleather suitcase, bedazzled no doubt, with all I’d need for a life on the road. My brother had broken the tire on my Barbie Corvette and I, well I just couldn’t live with that. I neatly packed a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, Wedding Day Barbie, Teddy Ruxpin, the 64 pack of Crayola crayons, and my recorder, and set out on foot. Thank God I had that recorder, so I could play the blues like B.B. King. Though, I’ll admit that something is amiss when you’re using an out of tune flute.

I was going to be a runaway, headed east. Mom saw me trying to shove my suitcase through the front door and asked me where I was going. “Mash,” I replied matter of factly.

“Mash, like the show?…You’re walking to Korea?” Mom asked.

“Duh.”

I’d just spent the night before watching M*A*S*H with my dad. I got the feeling that Korea was not only the farthest and most exotic place in the world, but that it was dad’s escape too. And from the way he laughed, I was sure it must be fun. What could be more fun than entering a war zone?

I got as far as the Weagles’ house and had to take a break. Three houses away is three weeks when you’re living on the street. Punky Brewster would understand. By the time I ran out of Boku and ran through the short list of songs I knew how to play, I turned back.

I burst through the front door and mom asked where I’d been for the last two hours.

“Korea.”

“Oh, is that right?” Mom smirked.

“Yup. You should go sometime. They have lots of stuff there that only some people know about.” So gifted with words.

“Okay, maybe Dad and I will go someday. Get ready for dinner.”

“I already ate. Korea food.”

Thankfully I wasn’t pressed as to what that Korean meal was. My story might have folded. I’d guess something along the lines of pisketti with brown sauce and pancakes with only the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. Real Asian delicacies.

For the rest of the night I sat in my room and cut out shapes and colors and glued them to the wall. Memories from my trip east. I made my brother jealous with stories of the meals and snacks and desserts in Asia. I wonder what I knew about Korea when I traveled there in my mind at seven.  My taste buds had never traveled beyond Ireland and Italy.

You see, my childhood kitchen was classically American. A Norman Rockwell of the dining table crowded roast beef, potatoes, and corn, creamed. No simmering curries, no exotic spices peeking out of the spice cabinet. China was a local area code and a white paper box scrawled with red symbols.

No one told me that coconut existed outside of Almond Joy and custard pie. That peanut butter cheated on jelly for soy sauce. That ginger, lemongrass, and tamari were friends.

Not until I moved into my own apartment did I realize that I could love foreign fare. I browsed books. “Borrowed” a couple from the library (don’t ask about my blacklisting). Spent a cool million at the Asian market, loading my shoebox of a pantry with fish sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil. It wasn’t immediate immersion. I spent years learning how the Thai, the Chinese, and the Japanese craft such luscious stir fries. What is that flavor that I’m missing in my own kitchen attempts? Soy sauce, check. Ginger, check. Sesame oil, check. Sugar, check, check , check (an admitted sweet seeker, here). What I’ve discovered, other than that soy sauce doesn’t rinse out of my favorite white button down, is that these dishes achieve that brilliant balance of sweet and savory with the addition of a few splashes of ingredients like fish sauce, oyster sauce, and chili paste.

These meals that I make now, in my newly acquired culinary language, are expressions of the same imagination I had at seven. They transport me to a time, a place, a feeling. An exotic destination that I can only dream to be true. Today, that place is Korea. An homage to my littler self, who ate pisketti and marshmallows from the Lucky Charms box with Korean children in her mind.

It’s a wonder I’ve never tried my hand at Korean food. When I set out to tackle it, I pored over recipes online. What are the key flavors of the cuisine? What meats and vegetables are popular? I found pictures of beef bulgogi and ate it with my eyes. Delicious looking must translate to delicious tasting, I thought. And so it began.

At the market I filled my basket with flank steak and ginger, soy sauce and fish sauce, cabbage and toasted sesame oil. The makings of a true Korean classic. With Andrea flair.

