Since my dad was a diplomat, we often entertained foreign guests in our home when I was growing up in Korea. A fabulous chef called Mrs. Shim would come to our house and make wonderful Korean dishes for these occasions. Her food was at a whole different level, not only the taste but always looked so elegant when served. Chapsal Bulgogi was one of her specialty dishes and I just absolutely loved it! I never got to learn the recipe from her since I was just a kid… Over the years, I kind of forgot all about it until I got married and wanted to make something special for my family. So.. I created and worked on this recipe from memory and I have to say it’s pretty darn close!
Chapsal (sweet rice) Bulgogi is not a dish commonly found in your average Korean home and there are very few restaurants even in Seoul that serve this dish. I actually searched Korean websites and found only few recipes–none of them like my version here. Other recipes all marinate the beef first (same as regular bulgogi) and then coat it with sweet rice flour before frying in plain oil.
Anyway, this dish has become our family’s absolute favorite. My husband is so excited to have this dish that he is always eager to help with coating and frying the bulgogi. He says this way I can make the sauce and prepare the vegetables at the same time and we can eat our dinner that much sooner!
Preparation time: 30 min. Cooking time: it tastes best when you cook and eat, cook and eat… so it’s hard to say how long it takes but each piece should take no longer than 2-3 min which means you can have about 5-6 pieces cooked in about 6 min. or so.
- 1 lb thinly sliced top sirloin or other tenderloin
- 2/3 C sweet rice flour (just need enough to coat)
- 6-8 green onions (thinly sliced)
- 1 C sliced perilla leaves (optional)
- sesame oil for pan frying
- salt and pepper
Ingredients for Sauce
- 3 T kikomman soy sauce
- 1 T sugar
- 4 tsp honey
- 1/4 to 1/3 tsp oriental hot mustard (made from mixing yellow mustard powder)
- 1 tsp chopped pine nuts
1. Season the thinly sliced sirloin pieces (cut for bulgogi) with salt and pepper. It’s easiest to start when the pieces are still a bit frozen where the individual pieces are still stiff but defrosted enough that each piece falls apart easily. Season each piece by sprinkling some salt and pepper onto them and layering them onto a wide plate.
2. Once all the beef pieces are seasoned, coat each piece in sweet rice flour and set aside. The product I use is Koda Farms, Mochiko flour. You can find this in both oriental and American supermarkets.
Wearing plastic gloves to coat the beef keeps your hands clean!
3. Chapsal bulgogi tastes best when it’s hot so it’s a good idea to prepare the vegetables and the sauce before you start cooking the meat. If your meat is too frozen, you can work on the sauce and veggies even before you coat the meat.
Wash and clean the green onions. Thinly slice the green onions by cutting them into approx. 2 in long pieces and then slicing each piece thinly as shown below. This is not the only way to do it but I found (over the years) this is one of the easiest and quickest way to do it. This is called 파채(pache) and it serves as a condiment to many meat dishes.
Soak them in cold water for 5 min. or more. Soaking takes away the strong taste of raw onions and also makes them extra crunchy. The green onion pieces will start to curl up as shown below. Drain and serve.
4. Wash and clean the perilla leaves. Here’s a tip for cutting perilla leaves quickly – stack a bunch of leaves (see left pic) and fold the bunch in half lengthwise and cut altogether into 3/8 in strips as you see below. You can save a lot of cutting this way!!
5. Make the sauce by mixing soy sauce, sugar, honey and yellow mustard. Chop some pine nuts and sprinkle on top. You can taste it and add more sugar or honey to taste. It should taste salty and sweet with a hint of spiciness!
6. Now it’s time to cook the meat! Heat 2T of sesame oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Fry each side of the beef until it’s golden brown and crispy like so…
7. Serve the bulgogi, vegetables and sauce. Best way is to cook only few pieces at a time and eat while they are still warm and crispy.
This is a truly delicious meal! And here’s how you eat it – add some vegetables in the center of the bulgogi, sprinkle some of the sauce on top as shown here:
Now wrap the bulgogi into a roll, hold it with your chopsticks and in goes the chapsal bulgogi into your mouth!
Green onions is a must but you can try other vegetables such as green or iceberg lettuce, julienned carrots, radish sprouts and ssukat(crown daisy). Serve with rice and kimchi, perhaps some jjigae and you have a meal fit for any occasion!