Restaurant bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) recipe

Restaurant bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) recipe

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  • Meat and poultry
  • Beef

This recipe is very close to the Bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) served at restaurants, the marinated beef sirloin strips barbecued with the delectable east Asian flavours of the three 'S' s - soy, sake and sesame. The tender beef strips are then wrapped in lettuce leaves with hot chilli sauce and the 'bundles' are eaten as 'finger food', every bite packed with savoury tangy heat and fresh crispness combined. Add some Korea-licious to your next outdoor barbecue, you won't be sorry!

Be the first to make this!

IngredientsServes: 8

  • 680g beef sirloin
  • 120ml soy sauce
  • 120ml sake (rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chilli paste (purée)
  • 8 spring onions, chopped into 3cm pieces
  • 55g lettuce, such as butterhead

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:7min ›Ready in:22min

  1. Slice beef with the grain into long strips, about 1.5cm wide, and place into a bowl. Stir together the soy sauce, sake, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, pepper and chilli paste in a small bowl. Pour one third of this mixture over the beef, and toss to coat. Marinate at least one hour at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator. Simmer the remaining sauce and the spring onions in a small saucepan for 1 minute before pouring into a serving dish to cool.
  2. Wash and dry the lettuce, and trim off any large stems. Gently flatten the leaves with the side of a cleaver or large knife. Arrange on a serving dish.
  3. Preheat barbecue for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate.
  4. Place grate 7.5cm over the coals. Cook the meat to desired doneness, about three minutes per side for medium rare. Slice against the grain into thin strips.
  5. To serve, each diner places some beef and sauce into a lettuce leaf, folds it into a bundle, and eats it with their fingers.

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Bulgogi – Authentic Korean BBQ Recipe

Bulgogi – My Korean grandmother’s family beef bulgogi recipe is made of thinly sliced beef (usually rib-eye), pre-soaked in bulgogi marinade. Bulgogi is then grilled on a barbeque or pan-fried. Tender caramelized beef bulgogi is what Korean BBQ is all about! This bulgogi recipe is authentic and best served with steamed rice.


There are three traditional Korean dishes most people are familiar with. The most popular and my personal favorite beef bulgogi and kalbi – types of Korean BBQ, cooked over charcoal or an open flame. Both types of Korean BBQ tastes slightly sweet, full of savory flavors of garlic, sesame sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, and onions. Bulgogi is one the most flavorful barbecue beef dishes you will ever experience and enjoy.

If bulgogi is the most popular, the most recognizable and beloved Korean dish is kimchi. A fermented spicy side dish made from Napa cabbage or other vegetables, kimchi is served at every meal as banchan – a collection of small side dishes served with rice.


The primary difference between authentic bulgogi and kalbi are the cuts of beef used as well as the cooking method. Bulgogi is made from thinly sliced tender beef – rib-eye is the most common and flavorful cut of bulgogi beef, although some people will use sirloin. Kalbi are short-ribs. Korean BBQ recipes for both types of beef dishes are nearly the same. You could easily use the bulgogi marinade on the short-ribs, but they will taste slightly different due to the cut of beef. Still.. both are good—really good!

Two more things I want to mention about bulgogi and kalbi, grilling both will produce the best tasting Korean BBQ. However, when grilling is not an option, bulgogi is pan-fried. Whereas kalbi is broiled in the oven – never pan-fried.

Beef Bulgogi and kalbi can be served as a stand-alone Korean BBQ main dish but bulgogi can be used as a component in other Korean food such as kimbap, bibimbap, japchae, or Korean lettuce wrap.
I have so many found memories of our Korean congregants cooking both bulgogi and kalbi over a grate covered fire pit they dug on the beaches of Puget Sound in the summer for our annual church summer picnic.


Every Korean person has their own authentic bulgogi recipe. It all boils down to the bulgogi marinade. When making bulgogi sauce, you will find plenty of bulgogi recipes calling for Asian pears, kiwis, 7-Up, Coke Cola, honey, or brown sugar. Using soda or grated / pureed Asian pears or kiwi are often used to help tenderize the beef. However, I find this unnecessary when using thinly-sliced rib-eye for beef bulgogi. Using these ingredients makes a lot more sense for making Korean BBQ short-ribs.

First off, rib-eye is plenty tender especially when cut bulgogi-thin. How much tender does it need to be? This is why I love our family’s easy bulgogi recipe because we like to keep it simple. Coke or 7-Up is also used as a sweetener in bulgogi marinade but it’s my personal opinion other sweeteners you probably have on hand work just as good. If anyone tries to tell you a bulgogi recipe needs these things, use this bulgogi recipe to prove them wrong.

The use of sodas and pureed fruit to tenderize and sweeten bulgogi is not necessary but is better suited for tenderizing Korean BBQ short-ribs – although this is also debatable.


