Korean bulgogi good enough for twice in one week
by Alan Reed
May 09, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this column, readers know that I like to try new things. Hawkins is often called upon to test new recipes and offer suggestions. A few weeks ago, I returned to Oak Grove and visited some of the Asian markets there. I decided I would try some Korean staples and see what he thought of them. That night, I made bulgogi beef, which are thin cuts of beef with a sort of pear/soy barbecue sauce. Hawkins approved, but I thought I could do a bit better.

That weekend, former Cadiz Record reporter Eric Snyder stopped in for dinner, so I decided to do some fine-tuning of the bulgogi recipe. Eric and Hawkins are both moderately adventurous when it comes to dining. I think the recipe came into its own with the modifications I made.

Instead of opting for beef, with the thin cuts of eye of round, I went with pork, another popular Korean staple. The meat I used was a boneless chop labeled “breakfast pork chops” in a local store. To prepare the meat, I trimmed the fat from the outside, and pounded it as flat as possible with a tenderizing mallet. With three hungry reporters to feed, I bought a pound-and-a-half of the inexpensive pork chops.

Once flattened, I decided to use two marinades to flavor and tenderize the chops. To start with, I used a half cup of rice cooking wine that I bought at the Korean market with an even tablespoon of sugar. The wine flavors the meat and tenderizes it, while the sugar adds a bit of sweetness and cuts the acidity of the wine nicely. To really soak the meat, I let it set in the marinade in the refrigerator for about three hours.

After this, I removed the meat from the soak and replaced it with a cup of ready-made Korean bulgogi sauce that I bought in the store. The bulgogi sauce is made from soy sauce, pear juice, sugar, and sesame seeds, among other ingredients. I added two tablespoons of the rice wine just to emulsify the marinade a bit. Stir the meat in the marinade to ensure all surfaces are coated and submerged.

Cooking the meat is simple. Build a small fire in a charcoal grill and wait until the coals are hot, but white on all surfaces. Grill the meat on each side until cooked completely, but not blackened.

Korean side dishes are easy to make. I steamed some of the traditional brown rice with a tablespoon of soy sauce and a pinch of ground ginger, just to make it interesting. The rice also had a teaspoon of Vietnamese fish sauce, for extra flavor, but a little fish sauce goes a long way.

For a vegetable, I stir-fried some carrots, celery, onions, snow peas and broccoli with about four leaves of nappa cabbage torn into bite-sized pieces. Nappa resembles romaine lettuce more than the traditional green cabbage, which looks like iceberg lettuce. The popular Asian cabbage has a milder and sweeter flavor than traditional green cabbage and works well in stir fry.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in the skillet and add one onion, chopped into large pieces and a teaspoon of minced garlic. Sautee the onions until the onions begin to soften, but not too long. Stir-fry should be crunchy, not overcooked. The precut and washed vegetables came in a one pound bag marked “stir fry.” I used half the bag to make the side dish. Once the onions began to soften, I added the vegetables, with a tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of Chinese oyster sauce, another teaspoon of fish sauce, and a teaspoon of Sriracha chili sauce to warm it up. Add the cabbage to the skillet or a wok and stir well. Allow the vegetables to cook without becoming limp and overcooked.

I served the meal with Kim chi, which is a traditional Korean dish made of fermented cabbage. I do not know how to make my own Kim chi, but the dish is readily available in the Korean markets in Oak Grove. Our Kim chi featured cabbage, fermented in a brine solution with some chili peppers for warmth. Eric and Hawkins were taken aback by the traditional dish, and I don’t think they exactly enjoyed it. It is admittedly an acquired taste, and I doubt I liked it on my first exposure.

To serve the meal, I offered a plate of lettuce for the diners to tear pieces from and wrap bits of meat in to make a sort of sandwich wrap. Good condiments include hoisin sauce- which is a Chinese sweet barbecue sauce made from soybeans, Sriracha chili sauce and soy sauce for the rice and vegetables.

We found the pork to be tenderer than the beef which was my test bed for the recipe. The flavor was excellent from the two-stage marinade. Though Eric has to be forced usually to eat his vegetables, I heard no complaints from him this time out. After work, Hawkins screened the Oscar-winning film “The Departed” while we digested. Watching the best movie of 2006 and exposing my friends to some new foods, I can say that a good time was had by all.

Since the Rotary Auction prize was such a success, I am repeating the offer for the Relay For Life. I am offering Chicken Parmigiana, pasta with marinara sauce and a vegetable this time out. Ask Relay Co-chairs Pat Board and Dannye Wagner how you can buy this tasty dinner for two to be prepared at your house. Good eating.
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