Monday, November 19, 2007

How to Eat Bulgogi

Bulgogi is a perennial favorite for international folks in Korea. It is basically a steaming hotplate of sauteed with mushrooms (of the long stringy variety) and onions in a sweet sauce. It's pretty tasty. So here's a step by step for those of you out there less familiar with Korean cuisine.

Step 1: Gather some friends to enjoy the feast. This is not usually a one person ordeal. Across from us here are our friends Joe, Ian, Elena, and Brett Willey.


Step 2: Order the pot of steaming goodness.

Step 3: Take a lettuce leaf in hand. As you can see, this is not your ordinary iceberg lettuce. It's more of a romaine or something like that. Various kinds of leaves are used. One of my favorites is sesame leaves.


Step 4: Pick up some of the steaming goodness. The real trick here (the part I'm not very good at) is portion control. It's very easy to get too much at this stage, which can make the lettuce leaf overflow or burst, spilling the steaming, juicy goodness all over your hand. That long thing hanging down on the left is a mushroom - tastes kind of like not fully cooked spaghetti.


Step 5: Add the steaming goodness to the leaf. Leaf is to bulgogi as tortilla is to fajitas.


Step 6: Add SamJang (a moderately spicy sauce made from red peppers, garlic, and soybeans). This is a definite must for me. I go through several bowls of samjang every time I sit down to a meal of bulgogi or galbi (a similar and even tastier meal).

Step 7: Add some kimchi. Kimchi is basically Korea's national food. Koreans are probably prouder of Kimchi than their national flag. Kimchi definitely has a longer history than their flag, going back thousands of years. Kimchi is cabbage mixed with peppers and garlic and other spices, and then the whole mixture is (traditionally) buried in the ground in clay pots to ferment for months on end (similar to the German sauerkraut). It is definitely a learned taste. Most foreigners hate it when they first arrive in Korea, but if they keep eating it, it grows on them. Sarah and I actually like it now. Some foreigners have kimchi withdrawals when they return to their home countries.

Step 8: Close up the wrap. This is the tricky part if you tend to overload like me. One wrong move, one too tight squeeze, and you get hot, juicy, sugary juice running down your hand and wrist.

Step 9: Enjoy the steaming, flavorful goodness. Ahh, mission accomplished!







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