  • thinly sliced rib-eye (You can purchase bulgogi rib-eye beef pre-sliced from a Korean market. The package will be labeled bulgogi beef. They actually sell it as “bulgogi” beef. If you don’t see it, ask the butcher behind the counter for bulgogi beef and he’ll grab you some. Or you can slice your own rib-eye or sirloin steak across the grain in 1/8”-thick slices. Tip: If you partially freeze the bulgogi, you will be able to cut the beef much easier than if you don’t. You’ll be much happier being able to cut clean slices without much resistance.)
  • yellow onion
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • sugar
  • roasted sesame seeds
  • red pepper flakes
  • black pepper
  • *optional fresh ginger, agave syrup or honey


This bulgogi recipe has been updated to reflect the change in recommended marinating times. I used to recommend marinating the bulgogi overnight. The good news is, if you buy the type of bulgogi beef I suggested, you can make the most delicious bulgogi after 30 minutes of marinating. Because the slices of rib-eye are so thin (the Korean market slices are slightly less than 1/8-inch thick), the bulgogi doesn’t need as long to absorb the bulgogi marinade. I still believe the longer the beef can soak up the marinade, the better it will be but after making this bulgogi recipe for over 25 years, I no longer believe overnight is best. 30 minutes is enough time to make delicious bulgogi and up to overnight. If I had to pick the perfect amount, I would say 1-2 hours – but only if you use the rib-eye bulgogi beef from the Korean store I recommended in this bulgogi recipe.

I always have sliced bulgogi rib-eye in my freezer for making Korean BBQ whenever I want. What I usually bring it out from the freezer to the counter and will put it in the microwave on defrost mode for 3 minutes after I’ve removed it from its packaging. Three to four minutes on defrost mode is just enough time so I can cut through the sliced rib-eye without much resistance. From there I will make the bulgogi marinade and have found the beef is usually thawed out enough (it doesn’t take too long since it’s thinly sliced) by the time I’ve made the bulgogi marinade. Once I add the beef I give it a good massage.

Massaging beef? Say what? Yes, that’s right. I pride myself in this very simple and easy bulgogi recipe because good Korean BBQ doesn’t need to be complicated. But, there are things we can do to help the bulgogi process along – and this means massaging the bulgogi. You know how I mentioned the bulgogi will taste amazing after 30 minutes of marinating? Well, that’s because right when I add the beef to the marinade I immediately massage the bulgogi. This really helps the thinly-sliced rib-eye absorb the bulgogi sauce. I’ll massage the bulgogi for about 2-3 minutes really good. If you don’t mind a little raw beef, like steak tar-tar, you should taste the beef bulgogi after you’ve massaged it. It is incredible! It’s like beef poke!


This bulgogi recipe calls for pan-frying the rib-eye in a hot pan. However, not all pans are the same. You need to know this if you expect kick-ass authentic bulgogi. The pan and method totally matter. Like, it can make or break this bulgogi recipe. And if your bulgogi tastes anything other than awesome because you didn’t apply these suggestions, I’m going to be very sad. Because eating awesome bulgogi is an experience everything should be able to do at home.

My sister was in Shanghai for business many years ago and she brought back a hand-hammered wok. As much as I love it, especially for stir-frying noodles, nothing beats pan-frying bulgogi in a cast-iron skillet like this Lodge L8SK3 10-1/4-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet. At nearly half its retail price, this is the same cast-iron pan I bought and still use from 10 years ago. At under $15, it is a bargain. I paid close to $30 when I bought it. The only criticism I have is that sometimes I wish I had a 12 inch pan, but I like how the whole entire base of the 10-inch pan is nearly covered by the gas burner when it’s turned on high heat.

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan does an amazing job at searing meat at high heat – enough so that it often burns off excess liquid as it sears the meat. All of this while retaining its non-stick properties. Because of this, cooking in a cast-iron skillet imitates the same type of restaurant-quality stir-fries normally cooked in crazy hot woks. Many Korean restaurants cook their bulgogi in cast-iron for this reason. And the flavor can’t be beat, too. Cast-iron makes all beef, especially steaks, taste better. Whatever you do, do not use a non-stick coated pan. I mean, you could. It won’t taste as awesome though.

The literal word bulgogi means fire meat. Bul translate as fire, and gogi means meat. Bulgogi is traditionally cooked over open fire, although many bulgogi recipes call for grilling bulgogi on a barbeque. This is usually done using a grill pan meant for grilling vegetables with lots of holes in it. This is so the juice from the mean can escape and the meat can sear and caramelize a bit.

When a pan is overcrowded, this leaves little room for the bulgogi juices to burn off and instead will start cooking in its own juices. You don’t want this. What you’re aiming for is simulating the same results as if you cooked it on the grill where the juices would fall or burn away from the meat. The only way to do this is to pan-fry the beef bulgogi in small batches. When you do this, you also get the benefit of seasoning your pan further with each batch of bulgogi you cook for more delicious Korean BBQ. What you’re looking for is cooked and seared meat with caramelization happening on the surface area of the bulgogi so it’s nice and browned.


