There are days where I don't want to eat out, nor do I want to make a fuss making a meal that requires a lot of cutting, marinating, and worst of all...clean-up.
What are one's options for such an occasion?
For most people, the answer is probably Hamburger Helper or Kraft Easy Mac. For me, it's grilling up pre-marinated galbi or bulgogi from my local Korean grocer, and eating it with some rice and pre-packaged veggies.
And that's exactly what I did yesterday as I am fortunate enough to have a Korean grocery store called HK Market, conveniently located on my route home.
Formerly a Ralphs (or was it Vons?) this sparkling new store also houses a food court with a Korean, Japanese and Chinese food vendor. The store itself is a full-service supermarket with a bakery, and even a made-to-order sushi counter. But my favorite thing about Korean grocers like HK is the packaged banchan and tubs of pre-marinated meats, ready for grilling.
Their banchan (Korean side dishes) are sold in sealed plastic containers. HK has a wide selection. Among the rainbow of choices; pickled Japanese cucumbers, seasoned spinach, green seaweed tossed with sesame oil, creamy potato salad, and the item I picked up last night; marinated bean sprouts accented with green onions and red bell peppers ($1.99/pound).
If I were so inclined, I imagine I could pick up a few of these, arrange it over a bowl of rice and make a quick bibimbap for about a dozen people!
For tonight, the bean sprout banchan I bought was my side dish. The main course was to be bulgogi, marinated sliced rib-eye.
The bulgogi, selling for $2.99/pound, I found to be a bargain. Think of it, how much would rib-eye cost at Ralphs, for example? Twice as much, right? Granted, there is a difference between steak and bulgogi. In any case, HK also offers tender, marinated galbi (beef short ribs) for $3.49/pound, which is also quite reasonable.
Once I got home, I fired up my grill and tossed a slice of bulgogi on the grate. But I immediately realized the folly of that decision. Since the bulgogi is sliced paper-thin, the meat slipped into the space between the grates and disappeared into the fire.
No. This won't do.
What I needed was a grill grate with a criss-cross, or lattice pattern, which I didn't have. Ah, but I do have a cast iron skillet.
Frying the bulgogi on the skillet was easy enough, but I had to be careful of not crowding the pan. Pan crowding would have given me steamed bulgogi, which was not what I was after. And every once in while I had to scrape of the excess juices that leeched out from the meat before it burned.
All in all, I probably put out more work than if I were to make Easy Mac, but I blame that on my lack of equipment, not on the bulgogi. Plus I hate Easy Mac.
The bulgogi, on the other hand, turned out delicious and satisfying. It had the intense flavors of garlic, sesame oil, soy and sweetness that you'd expect from a top-end Korean BBQ joint. With the crisp, refreshing bean sprout banchan and hot steamed rice, it made for a spectacular meal.
Who needs Hamburger Helper anyway?
H K Market
14551 Red Hill Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
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