This is going to be yet another of my food posts, so if you’re hungry, either come back to this page later or go grab something to nibble on as you read.
You have been warned.
Today we went over to our friends’ house again, this time for lunch. Generally we’ve been heading over there after my weekly obstetrician appointments. We held off until Sunday for this week because we were invited to share a meal with them. For a long time, Vic has been promising to make me Chicken Adobo, while I’ve been promising him bulgogi (aka Korean barbecue). Finally between Pamela and I, we decided Sunday was the day.
Things didn’t go exactly well this morning, however. As usual, I misjudged how long it would take to make the chocolate-zucchini cake. We were supposed to arrive at 1pm, and we didn’t get there till 1:45pm. I abhor being late. Fortunately Pamela was very gracious, although I think Kurt’s call ahead of time probably helped.
I wasn’t sure how my bulgogi would turn out. You see, it’s been quite some time since I made it! I’m not even sure if I have made it since we’ve been here in Rhode Island! Maybe once… I don’t remember. On Friday I consulted with Caroline to make sure I had the proper ingredients, but since I don’t have a real recipe to go by, I wasn’t sure if I was doing everything correctly.
Caroline’s Famous Bulgogi
Slice beef into thin strips, and cut again into bite-size pieces. Add to a bowl that is large enough to hold all the beef and the marinade. Pour over the meat enough soy sauce to nearly cover the beef. Add several tablespoons of honey (the more honey you add, the thicker the sauce will turn out). Add a tablespoon of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste), or more if you like it spicy. Smash several cloves of garlic with the flat of your chef’s knife and add that to the marinade. Chop four or five green onions and add to the marinade. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top. Mix until marinade is totally combined. The easiest way to do that is with your hand, covered with a rubber glove. The gochujang can burn if you’ve got an open cut on your hand.
Let meat marinate in the fridge at least a few hours, although overnight is better.
Pour some sesame oil into a pan and heat. Add the meat and its marinade and simmer until the meat is cooked and the sauce is thickened. The sauce should be a dark red by the time the meat is fully cooked.
Place cooked rice inside a curly lettuce leaf and add some of the bulgogi and sauce. Roll up into a wrap, and devour!
That, my friends, is how to make homestyle bulgogi. If you order bulgogi in the restaurants, it won’t be anything like that. Generally we’ve gotten a simple grilled beef with toasted sesame seeds on it, with no sauce anywhere in evidence. It’s disappointed Kurt more times than I can count since he’s so used to my version of bulgogi.
The first time I ever had bulgogi, I was about thirteen years old. We were living in Nebraska at the time, and Caroline had invited me to spend the night. Her father was big into teaching her as much as possible about her Korean heritage, especially after her mother moved back to Korea, so he had taught himself how to cook some Korean dishes. I can remember sitting on the floor in the living room, watching some movie or another, and making the bulgogi-filled lettuce wraps and devouring them. It was one of the most delicious foods I have ever eaten.
Then when Caroline came to visit me in Washington when her eldest daughter was just nine months old, and I was a few months pregnant with Gracie, she taught me how to make bulgogi for myself. We made it for Kurt, and he immediately declared it one of his favorite foods. Since then, I have generally made bulgogi at least once a month, though lately I have been slacking.
Next up — learning how to make my own kim chee! The cookbook Caroline sent me as a very early Christmas present should help with that.
You can see my bulgogi on the left, and how thick and red the sauce becomes after it’s simmered for a while. On the right is Vic’s Chicken Adobo, which is chicken simmered in Filipino soy sauce and vinegar, with some crushed garlic added in as well. There may be a few other ingredients, but that is what I recall off the top of my head. Vic used skinless, boneless thighs — and the meat was so tender it was practically falling apart. And the sauce was just so delicious! It tasted just a wee bit like good Carolina bbq, though made with chicken instead of pork. But I bet you could throw some on a bun with some coleslaw, and it would be very similar in flavor!
And lest you think that poor Pamela was shoved out of her own kitchen, she provided the dessert. I had made the aforementioned chocolate-zucchini cake, while she made these absolutely divine mini cheesecakes. This time she added some mandarin oranges to her cheesecake mix before she piped them into the mini graham-cracker-crust pies, and then topped each one with a mandarin orange segment. The last time she made them, she used cherry pie filling, and while they were pretty and pink in color, the orange ones tasted better to me. They were so delicious I had to have two!!
Unfortunately there is no more bulgogi left. I guess I’ll just have to console myself with another piece of chocolate-zucchini cake!