Besides kimchi (pickled vegetables), bulgogi (barbecued beef) is perhaps one of the most popular Korean foods in the West. A soy and herbal marinade is the key to this tasty beef dish, but like many Asian marinades, only a small amount of liquid is used to flavor the meat. Grilled over a hibachi or in a grill pan, or stir-fried, until crisp (or to preferred doneness), the beef is wrapped in a tender lettuce leaf and may be eaten with a dab of gochujang (pungent fermented Korean bean paste).
You will find thinly sliced beef, chicken, or pork in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese butcher shops. If you do not have these near you, ask your local butcher if he or she can slice the meat for you. If not, buy a large chunk and place it in the freezer for forty-five minutes to facilitate the slicing. Slice against the grain while the meat is still frozen.
Variation: Japanese sukiyaki, pan-seared beef, is similar to bulgogi. Mix together in a bowl 1 teaspoon tapioca starch, 2 tablespoons Japanese dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon sake, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add 1 pound thinly sliced beef sirloin and mix well. (There is just enough marinade; the beef should not be drowning.) Marinate for 30 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon beef suet in a pan over high heat. Sear the beef until done, about 5 seconds per side.
Beverage pairing: Brassfield Estate Merlot, High Serenity Ranch Vineyard, California. A good, dark wine structured with perky acidity, this Merlot has a tinge of soy and pepper, which makes a good pair with the beef. Serve it slightly chilled or at a cool room temperature.
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