The last time I made this bulgogi recipe in my cast-iron pan my 10-year-old son was super excited. The kitchen smelled incredible and he could hardly wait for the first batch to be done frying. After I spooned some of the bulgogi onto a plate with some steamed rice, I saw him take a bite and walk away without saying a word. This alarmed me because I thought it tasted awesome. My bulgogi recipe is one of his favorite foods and he always offers immediate feedback on dishes I made if it’s good.

When I asked him if the bulgogi tasted okay, he said, “Shouldn’t this be more sweet?” I asked him to bring me back his plate and told him to wait a minute.

Since I had a batch of bulgogi almost done cooking in my pan, I move the bulgogi over to one side of the pan and added roughly a teaspoon of agave syrup to the empty side. The agave was glistening and the pan was smoking. Using my tongs, I immediately started mixing the beef and agave syrup while pan-frying the bulgogi. A minute later I saw more caramelization on the meat, and then removed the bulgogi from the pan. I took a quick bite of the slighter sweeter batch and it was exactly restaurant-style bulgogi. This was the flavor I know my son was expecting.

What does restaurant-style bulgogi mean? Most restaurant bulgogi and kalbi dishes tend to lean on the sweeter of side. Heck, even Costco makes and sells bulgogi now. Although Costco bulgogi is decent it is way too sweet to be considered authentic.

How sweet should bulgogi be? Well, this is subjective and debatable. My easy bulgogi recipe is authentic and awesome. I find it the perfect amount of sweet. However, some people like their bulgogi sweeter than others. Here’s my thoughts about this. It is much easier to add a little bit more sugar at the end of the cooking process to make bulgogi sweeter than it is fixing a marinade that was too sweet to begin with.

I also use my bulgogi to make bibimbap an kimbap. So, I don’t like my bulgogi too sweet. Most bulgogi recipes seem excessively sweet. My method of making bulgogi a little sweeter at the end works really well. Just add a little bit of agave or honey and work it in in batches (if necessary) tasting the bulgogi until you have it the way you like it.

If you don’t have agave or honey, you can use a tiny bit of brown sugar. Just add a little, like a half a teaspoon and see how you like from there. I don’t recommend white sugar because it’s like table salt – a little bit goes a long way but its concentrated flavor overpowers too easily. As an FYI, in Korea, they will often add sugar syrup (aka corn syrup). I find agave is not too sweet, even less concentrated than honey. Using a liquid sweetener tends to work better. But use whatever you have on hand. Just use precaution when adding sugar or your favorite sweetener to your bulgogi dish.

Trim fat from beef cut beef diagonally across grain into 1/8 inch slices. (For ease in cutting, partially freeze beef about 1 1/2 hours.) Mix remaining ingredients stir in beef until well coated. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Drain beef stir fry in 10 inch skillet or wok over medium heat until light brown, 2-3 minutes. Serve beef over hot cooked rice if desired.

Kim's note: In Korea, bulgogi is often eaten on large romaine lettuce leaves (with part of the crunchy rib removed, to make it easy to fold like a burrito or taco), adding a little rice, kimchi, and raw slices of garlic. You then roll 'em up like tiny packages and pop 'em in your mouth. Wonderful, but pungent! Best to eat when you don't have to sing or talk or even breathe on anyone who isn't eating this stuff!

PS: Kimchi is a pickled dish (there are over 300 kinds in Korea, but the most common is made with napa cabbage). You can find recipes here on Big Oven, but the time to make it is lengthy. It's far easier to get some from the produce section of your grocery store. Be careful- most canned (jarred) kimchi's aren't that great because they taste carbonated for some reason. The best I've found (with no carbonation) is King's Kimchi, sold at SuperWalmart.

Barbecued beef stew

Bulgogi is a popular Korean dish, which many people translate as “Korean barbeque.” But it is more than that. There are a lot of vegetables, too.

This is two recipes, one for bulgogi, a barbecued or grilled beef, and the second one is for bulgogi stew (“jungol”). If you just want a barbecue, stop after making bulgogi from these recipes. If you want to make the stew, first make bulgogi, don’t cook it, and then continue on to the second recipe.


  • 2 pounds of tenderloin beef , sugar, honey, garlic, pear, onion
  • ground black pepper, toasted sesame oil and seeds
  • 1 can of beef broth, mushrooms, carrot, green onions , onion, and green chili pepper.
  1. Make marinade sauce for 2 pounds of beef by mixing following: ½ cup soy sauce, 1 ts ground black pepper, ¼ cup sugar, 12 cloves minced garlic, 1 medium size onion (crushed), 1 small size of pureed Asian pear, ½ cup of water (can be replaced with cooking wine), and 1 tbs of honey.
    *tip: Using a food processor is very convenient.
  2. Prepare a large stainless bowl and pour the marinade sauce in it.
  3. Slice the beef thinly, against the grain, to make it tender.
    *tip: Keep the beef in the freezer for a few hours beforehand, then it will be easier to cut.
  4. Place the sliced beef into the marinade and add 1 or 2 tbs of toasted sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. Mix it by hand and keep it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
  5. After 3 hours, you can grill the meat on charcoal bbq, broil it in oven, or grill it on pan.