This is Korean Beef Bulgogi, and it is outrageously flavorful. I marinated the flank steak in soy, sesame, sugar, and chili, and grilled it until the edges charred. The result is an unbearably tender, succulent bite of beef. I decided to pair it with a zesty ginger slaw, and the brightness adds such a beautiful dimension to the meal. To serve, I wrapped the steak and slaw in corn tortillas, to create, a fusion of Asian and Mexican cuisines. This is a flavor marriage I began loving here in Seattle, a city where food trucks reign and plates of hot Korean tacos are gobbled up by the dozens. Enjoy!

Beef Bulgogi

inspired by Week of Menus

(serves 4)

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP cup sesame oil
  • 2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chili sauce (I like Sambal Oelek)

Crush the garlic by wacking the heel of your palm against the flat side of a large knife. This will break the skin of the garlic, and let you slip it off easily.

Now mince them finely. Or use a garlic press to make the task much much easier.

Add the minced garlic to a bowl or large measuring cup. This is what you’ll combine all marinade ingredients in.

Chop the scallions- both whites and greens.

Plop them into the bowl.

Add sugar

And soy sauce

Add rice wine vinegar

And sesame oil

Then add chili sauce and give it a good whisking.

Place your beef in a wide, shallow bowl. I used flank steak and cut the beef in half, along the grain, so that it would be easier to manage the large size.

Pour the marinade over the beef, making sure all parts are well covered. Wrap the bowl plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Now make the slaw. Gather your ingredients for the sauce.

Zesty Korean Ginger Slaw

(serves 4)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
  • 1” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 TBSP fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP chili sauce
  • 1 head napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 4 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

Whenever you’re making a sauce that will not be cooked, I recommend grating the garlic, rather than mincing it with a knife. Garlic is pungent and sharp, so biting into raw pieces can be unpleasant. The smaller you can mince it or grate it, the better.

Now peel a 1″ knob of ginger and grate it just as you did the garlic. Ginger is softer, so it will release juices as it’s grated.

Add the garlic and ginger to a clean mixing bowl or measuring cup.

Add your sugar

Followed by fish sauce

Then soy sauce

Rice wine vinegar

Sesame oil

And finally chili sauce. Give this mixture a whisk to combine.

Now chop up your vegetables.

A medium sized head of napa cabbage

Four or five radishes cut into matchsticks.

Toss them into a large bowl with 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup of red bell pepper (sliced into matchsticks), and chopped scallions.

Pour the sauce on top and toss to coat all of the vegetables. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Now let’s get the grill heated up. Remove the flank steak from the marinade and grill it for 5 minutes per side on a gas grill with the burners set to medium.

And the flip

Let the meat rest for 15 minutes before slicing verrrry thinly against the grain.

Now let’s plate ‘em. Arrange a mound of slaw and a few slices of beef on each tortilla.

This is my official entry into Challenge 2: The Classics of Foodbuzz’ Project Food Blog, a competition to find the Next Food Blog Star.  Voting for this second round of the contest begins Monday, September 27th at 6AM Pacific Time through Thursday September 30th at 6PM Pacific Time. Click here to see my profile and if you’d like, vote: CanYouStayForDinner. Here is my entry page: Korean Beef Bulgogi

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica September 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

BEAUTIFUL entry. I just want to eat that whole bowl of slaw. Best of luck in Round #2. I will be cheering you on!

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Sana September 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I knew this was going to be an amazing entry before I even read it! <3 you and your blog :)

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RhodeyGirl September 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Andrea, you really make for tough competition.

I love your stories and I love this entry.

You have my vote!

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Sarah September 26, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I love this post, Andrea!

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Alicia at Poise in Parma September 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Yeah, this puts my Korean inspired entry to shame! Beautiful post!

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Erin September 26, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Absolutely gorgeous! I lived in Korea for a year and while it was by far the most foreign place I’d ever been, it also had an amazing range of comfort foods that appealed across culture. I was a meat-eater at the time and used to love bulgogi — we went to an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Korean BBQ place once a week and ate tons of it for about 5,000 won ($4.50).

