One of Korea's quintessential dishes, bulgogi (also spelled bool goki, bulgoki, or boolgogi) translates to "meat" and "fire." The dish is simple, with marinated, thinly sliced beef over rice. Korean dishes are generally served with vegetable accompaniments, the most common being Kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish not for the weak of palate.
The Washington Post featured a primer on Korean food in 2005, with descriptions of the many staple dishes including bulgogi and kimchi. A more in-depth look at Korean food may be found on Visit Korea, a tourism site with valuable information on Korean culture and cuisine.
Bulgogi is an excellent starter dish for the home cook. All you need is marinated sliced beef, available where Asian food is sold, and (optional) scallions or onions, and shitake or oyster mushrooms. The essence of bulgogi is the meat, but you can embellish it. In fact, Korean dining usually involves anywhere from three to twelve small side dishes, which are usually pickled vegetables such as turnip and cucumber. In fact, "kimchi" refers to pickled vegetables in general, but the specific spicy side dish of cabbage is so ubiquitous that it has come to be the understood meaning of the word.
- Marinated, shaved beef (available at H-Mart and other Asian markets)
- Scallions or onions, chopped - optional
- Shitake or oyster mushrooms, chopped - optional
Cook rice according to directions; keep warm. If using a rice cooker, begin cooking the bulgogi about ten minutes before rice is done.
Heat one TSP of cooking oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the scallions and mushrooms ONLY, and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl; keep warm.
Add the beef to the pan, searing the meat on both sides. Do not crowd the pan, as too much beef in the pan will result in steaming, not searing. Cook the meat in batches, if needed. Cook the beef to medium (or rarer, if desired), about 3-4 minutes.
Once the beef is seared, add the vegetables back to the pan, along with all their juices. The meat will also have created juices; simmer until desired doneness (around 4 minutes for medium-well), and serve over the rice.