Bulgogi stew (bulgogi jungol)


marinated bulgogi (the recipe from above), mushrooms, green onions, tofu or noodles, and green chili pepper.
4-6 servings

  1. Prepare a big shallow skillet. Place colorful vegetables (mushrooms, carrot, and green onions cut into bite-size pieces) round the outside with tofu, and place the bulgogi in the center.
  2. Cut up a green chili pepper and place it on top of the bulgogi on the skillet.
  3. Mix 1 can of beef broth and 1-2 cans of water and add on the skillet.
  4. Close the lid and cook it about 5 -10 minutes. Open it to spread the bulgogi around, and then close the lid again
  5. Cook another 5-10 minutes over high heat and serve it.
    *tip: To eat it, use a serving spoon or dipper to fill individual bowls of the stew.

Posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2007 at 4:15 pm . Last updated on August 7, 2017.
Tagged: beef dish, bulgogi, bulgogi jeongol, bulgogi stew, 불고기, korean food, Korean recipes


The Bulgogi that I made turn really good.. so yummy.. thanks for the recipe..

Hello! What kind of ‘cooking wine’ do you mean in this recipe please? I am out of ‘store bought’ sauce for my bul go gi and want to make sure I use the proper ingredients!

Here’s a suggestion, can you please list substitutions for ingredients-if they’re not available? example, if you’re out of honey-can you use more sugar?

I made YooHae the other night! OMG Fabulous. Thank you so much for this site! We love Korean food but the restuarants araound the DC area are very expensive! Now I can make things myself, with your expert assistance.
You Go Girl. :)

You can use any type of wine or skip it. I’m glad to hear that your yukhoe (korean style beef tartare) turned out delicious.

I liked your video of making this dish. You make Korean recipes very easy for people to follow. I do make Bulgogi & the stew often but a little different way than you do. I like how you made a big batch just like my mother used to make, although she use anchovy stock instead of water. The dish brings the memory of my childhood dinner table…
Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work!

That’s true. Certain food reminds us of good memories. My mom still think about me when she eats my favorite food.

Maangchi, would this taste good for leftovers? This recipe makes more than our family would eat in one meal, but I would still like to try it!

yes, simply reheat it and enjoy it.

If I would to use chicken instead with this recipe, what type of chicken: thigh or breast?

I would use chicken breast. Slice it thinly and use it in this stew.

I just tried this korean bulgogi stew tonight for dinner , it happened to be in the 60’s outside , so this stew is perfect meal for us . Very delicious !! Thanks Maangchi !

“Very delicious!” I’m very glad to hear that! : )

Hello, I can’t find any Asian pears so what can I replace it with?

Bosc pears work well. Check my Korea bbq video. I mentioned it in the video. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosc_Pear

The marinade for LA galbi can be used for bulgogi.

Hi Maangchi! I have tried some of your recipes and they have all turned out delicious! Everyone loves them <3 I am a pesce-vegetarian (vegetarian that eats fish) but I wanted to try to make this bulgogi jungol for my boyfriend sometime soon. He really likes korean food but he doesnt like spicy food, so do you think I should leave out the green chili pepper? Thank you!

Thank you very much! I’m glad to hear that your Korean cooking goes well! : ) Yes, you can skip green chili pepper. It will still be delicious.

Just found your website and I have been cooking up a storm!

I made the bulgogi jungol with clear noodles for dinner and it came out fantastic!

Living in Southern California, there is no shortage of Korean restaurants or markets, but I feel the homemade taste beats them all!

awesome! Welcome to my website and Happy Cooking!

I made three of your recipes today…bulgogi, mak kimchi and samgak kimbap. What a day, but well worth it. Every recipe was great. Thanks for work you do, can’t wait to try LA galbi.

Wow, what a feast! You are a hard worker!

I love the bulgogi stew after I’ve tried the chicken bulgogi stew in one of the korean stall here. And I’m glad that to find your recipe here. But I am allergic to beef, can I use pork and chicken to replace beef? May I know which part of the pig and chicken should I use?

I think chicken works well with this recipe.

Hi Maangchi, I put your blog link in my site http://yukiashiato.blogspot.com :)
Really love your site and the food!

Thank you very much! You have a nice and informative blog!

