Bulgogi (불고기) is a classic Korean dish known in every household and deeply ingrained in Korean culture. It's made up of thinly sliced marinated beef which is paired with rice or wrapped in lettuce.
This dish is mainly made up of the highest quality of beef: sirloin, tenderloin, or ribeye with good marbling. It’s generally prepared in a sweet and savory sauce made up of soy sauce, sugar and Korean pear juice which is then grilled on a barbeque or stove-top griddle. It's best to let the meat marinate overnight to gain more flavor.
Some of the many different forms include:
- Bulgogi Spring Rolls
- Bulgogi Pizza
- Chicken Bulgogi
- Bulgogi Kimbap
- Bulgogi Bowls
- Bulgogi Jeongol
The origins of bulgogi can be dated all the way back to the Goguryeo period (37 B.C. to 668 A.D.). The evolution started with a kabob-like skewered meat that became seoryamyeok, a brothy dish of marinated beef soaked in cold water. By the early 20th century the dish gave way for another evolution called neobiani, a luxurious dish of thinly-sliced, marinated and charbroiled beef favored by Korean royalty.
Neobiani later became bulgogi. The change was brought on by Koreans who shifted their relationship with meat, the invasion of the Japanese as well as Korea's fight for independence. Beef became commercialized in 1920 which made it more widespread. Bulgogi is an umbrella term for two different dishes, one that is brothy and one that is grilled. The dish’s influence weakened during the era of Japanese rule during which beef shortages sent prices skyrocketing. Most experts agree that by the 1990s, bulgogi had rebounded and was collectively regarded as the most popular food in Korea.
Koreans who migrated to the United States brought the Korean dish with them. There you won't often see bulgogi in brothy form but rather grilled variations of the dish that are prepared in a hot stove-top skillet.
Bulgogi is forever changing since people are taking their own spin on the dish and creating new and different variations every day. There are easy -to- find recipes online to help you create and make your own version of bulgogi, or you can find it in your local Korean or Asian restaurant.
A Youtuber by the name of Maangchi makes Korean dishes and easy to follow videos. The link below takes you to two dishes: bulgogi and bulgogi stew. Maangchi guides you through each step and gives very good instructions! It's definitely worth checking out.