Korean food is becoming more and more mainstream in the states particularly the delicious barbecued meat, bulgogi. At first, bulgogi seems intimidating. The marinade tastes complicated and the high heat cooking looks like it requires skill, but don’t think you can’t make this at home! If I can make it, then you can make it and I’ll demystify the process below.
My husband, Robert, is Korean American. His Korean grandmother raised him and cooked delicious meals for their family everyday. I, however, am your typical white girl who had little to no experience with Korean food until I started dating Robert. In the years since I have come to love it.
We live in DC and if you drive out to a little suburb called Annadale, you’ll find a pocket of delicious Korean restaurants and bakeries. The only problem? If you suffer from celiacs or gluten intolerance, it is very difficult to find GF Korean food, because of the use of soy sauce in almost all of their dishes. For those of you who don’t have to worry about gluten, modern day soy sauce almost always contains wheat. People with gluten intolerance must buy soy sauce that is labeled gluten free. Unfortunately this means I have a hard time eating Korean food out, but GF soy sauce makes eating Korean at home a cinch. Most Korean dishes are naturally gluten free and dairy free without the soy sauce.
For Korean night at our house, I stick with the most popular dish, bulgogi. Bulgogi literally means “fire meat,” because of the high temperature you cook it. A delicious thin sliced beef, bulgogi is marinated in a sweet and spicy sauce. In order to find the right cut of beef, you’ll likely need to Google your local Asian Market. We go to H-Mart or Lotte Plaza in the Northern Virginia area. I think you can find this at most foreign groceries if they cater to a variety of cultures. If all else fails, just ask your local butcher for chipped beef, the English equivalent of thin sliced meat.
For my GF bulgogi recipe, I started with the Paleo recipe I found on The Nourished Caveman. What I most appreciate about this take on bulgogi is the reduction of sugar. I’ve watched Robert’s aunt make authentic Korean bulgogi before and she put about 2 cups of white sugar in the marinade, which made me cringe! I do however, make the following change: I use GF soy sauce because I don’t follow a strict Paleo diet. I’ve tried making this recipe with coconut aminos and it just doesn’t taste the same. Still good, but it doesn’t have the authentic bulgogi taste my husband is looking for. Of course if you have a soy allergy or follow strict Paleo, it’s totally fine to use coconut aminos.
Finish off the dish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and sliced green onion. You’ll then want to buy romaine or another sturdy type of lettuce to use as wraps for your bulgogi, rice and banchan. This meal is made to be eaten all together in one bite. The lettuce wraps allow you to do that.
Please check out next week’s post for how to make banchan, tasty Korean side dishes that will complete your bulgogi meal!