A night out at a Korean restaurant with friends usually means that someone is going to order bulgogi. It is Korean Barbecue Beef, cooked on a small charcoal hibachi grill right at the table and shared with the entire group. This dish can easily be prepared at home if you don’t happen to have a Korean restaurant in your neighborhood.
Thinly sliced rib eye steak is marinated for a short period of time in a sweet and spicy sauce then quickly cooked on an outdoor grill over high heat. The end result is tender pieces of beef that are a little charred and caramelized on their edges, with the same amazing flavors you would get at a Korean restaurant.
The one ingredient you must have for this dish is gochujang. Gochujang is a dark red, spicy and slightly sweet Korean condiment based on hot chili peppers and fermented soybeans that is used in soups, sauces and marinades. I found it at my local grocery store alongside other hot sauces but you may also find it on the international aisle, in most Asian markets and on Amazon. The brand I used (Annie Chun’s) is a sauce but I’ve also seen it sold as a paste. If you have several brands to choose from, read the ingredients as some have cane sugar as one of the first ingredients and they can be very sweet. Always taste and adjust amounts called for in any recipe according to how hot and sweet the particular brand of gochujang you might be using.
Korean Barbecue Beef
Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb. thinly sliced, well marbled rib eye steak or other tender beef (ask your butcher to slice it about 1/4 inch thick)
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/4 c. gochujang, depending on taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. white wine
- 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
Place beef in a baking dish and sprinkle both sides with the brown sugar and let sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the Korean BBQ sauce by placing all the remaining ingredients in a processor or blender and pulse a few times until smooth (makes 2/3 cup). Pour half of the sauce over the beef, turning to coat both sides well, refrigerate and let marinate 30 minutes to an hour. (Since the beef is very thin, it doesn’t take long for the flavor to penetrate but it can be marinated overnight for additional flavor).
Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F). When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the marinade from the beef and discard the marinade. Place the beef on the hot grate with the lid open and cook until they are nicely brown, about 1 to 2 minutes a side. I have an infra-red sizzle side burner and it only took 30 seconds on each side to have perfectly cooked meat. Since the meat is so thin, I suggest cutting one piece of the beef in half and cooking to see how your particular grill cooks the beef before cooking the rest. You want to make sure you don’t over cook the meat.
I served the Korean barbecue beef with rice, sautéed baby bok choy, and a pickled carrot salad. The remainder of the BBQ sauce with served at the table along with kimchi. I have also prepared another version of the barbecue beef, this time topped with sliced scallions, cilantro rice and sautéed sesame snow peas. Both dinners were delicious.
If you like and use sriracha sauce, I think you should search out the Korean condiment gochujang and try the Korean BBQ sauce. I’ve prepared it several times for grilling both beef and chicken…the sugar gives a slight sweetness that caramelizes during the time over the fire and it has just the right amount of saltiness and heat that we all enjoy when eating barbecue.