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Andrea@WellnessNotes September 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I love that you chose a dish that brings back childhood memories… :) And I like that you put your own spin on it! Bulgogi is such a flavorful dish! You’ll do great in the challenge! :)

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Christine September 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I’m Korean and it looks really good! =)

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Lindsay @ The Ketchup Diaries September 26, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I don’t even like steak and this looks good. The pictures are awesome!

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Anna September 26, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Yummm, that looks gorgeous, so colorful and pretty. Good luck in this round! have a great week

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biz319 September 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

You have my vote!! Yep, definitely going on the list of things to make – like tomorrow!

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cozydelicious September 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm

This looks amazing! Your slaw looks perfect and fresh, your beef so juicy. I want it right now! You totally have my vote!

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Tina September 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm

You deserve to move onto round 3 without a doubt. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you won the whole thing. Your posts are that amazing.

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) September 27, 2010 at 7:09 am

I’ve been *looking* for a recipe like this one!! It looks amazing. :D

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candicemccoy September 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

I’m a vegetarian, so not a big fan of steak, but this dish is beautiful! I love all the colors and the slaw sounds amazing. Great photos too. You’ve got my vote:)

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Lu September 27, 2010 at 9:32 am

I’m no longer intimidated by Bulgogi. I will definitely have to make this very soon. The slaw sounds wonderful. I love your story of heading east, too. It was great.

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Kristina (My Life as a Mrs) September 27, 2010 at 10:19 am

YUM! Good luck! i voted for you!! :)

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Deanna September 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

This looks so easy and so delicious! I am going grocery shopping tonight!! You’ve got my vote too!

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Megan (Braise The Roof) September 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

Yum, your recipe looks beautiful and delicious (as per usual!). I haven’t experimented much with Korean cuisine but whenever I see a dish like yours I think I should try my hand! Um, and I also had a pink Barbie Corvette. My parents saved it and my little nephews drive it around now (yes, over 20 years later)…they better not break it or else!

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haya September 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm

awesome! i am definitely going to have to attempt this. looks delish.

i might be going to korea in the spring to visit my parents, and i’ve been thinking that i should start learning more about the food before i go.

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A Boston Food Diary September 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

This looks beautiful-and a sure fire winner! Good luck!

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@lickmyspoon September 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Your photos make me crave a pre-lunch meal, homemade bulgogi is so ridiculously good. What was your plan as a kid for when you got to Korea? Would you play recorder for tips?

By the way, thanks for linking me to that toffee bar post. I’m not sure when I’ll make them, but when I do I’ll be sure to tell you how they turn out.

Just voted for you! Good luck this round.

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Thanks so much!

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Joanne Choi September 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I’m so glad I happened to see this – great job! It’s so funny for me to see that this recipe is out of your comfort zone since it is totally IN mine. But great work and the photos are gorgeous. You have my vote!

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thanks so much, Joanne! Your blog is wonderful, I learned so much just reading through it this past weekend!

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Amy (Sing For Your Supper) September 27, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I was cracking up reading this- I totally used to do the same thing when I was a kid! And I *never* would’ve even considered leaving the house without my Teddy Ruxpin, either! :)
This was such a great post- I really enjoyed it! You absolutely have my vote!!

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Thanks Amy! Teddy Ruxpin was the greatest friend.

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Amy (Sing For Your Supper) September 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

He was the BEST friend…unfortunately, I was a destructive child and pulled his eyes out. I guess I wasn’t the greatest friend to poor Teddy…. ;)

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

hahaha

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fittingbackin September 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Great blog! I’m going to have to try some of these recipes. This one in particular!

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Thank you!

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Susan September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

Quick question, how much chilli sauce goes into the marinade? Thanks!

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Can You Stay for Dinner September 28, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi Susan! Two tablespoons of chili sauce! Sorry if I forgot that one!! Thanks for asking

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Joan Nova September 28, 2010 at 8:13 am

Entertaining story and good entry presentation. I voted.

