Spicy, savory, sweet, gingery and mouthwatering…That is the best way I can describe the taste of Pork Bulgogi. For some reason, we did not have this very often at home when I was growing up. The first time I tasted Dweji Bulgogi (돼지 불고기) was at my friend’s house when I was in 4th or 5th grade and I thought it was absolutely delicious. But it was also very very spicy! My friend’s mom cooked it right at the table on an electric grill for a group of us. It was really yummy but so spicy hot that I thought my lips and mouth were on fire! And yet, I simply could not stop eating it…The recipe here is the closest I could get to that taste except it is probably not as spicy – or maybe I am just better at eating spicy foods now. You are welcome to increase the amount of red chili powder or gochujang if you want to add more kick to it. I will leave that up to you.
You may notice that ginger is often used when Koreans cook pork. Ginger not only adds great flavor and gets rid of any “porky taste and smell” but is also known to neutralize the coldness of pork. In traditional Korean medicine, foods are divided into cold and warm foods. Pork is a cold food and ginger is a warm food. When used together ginger is said to help neutralize the coldness of the pork. I also know from experience that having a freshly brewed ginger tea really helps to calm my stomach down when I have a bad stomachache. I’m sure you have also heard about drinking ginger tea to help heal the common cold. I have also read that Japanese serve ginger with sashimi to aid digestion and kill any bacteria that can be in the fish. There’s definitely something to ginger..
Servings: 2-3 Time: prep 15 min+ cooking 10 min + marinating time Difficulty: Easy
- 1 lb thinly sliced pork neck butt/leg/shoulder
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 T Korean red pepper bean paste (고추장 gochujang)
- 2 T cooking rice wine or mirin
- 3 T sugar
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 T sesame seeds
- 1 T chopped garlic
- 1 T grated or chopped fresh ginger
- 1 T chopped green onions
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1~2 tsp Korean red chili powder (고추가루 gochukaroo)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
1. Traditionally, thinly sliced pieces from the neck, shoulder or hind leg (ham area) are used for pork bulgogi. The cut I bought from my local market is from the neck (collar butt) and it’s called moksal (목살) in Korean.
2. Make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients above.
3. Mix the pork slices and the sauce together and marinate for at least 15 min. or more the better. You can let it marinate in the fridge for up to a day.
4. The best way to cook pork bulgogi is to BBQ it over a grill. But it’s not easy to just directly cook them over the conventional American BBQ grill because the pieces can fall through. Koreans usually use a grill that have smaller openings like the one below:
If using a standard American style grill, you can put a piece of tin foil and poke holes into it with a fork so some direct heat can come through. Like so..
You can also use grill baskets made for grilling vegetables or fish instead.
The other method is to buy a portable gas stove and a grill pan similar to shown here.
There are also other types of grill pans that have holes in them for the meat to get direct heat and these work great for bulgogi.
For everyday easy cooking, just heat a frying pan on medium high heat. The pan should be hot enough for the pork to sizzle as soon as it touches it. Cook the pork in the pan turning them over when it starts to brown. The pan should be really hot. Do not cook too much pork at once because that can lower the temperature. You want to cook the pork quickly and have a nice sear to them. If you end up with too much juice, the heat is probably not high enough or you added too much meat into the pan.
As a garnish, sprinkle some sesame seeds and sliced green onions. (optional)
Serve pork bulgogi with some rice, fresh vegetable side dishes or with some ssam and ssamjang and you can have a really deliciously hearty, quick and easy meal. It’s also a great dish to have with any jjigae or soup.
- storage - freeze either cooked or uncooked pork bulgogi. cooked bulgogi actually keeps the flavor longer.
- variations – add sliced onions, carrots and/or mushrooms for added flavor