You don’t think of a stir-fry as the perfect meal for a hot Spring day. Yes, it has been in the 90’s this week which is very unusual for Michigan in late May. We usually don’t get that kind of weather until July!
The only cooking is the brief stir-fry of thinly sliced beef over very high heat. A marinade coats the meat, the Korean BBQ sauce is made ahead of time (no cooking), you use fresh crispy vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, jalapenos, green onions and carrot shreds, and all wrapped in a buttery lettuce leaf. Very refreshing and full of lots of great flavor.
Bulgogi is thin, marinated slices of beef or pork grilled or cooked stove-top. I have chosen to use my wok and stir-fry it that way. A good cut of meat is important such as sirloin, rib eye or brisket. Garlic cloves, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are sometimes grilled with it. Bulgogi can be served in a wrap along with Ssamjang which is how I made it.
Awhile back I mentioned the three “jang” pastes in Korean cuisine. I’ve been using gochujang often but recently found a recipe with both doenjang and gochujang as ingredients in a BBQ sauce. Then I loved the idea of making this Korean version of beef stir-fry into lettuce wraps. I first saw this idea/recipe in Melissa Clark’s cookbook “Dinner: Changing the Game”.
Some times I change a recipe quite a bit and this is one of them. I have not indicated those changes but you can find Melissa’s original recipe in her cookbook or online.
The Food Network proclaimed gochujang a new trend in 2018 and compared it to Sriracha. A recent email from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street (his latest magazine) states “This Korean chili paste changed our cooking. Move over Japanese Miso and make room for gochujang“. By the way the heat in gochujang comes from the chili flakes or gochugaru.
Korean-Style Stir-Fried Beef, Adapted
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 small onion, thickly sliced
- 1 1-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. beef sirloin, cut into 1/8-inch slices (freeze for 1-2 hours for easier slicing) – next time I will marinate the beef in one piece and try grilling it
- 1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
- sometimes an Asian or Bosc pear, chopped is added to the ingredients which I think is a great idea but I did not add this time
Combine the garlic, onion (add slowly to get the right thickness), ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and black pepper in a blender and blend. Place the beef in a shallow container and spread the mixture on both sides of the beef. I adjusted the seasonings to have more of a creamy sauce instead of a paste. Stir in the scallions and sesame seeds.
Cover and refrigerate overnight if possible.
Ssamjang – Korean Barbecue Sauce: Double the recipe!
- 1/4 cup doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
- 2 tsp. water (add more if needed to get the right consistency)
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tsp. gochujang (Korean red chile paste) to taste
Combine all of the ingredients. Adjust the ingredients to get the consistency and heat you want.
You need to stir-fry/cook the meat on a high sear but only for a few minutes per side as it can become tough. My Breville wok actually has a “high sear” setting which I used. If the meat becomes too tough be sure to cut it into smaller pieces for easier eating. According to Korean tradition you are supposed to eat each wrap in one bite – my wraps were bigger and required 4 bites! Of course you can use smaller leaves.
Should I decide to grill the meat (it is summer after all) I would leave the meat in one piece instead of slices and marinate overnight. Then I would grill it briefly on both sides, allow to rest and cut into smaller pieces.
- carrots, grated
- sliced green or red jalapeno peppers
- green onions, white and light green parts chopped
- cucumbers, sliced thin
- fresh herbs such as mint, basil or parsley
- rice (optional)
- Bibb lettuce is what I prefer but you can use romaine, red or green leaf lettuce
Serve the beef on a platter with the lettuce, fresh veggies and herbs and the sauce on the side. Guests can make their own wraps and add the garnishes of their choice. Dribble a little of the Ssamjang over each wrap mixture before rolling up.
To serve over rice add a little beef broth to the beef mixture after stir-frying and adjust seasonings to taste such as soy sauce and maybe a tsp. or two of gochujang.
I served some leftovers with rice. I just added some beef broth to the meat mixture and adjusted the seasonings (like a little more soy sauce and added 1 tsp. gochujang). It was quite good and a perfect meal for another hot Spring evening.