This dish is great. I’m from Toronto and used to live on bloor street near spadina. I used to eat sogogi gookbap at a restaurant called Seoul. This is just like that. They put ass noodles in theirs but I really like this dish. I put cabbage and 1 spoon of red chilli flakes in it too. It’s one of my favourite foods.
Now I live in Italy and my Italian husband has never eaten Korean food. Korean ingrdients are hard to find here and I have to make my own dishes from scratch. I use the recipes here a lot and it’ really a blessing caue I love Korean and Japanese food. Maangchi, you’re great. My husband enjoys the food I make so much and everything is great. Thanks so much for this. I will be n Toronto at the end of July and I hae to buy a lot of ingredients from Korean Town. I can’t wait.

u used to live near bloor street near spadina! I I miss Toronto! That’s where I walked around when I went to China town or Korea town! : )
Nice meeting you through my website!

I want to have korean glass noodle in the bulgogi stew as well. Should it be cooked and rinsed under cold water before i add it to the stew? Or do i just add it in the stew with all the ingredients when its dry and uncooked?

Yes, I recommend adding the cooked noodles to your stew.

Can you write down the name of the beef broth in Korean? I can’t see the can very well in the video. I live in Korea and would like to find it in the supermarket. Thanks!

If you can’t find a can of beef broth or chicken broth, skip it. Use water instead. It will still be delicious!

Рецепт Maeun Bulgogi 매운 불고기 (Spicy Korean Barbecue Beef)

After being pleasantly surprised with the visit to K-Peppers (Korean fusion restaurant) in Middleton, I had to try and copy their delicious, spicy version of bulgogi (thinly sliced barbecue beef, or translated literally as “fire meat”). For those who don’t know what bulgogi is, it’s thinly sliced rib eye steak (or another prime cut of meat) that is marinated overnight with a main combination of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, Mirin, and sesame oil. How’s the taste you ask? Basically, it’s the most tender and juicy meat (from the long marination) that can only be described as sweet, savory, and full of rocking flavors. The sweetness is especially appealing to foreigners, who usually end up falling in love with this dish and other Korean BBQ variations (yah!). At most restaurants, you’ll usually find this grilled right in front of you on an iron cast griddle right smack in the middle of the table however, it’s more than acceptable to cook it on the stove top. And like most Korean BBQ dishes, it is served with a variety of lettuce (red, green, and perilla leaves are my favorite), which is then wrapped with the cooked meat, ssamgjang (dipping sauce) and other namul banchan (vegetable side dishes). Oh, and I almost forgot to include how it turned out (sorry, I digress a lot). The family loved it with Sis giving a big thumbs up. As for me, nothing I cook really tastes that awesome (the downfalls of cooking) but I must say that it did closely mimic the spicy version at K-Peppers! ^^

Korean Bulgogi

Up until I was around eighteen, I was woefully unenlightened when it came to certain Asian cuisines.

My family rarely, if ever, dined at Korean restaurants when I was growing up. I still remember finally visiting a local Korean restaurant with my parents while I was in college and being tickled at all the lovely free “appetizers” or “tastes” that came out (think various types of pickled vegetables, tofu, and other little bites).

Ever since college, I’ve learned to love Korean food. The rich, fiery, and complex flavors of this delightful cuisine borrow influences from China and Japan yet maintain much of their unique originality.

Alas, since Bryan’s not the biggest fan of Korean food (and we’ve been together essentially since college), I have never really explored cooking the cuisine that much (notice the dearth of Korean restaurants and recipes on this blog?).

Thankfully, I still get my fix at times. I hit the jackpot when my sister married a Korean (Hi Mike!). Mike’s a fantastic cook and knows how to make all sorts of amazing Korean dishes.

One favorite I’ve always been dying to make is bulgogi, Korean barbecued beef. Perhaps you’ve seen it at Korean restaurants where they have the grill right at the table. Mike was super kind and shared with me his recipe for making this timeless classic.

This dish is a huge crowd-pleaser. I’ve made it at various potlucks and it’s always super popular. It even won a competition at my church years back.

Try it out – you won’t be disappointed.

Start with thinly sliced sirloin or ribeye beef. The best way is to pick this up at a Korean market because it’s already been perfectly pre-sliced really thinly for this exact purpose. Chinese hot pot pre-sliced meat may work as well, but I’ve never personally tried it. If you must, you can try slicing your own, but I would recommend semi-freezing it before trying.

There are many aromatic ingredients that add to the flavors of this dish, such as onions, garlic, and ginger.

But the key ingredient? The “secret” ingredient?

Just kidding! Well, half kidding. You need something acidic to help break down the proteins so that they become more tender during marination. Pears or apples are common, but some people actually use something carbonated, like Coke!

I used Korean pears, but you can use any sort of ripe pear. According to Mike, canned pears work just fine as well (and they are easier to mash!).

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl (except the sesame oil).


Mike suggests adding the sesame oil the next day. This allows the marinade (sans oil) to better penetrate the meat.

I find it easiest to get my hands dirty and really mix it up well. Since I usually make this in large volumes while entertaining (ha ha, certainly not at home when it’s just me and Bryan), it’s pretty impossible to adequately mix up everything with just a little spoon.

Let marinate overnight.

The next day, add sesame oil to the mixture, either the morning of or up to just before cooking.