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kace September 28, 2010 at 8:35 am

I still watch reruns of MASH with my dad sometimes : )

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Amelia from Z Tasty Life September 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

funny post! and tantalizing dish.
You have one of my votes. (See my entry here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/869)

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Devaki @ weavethousandflavors September 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

BEAUTIFUL DARLING! You write beautifully, you present beautifully and you make Gorgeous food. You’ve got MY vote! :)

Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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Jane Ko September 29, 2010 at 12:38 am

Voted for you and good luck with PFB :)

I would like to invite you to participate in my giveaway
http://atasteofkoko.blogspot.com/2010/08/mini-pistachio-tea-cakes-40.html

Here is my entry for PFB http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/1039

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RhodeyGirl October 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm

For what it’s worth, you seriously deserved to move on in this challenge.

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Thank you very very much, Sabrina. I’m really glad you’ll be in the next round. I’m cheering for you all the way!

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KellyAnne October 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

I made this for dinner last weekend, and it was divine (my boyfriend was quite happy with it as well)! I can’t believe how much flavor the steak had, it had a great kick! Thanks for the recipe :)

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 14, 2010 at 7:52 am

Thanks KellyAnne!! I know, the beef is packed with spice and sweet/savory flavor. I’m so happy to hear you like it!!

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Tina Marie October 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Woo hoo I just bought the Women’s World Magazine and read your article. I had to get on here and find you. Your a true inspiration, everything you wrote about your experience with food is ME. and I am not a lowfat or a low cal meal buyer they are not filling. I want a diet that I can experiment with foods and still stay low in calorie intake. My problem is I have two kids at home. My husband and son who is 13 years old boy he is an eater…. This makes it very hard on me when shopping. Or making dinner. So I am going to make a regular visit here and get new ideas….

Are you on Facebook at all?

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Can You Stay for Dinner October 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Hi Tina! Thank you so very much for your comment! I’m so glad you said hello- it’s wonderful meeting people with a similar background and experience. I know how hard it can be to please all the eaters in your household, especially when you want to cook healthy meals. I did this for my family (mom, dad, sisters) for two years and it could be challenging, but so worth it. I like to makeover a lot of comfort foods in a slightly modified/ lighter way. I hope you’ll stick around and say hello every now and then!! I wish you the best!

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Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Ohhhhhhhhh snap. Yesterday I decided to cook a healthy, delicious dinner and this recipe is the project I chose to undertake. Seriously, for all of you who have been eating this with your eyes, try eating it with your mouth!!! The slaw had an amazing texture and the sauce complemented the vegetables perfectly. The bulgogi was mouth-watering, tender, and had the right amount of sweetness and tang. All of this yummy goodness piled on top of a corn tortilla made a fabulous Korean taco! :) It was very easy to cook and left me feeling happy and satisfied, although a bit sad I couldn’t eat more! Best part is, I have leftovers for tonight. Awww, yeah!!

(I had to broil the beef flanks…no grilling during a downpour! It still came out juicy and flavorful. I also have a jar of minced garlic on hand, so I took some of that and mashed it into a pulp…I’m sure the fresh clove would’ve been better, but this worked well too.)

Absolutely perfect. This will definitely be something I cook frequently. Thank you, Andrea!!

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Jeniece July 5, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I think I’m in lust.

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Tricia January 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

Looks great! I lived in Korea for 2 years and the food there is nothing short of AMAZING! It’s all so simple t make, too. You ever think of experimenting with kimchi? Kimchi fried rice is my absolute favorite Korean dish. Love your site!

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Sook June 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm

What a great recipe! Yummy photos, too!

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Stephanie March 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm

This looks great!! How much soy sauce did you use in the slaw?
Thanks =)

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Andie March 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Hey Stephanie,

Thanks!
Sorry–my error. 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Andie

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Gina March 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Nutritional info??

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Patt March 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I just made these for lunch, on a common Monday, because the steak had been marinating in my fridge since Saturday morning (it was a busy weekend). Oh. My. Goodness.!!! Such delightful taste explosions in my mouth! This has turned a normal Monday into a party! Thanks for the recipe!

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Amanda August 7, 2013 at 12:48 am

I just made this for dinner! It was a huge hit with both my husband and I! The only thing I substituted was brown rice instead of tortilla. Can’t wait to have left overs for lunch tomorrow!

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