Posts Tagged ‘ginger’

I had a slightly disappointing experience with Korean beef at a local street food festival – it wasn’t bad, just a bit bland. I’ve never cooked Korean before, but it uses many of the same ingredients and techniques as Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian, so I thought I’d see if I could do better…

Serves 2


300g or so good beef steak  – you could use chicken, or tuna, or even tofu I reckon
1 clove garlic (or more!) a chunk of fresh ginger, one green chilli, crushed and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tbsp Sesame oil
1 tbsp Soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Sesame seeds

Slice your beef to about 1cm or 1/2 inch thick. You want it thin enough to cook quickly, but not dry out – and thick enough to get on skewers, but not big chunks of meat.

Mix all the other ingredients for the marinade into a thick paste – you want it clinging to the meat, not dripping everywhere. Leave for as long as you’ve got. Many say marinate overnight, but half an hour will do, in my experience.

Meanwhile, we want to rustle up some quick kimchi, which is the traditional accompaniment to many Korean dishes. This is usually fermented, like a chillied sauerkraut if you will, but it is possible to make kimchi within 30 minutes all from scratch. Koreans call this fresher type of kimchi, “Gutjeori (겉절이)”, which translates into briefly salted kimchi. (Note: kimchi can be bought vacuum packed or in jars in most Chinese supermarkets, and will keep for a few weeks in the fridge – but it’s good to make your own!)


Chinese leaf type cabbage
Garlic, ginger, and half an onion
1 tbsp Fish sauce (again, a Thai Nam Pla or Chinese one will do fine, if that’s what you have in the cupboard, or a spoon of shrimp paste and a little water)
Chilli flakes to taste
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Apple juice (optional, but it adds a nice sweet/tart note – you could use OJ or squeeze a fresh lime and only a Korean pedant would complain…)

Cut off the stem part of the cabbage, cut the cabbage leaves vertically into 2-4 sections, depending on size, and horizontally if needed. Now, the important part – soak this cabbage in express salt brine.  Mix 1/2 cup of sea salt with 5 cups of water. Bring it to a full boil, stir to dissolve all the salt, then let it cool down just a little, about 5 minutes.

Pour the hot salt brine over the cabbage and stir well. Let it sit for 10 minutes, stir again and leave for another 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly.

While the cabbage is soaking, combine some garlic, ginger, and half a diced onion in a blender. Add fish sauce and apple juice and puree all together until smooth. Add red chilli flakes (or a shake of chilli powder), a sprinkle of sugar, then combine the cabbage and the kimchi sauce. Take a piece and taste. You can add a little more salt or anchovy sauce if needed. I added some sliced fresh red chillies, but you don’t have to!

Cook the beef skewers (in batches if necessary) under the grill, set as high as it will go, for around 2 minutes each side, adding some of the marinade towards the end so the beef doesn’t dry out. When cooked, garnish the bulgogi with more sesame seeds and spring onions.

I also did a little pak choi and cloud ear mushrooms, as I had some in the fridge. Feel free to improvise and stir fry any veg you have lying around – it all adds colour, texture and vitamins to the finished dish.

You can serve with a wheat noodle (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, whatever…) if you like, but Koreans traditionally love to eat bulgogi by placing a small amount of steamed rice in a lettuce leaf, a slice of bulgogi and small amount of kimchi. Roll up and eat 🙂