Fire up the grill or oven broiler, and cook accordingly!

To serve, pull apart some gorgeous Boston lettuce.

Let guests assemble their own bulgolgi wraps. I like to provide some rice and gochujang sauce mixed with sesame oil.

Korean Bulgogi Recipe
prep time 20 minutes | cook time 15 minutes | serves 4
total time: 36 hours

1 to 1 ½ lb thinly sliced sirloin beef

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 ripe Asian pear, mashed
2 small onions, sliced
3 tablespoons sesame oil

3 cups of rice, cooked
1-2 bunches of Boston lettuce leaves

1/3 cup gochujang sauce (Korean red pepper paste)
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Combine all marinade ingredients except the sesame oil. Add the beef to the marinade and mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Right before grilling, add sesame oil, mix well. Ideally cook on a grill or in the broiler. The beef is ready when it is nicely charred and a little crunchy on the edges.

You can also cook this on a grill pan or even on the stovetop in a hot pan, but it might not get as charred and may steam a bit more.

My Home Sweet Harvest

Way back when, when I lived in New York, there was a Japanese restaurant my parents and I frequented. That's where I was introduced to bulgogi. Yes, bulgogi is Korean, but this Japanese restaurant was serving it. I remember the first time I had it. I thought it was delicious. It probably ended up being the only the I ever ate there. Of course I grew up and moved on and far away from that little Japanese restaurant that served this amazing Korean dish.

In case you don't know, bulgogi is thinly sliced beef that is marinated and then grilled. The Korean meaning of bulgogi is "fire meat".

Since we had been studying Korea, making bulgogi seemed like a must do. I had never made this dish before, so I did some research and went on a bunch of different food sites like Food.com, Foodnetwork.com and epicurious.com. I combined several recipes due to ingredients I had on hand in the house.

When it came to making the marinade, since I knew what flavor I was looking for I was able to tweak the ingredients to my liking.

  1. 2 lbs sirloin steak
  2. 2 tsp brown sugar
  3. 1 small onion
  4. 1 small gala apple
  5. 1 tsp fresh ginger
  6. 2 cloves of garlic
  7. 1/4 Cup of low sodium soy sauce
  8. 2 Tbl sugar
  9. 1 Tbl sesame oil
  10. 1 Tbl cider vinegar (if you have rice wine vinegar, use that instead)
  11. Scallions (I didn't have any on hand, but I'll tell you when you should use it if you want to incorporate them)

Sprinkle 2 tsp of brown sugar over the slices and try to incorporate the sugar throughout the meat.

For the marinade, peel and core the apple and add it to a food processor(chopping blade attachment), along with the ginger and garlic. Chop these ingredients so that the pieces get minced.

Then add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cider vinegar. Combine the ingredients to form the marinade. Taste for seasoning. It should taste salty, sweet, and have a slight tang.

When the meat was browned on one side, I turned it over and let it cook until the meat was cooked on the other side. As soon as it's done, take it off the pan.

Seoul, Korea - Bulgogi at Samwon Garden, Gangnam

Samwon Garden is one of those places which Korean business folks like to bring their foreign (usually, American or European) guests: the restaurant consisted of a cluster of traditional wooden buildings surrounded by an expansive landscaped Korean-style garden with waterfalls and flowing brooks amidst faux boulders and rocks. You know it’s all man-made as you’re in Gangnam-gu, the Manhattan-ish glittering business district south of the Han River.

Samwon Garden has enough presence of local clientele to give it an aura of credibility, despite the influx of foreigners all eager for a taste of barbecued beef (“bulgogi”) – the house specialty. The beef came in various shapes: steaks, prime ribs (“kalbi”), and thinly-sliced. The accompaniments were the usual suspects: various types of kimchi, fried salted fish, mungbean noodles, “pajeon” pancakes lined with octopus tentacles, toasted seaweed, marinated seaweed and crisp salads cloaked in black sesame dressing.

I enjoyed the barbecued beef although, tasty when dipped into bean-paste, then wrapped in lettuce leaves together with some thinly-sliced pickled onions, cloves of raw garlic before stuffing the whole thing into one’s mouth, Korean-style, rendering one puff-cheeked and speechless for a few minutes whilst one’s molars chew away furiously (and rather self-consciously, might I add). “How was it?”, my Korean host asked - seemingly blind to the fact that (a) one shouldn’t talk with one’s mouth full, and (b) my chewing technique didn’t seem as efficient as my Korean fellow diners’ in dismantling that baseball-sized package of beef-vegetable-condiment which I’d just gamely stuff into my mouth at their suggestion.

After four straight meals of pretty much the same thing, I’m beginning to wonder how I’m going to last the rest of the week on the same diet.

I liked the stone-pot rice, topped with various beans. The waitress scooped out the contents of the stone-pot into serving bowls, then poured hot water into the pot to soften the rice crust – often consumed by the diner as a finale to the meal.

Dessert was a simple red-bean soup – but after all those cuts of red meat – one didn’t really need much else.

