Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef) Lettuce Wraps

You can also prepare this in a hot broiler if it’s raining or you’re not up for grilling. It’s a nice party food because guests assemble their own wraps, so it goes straight from the grill to the table. This dish is great for hot summer days. The crisp lettuce makes a nice wrapper, but doesn’t leave you overstuffed like a starchy wrapper can. Other traditional condiments for bulgogi include crisp apples, nectarines, scallions, and, importantly, kimchee (a spicy, pungent Korean condiment of fermented pickled cabbage).

Serves 4

3 large round or sirloin steaks, about 2 pounds total, thinly sliced (see NOTES, below)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 green onions, minced
1 inch or so of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves and kept chilled until serving
2 Asian pears, thinly sliced

Heat a nonstick pan at medium-low for about 30 seconds. Add sesame seeds and toast, shaking or stirring pan occasionally, until seeds are a nice golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Combine soy sauce, sugar, garlic, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Stir until the sugar has more or less dissolved.

Add meat, tossing to coat. Marinate 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Grill meat on a rack over hot coals (or in a high broiler) until beef firms up and slightly charred. You want that nice glossy brown look, not the sweaty grayish look. Thin slices burn quickly. Slight charring is desirable, but you still want the meat to be pliable.

Serve with lettuce leaves and Asian pear slices, allowing guests to roll wraps themselves. To assemble, layer a lettuce leaf with a slice or two of grilled beef and a few thin Asian pear slices, then roll up and enjoy!

NOTES

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a butcher who will slice this up for you. Ask for 1/8 inch slice or “teriyaki” slice, but make sure to let your butcher know that you’re grilling and that you want actual slices. Otherwise, you might get a bunch of shaved pieces that fall through the grill. If you don’t have a butcher who will slice your steaks, freeze them for about an hour and slice them as thinly as you can with a very sharp knife. Don’t worry if the slices are uneven.

Other traditional condiments for bulgogi include crisp apples, nectarines, scallions, and, importantly, kimchee (a spicy, pungent Korean condiment of fermented pickled cabbage). Kimchee gives the dish an authentic kick, but the smell might put off picky eaters.



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