Address details
Samwon Garden
623-5 Shinsa-dong
Seoul 135-120
Tel: 02-548 3030

Joanna Gaines Shares Bulgogi Recipe Tied To Her Korean Heritage

Fans of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” have been so curious about Joanna Gaines’ ethnicity that she devoted an entire section of a Q&A to the issue on the blog for her business, Magnolia.

When a fan raised the question in 2014, Gaines responded: “I love hearing all the guesses. Although I did play Pocahontas in high school, I am not Native American. My father is half Lebanese/half German and my mother is full Korean.”

Gaines shares a bit of that Korean heritage in her new cookbook, Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering. She reveals that her kids’ “very favorite food in the world” is her mother’s bulgogi, which is “more of an American-Korean hybrid, much sweeter than traditional bulgogi.”

The word bulgogi loosely translates to “fire meat.” It’s a Korean dish made of paper-thin slices of meat ― in this case, beef ― that have been marinated in a sweet and salty sauce and thrown on a hot grill. Gaines’ version is served over rice and alongside a crunchy cucumber kimchi salad.

Gaines cites her South Korean grandmother as an accomplished cook who died before getting the chance to pass on her traditional recipes. Gaines’ mother set out later in life to learn some Korean dishes, including this bulgogi.

Below is Gaines’ recipe for bulgogi and kimchi salad, and an excerpt from Magnolia Table.

Mom’s Bulgogi with Cucumber Kimchi Salad

My mom grew up in Seoul, South Korea, with a mom who was an amazing cook. I can personally vouch for this because in the 1980s my grandmother and uncle moved in with us in our home in Wichita, Kansas, where I grew up. What I remember most about that time is my grandmother cooking amazing food nonstop. When my grandmother passed away, I know my mom regretted never having really learned from her how to cook proper Korean dishes. She ended up adopting a much more American style of cooking and by the time my sisters and I were on the scene, she had long since perfected a few dishes for my steak-and-potato-loving dad. But around that same time she had a lot of Korean friends living nearby, and she learned enough from them that by the time my kids were born, she was often preparing traditional Korean dishes for them, like seaweed soup. It’s funny to me that they’re growing up eating much more authentic Korean food than I ever did. Mom’s bulgogi, though, is more of an American-Korean hybrid, much sweeter than traditional bulgogi, and she serves it on a bed of white rice.

Mom has us over once a month and this is what she always makes. It’s my kids’ very favorite food in the world, so I knew I had to include it in this book. Getting the recipe on paper was a bit of a challenge. My mom had no idea what the measurements were or how to describe what she does, because, as she said, she just does it. (Writing this book made me realize just how alike we are in this way.) But eventually, we figured it out, and I’m so glad we did because now I’ve captured the blueprint to what will always be a beloved meal for my kids.

We’ve never had Mom’s bulgogi with anything other than her cucumber kimchi salad, which has a clean, fresh flavor that perfectly complements the sweet barbecued beef.

Prep: 20 minutes, plus 4 to 5 hours marinating
Cook: 10 to 20 minutes
Cool: none
Makes: 6 to 8 servings


  • 3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons sparkling dessert wine, such as Banfi Rosa Regale, or sparkling grape juice
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 green onions (light and dark green parts), chopped, plus 1/4 cup sliced for serving
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 pounds beef tenderloin, rib-eye, top sirloin, or sirloin steak, thinly sliced (see Note)

Cucumber Kimchi Salad

  • 2 English cucumbers, peeled if desired, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 green onions (light and dark green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes see Tip)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste

For Serving

  • Steamed white rice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion (light and dark green parts) as needed, for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish

1. Marinate the bulgogi: In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, wine, sesame oil, green onions, garlic, and pepper until well combined. Add the beef and coat it completely in marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours.

2. To make the cucumber kimchi salad: In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, green onions, garlic, gochugaru, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and salt to taste and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Prepare a hot grill. If the pieces of beef are so small that they may fall through the grates, use a grilling skillet or place a sheet of foil on the grill.

4. Grill the beef on both sides until medium-well, 3 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Don’t crowd the skillet or foil, so do this in batches if necessary. As you finish each batch, transfer it to a serving platter and continue with the remaining beef.

5. Serve the bulgogi on top of steamed rice. Garnish with green onion and toasted sesame seeds and spoon the cucumber kimchi salad alongside.

6. Store the leftover bulgogi and cucumber kimchi salad in separate covered containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

NOTE: My mom usually has the butcher slice the beef for this dish when she buys it. If you live near a Korean market, they often sell packages of sliced rib-eye or top sirloin sometimes they’re even marked specifically for bulgogi. If you buy big pieces to cut yourself, freeze the meat for about 30 minutes before cutting so that it’s easier to slice thinly and cut against the grain.

TIP: Gochugaru, or Korean red pepper, is commonly used in kimchi. It adds precisely the right amount of heat and unique flavor to the cucumber salad. Authentic Korean brands are readily available at Asian grocery stores or online, and the McCormick spice company packages it as well.

Reprinted with permission from Magnolia Table, by Joanna Gaines. Copyright 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Restaurant bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) recipe - Recipes

When I was in San Jose, every so often, I would pop into a Korean grocery store and pick up several tubs of marinated bulgogi (uncooked) to cook at home.  One tub would be used on the day it was bought and the rest would be stuck in the freezer for other times when I wanted to convenience of cooking up a quick meal.

Here in Kuching, we found that there is a small enclave of Korean expatriates around (there’s even a small Korean grocery store here) and a few Korean restaurants.  So far, we’re tried two of the restaurants only to find them somewhat disappointing.

Just this past week, I had a hankering for some Korean food.  So I decided to make it myself.  After all, our Killer Kalbi recipe is probably one of our all-time most popular recipe (with good cause—it’s REALLY good).  So I decided I needed to expand my Korean repertoire.

Kalbi Cousin

Last night, I made Bulgogi and Jap Chae (I will blog this next).  And they were both really good.  They complemented each other perfectly and we almost didn’t need any rice.  We would have really gotten into the rice if I had some Korean seaweed (Kim) and kimchee to serve alongside the bulgogi.  But I had not gotten any unfortunately. Yes, I know, it’s not complete without all these lovely sides.  This will be my challenge next time (make Kimchee from scratch, not the seaweed!).

Bulgogi (to me) is a cousin to Kalbi.  The marinade is very similar except that Bulgogi is a lot easier to cook and eat (no bones to deal with).  It is very addictive too and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love bulgogi when it’s served (except if you don’t eat beef).  In its most basic, you stick your thinly sliced rib-eye into a marinade and cook it up.  You can grill up the meat or just saute in a pan.  Grilling it gives it a more smoky flavour but you lose the sauce.

I personally prefer to saute it in a pan as I can treat it almost like a stir-fry that way and you will get to save the juices from the marinate.   I sometimes like to jazz it up a bit by adding some vegetables (this also makes me feel less guilty as it seems a little bit more healthy).  When I add vegetables, I will normally toss in some broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and bell peppers along with some sliced onions.   This time around, I didn’t add any vegetables because I had put loads of veggies into my Jap Chae so I didn’t feel the Bulgogi needed it.

Bulgogi Marinade Recipe

for marinating 2-3 lbs of thinly sliced rib-eye beef

2/3 cup soy sauce (I recommend Kikkoman)
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sake (rice wine)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Korean pear (or a Fuji apple will also work ortry a can of Coca Cola)
1 medium to large yellow onion
6 large cloves garlic
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

garnish with: chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

1.  Take your pear, onion, and garlic, and chop up fine in a food processor (or grate with a box grater).  Pour out into a large bowl.
2.  Add to that your soy sauce, honey, sugar, sake, sesame oil, and black pepper.  Mix the marinate ingredients well.
3.  Place sliced beef into the marinate and mix until well coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and stick beef into fridge to marinate overnight.

To cook:
4.  Heat up your frying pan and add some vegetable or sesame oil (if using sesame oil, be careful to watch so it doesn’t burn).  Add some chopped garlic and sliced onion (and other vegetables if you wish) and saute for a little while to just get rid of the rawness of it.
5.  Add the beef (only whatever you want to eat, save the rest for another meal) and cook over med-high heat until beef is just cooked.  Don’t overcook your meat guys—this is rib-eye after all!  A little red left won’t hurt.

Dish out (juices and all), garnish with your chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds, and serve over rice.  For the full Korean experience, you will want some banchan (Korean sides to go along with your Bulgogi).    

Bulgogi Notes

When buying meat for Bulgogi, get some rib-eye beef.  You need some fat in your Bulgogi.  But since you will be marinating this for a long while, don’t bother to get prime or choice grade beef.  Using a lesser grade will be alright as you’re not cooking a steak, ya know?

And if your butcher is willing, get him to slice the beef thinly for you.  That’ll save you some work.  If your grocery doesn’t have that service, then the easiest way to slice it yourself is to freeze the beef before slicing.  What I did was to take out my beef and leave it in the fridge overnight to soften it just a little, then slice.  Use your sharpest knife to cut the beef as thinly as possible.

Once cut, it’s just a matter of putting together the marinade and mixing it into the sliced beef.  Leave that to marinate overnight for maximum flavour.  Of course, if you’re enterprising, you’d make enough for several meals, marinade and then freeze into meal-sized portions for easier cooking next time around.  This recipe should give you enough to make 2-3 lbs of meat so you can very easily freeze some for another meal.

Other takes on bulgogi from: The Perfect Pantry, Use Real Butter, Burp and Slurp’s Korean-Fusion Bulgogi Gyros , Eatingclub Vancouver’s Spicy Pork Bulgogi, Single Guy Chef’s Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-Style Chicken