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Bulgogi: What Is It, Taste, and How To Eat?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

To immerse yourself in a culture, one of the first steps is looking at their cuisine. Korean cuisine is vast, healthy, and delicious. 

Plenty of their signature dishes can be used in many different ways, like as side dishes. One of these dishes is bulgogi, but what is bulgogi?

Bulgogi is a Korean dish for meat lovers. It’s a Korean beef barbeque that is made up of thin slices of ribeye, tenderloin, or sirloin beef. 

Bulgogi quite literally means “fire meat”. Each part of the beef is marinated in a savory-sweet sauce. It’s typically cooked on a stove-top griddle, or stir-fried. 

The rest of this article will cover what bulgogi is in more detail, how to eat it, and a conclusion.

What Bulgogi Is

Bulgogi (불고기) is a meat-filled dish that has a savory, sweet, and salty flavor palette. Bul means fire, and gogi means meat. 

Combined makes bulgogi “fire meat”, and it originated in Korea. It’s been around since the Goguryeo era (37 BCE – 668 CE).

This dish is one of the most known Korean dishes outside of Korea. It’s typically served hot and is a meat-lover’s paradise. 

It’s been around so long because of the rich flavor it has. That flavor comes from the beef, soy sauce, onions, garlic, chives, and other ingredients put inside it.

As beef became more commercialized in the 1920s, bulgogi’s popularity increased in Korea. 

Furthermore, the more time that passed, the more bulgogi spread to other countries and became a beloved dish around the world. That’s why so many people love it!

Where To Buy Bulgogi

With the rise of meat, especially beef, bulgogi is in higher demand than it was merely a few years prior. 

The best place to get bulgogi is at an Asian, specifically Korean, restaurant. 

Depending on the area you’re in, some Korean restaurants will sell packaged bulgogi as well.

If you want to make it yourself, there’s two ways you can do so. At your local grocery store, go to the frozen meals section and look to see if there’s pre-packaged bulgogi there. 

If it’s not there, you may also be able to find it in the frozen meats section.

If you can’t find pre-packed bulgogi, or you just want to make it on your own, then make a list of ingredients prior to coming to the store. 

Pick what beef you want to use, what vegetables, what sauces, and if you want to make any side dishes along with it.

After you make your list, scour the store for those ingredients. From there, you can buy the items from their respective aisles, then go home and make it. 

The best way to get bulgogi is to buy the ingredients separately, then combine them while you’re cooking them.

The reason why is because bulgogi is very easy to make, so buying the ingredients ensures you’re using only ingredients you know you like. It’s also healthier to cook it using fresher ingredients. 

How To Eat Bulgogi

Like most Korean foods, bulgogi is very versatile. You can add varying ingredients into it to enhance the flavor without making it an entirely different meal.

After you cook your meal, get your chopsticks or other utensils and prepare to enjoy your hot meal.

If you want to have a big dinner, have a big portion of bulgogi. The meat and vegetables used make it a very filling yet healthy dish

Or, you can have it in a smaller portion but served with side dishes called banchan (반찬) in Korean. Another option you have is to put it in a wrap.

No matter which way you’re doing it, be prepared to have some leftovers and store your bulgogi properly. 

It needs to be kept cold, so make sure you have the necessary containers to store it in your fridge.

Eating Bulgogi On Its Own

Although there’s no vegan options for this dish, it’s still very healthy and can feed a lot of people. If you make large portions of it, you can eat it on its own without needing any side dishes or extra care. 

However, this method is most likely to leave leftovers, so prepare to wrap it up.

Eating Bulgogi With Side Dishes

To get a taste of Korean cuisine, you should serve a smaller portion of bulgogi with plenty of side dishes. 

The reason why you should serve a smaller portion is because too much will lead to you having no room to eat the other side dishes.

Side dishes are a perfect way to practice your Korean cooking skills if you’re making them from scratch, or heating up store bought packages. 

If you’re not cooking them at all, then it’s still a perfect opportunity for you to treat yourself and try lots of tasty foods.

Some common side dishes for bulgogi are as follows: rice, kimchi (김치), kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥), japchae (잡채), stuffed peppers, and scallion salad. 

These are all healthy options that compliment the flavors of bulgogi. With this method, you can taste plenty of Korean cuisine.

Eating Bulgogi As A Wrap

Eating your bulgogi on a wrap is not only unique, but it gives you the opportunity to put different ingredients inside. 

These ingredients can be lettuce, carrots, hot peppers, and more. The meat and overall taste of bulgogi is perfect for sandwiches and wraps.

For a healthier option, you can choose a lettuce wrap to put the bulgogi in. You can use regular breads and wraps as well. 

Place the slices of bulgogi inside the wrap and put any remaining ingredients you want on it on top. After, wrap it up and enjoy!

How To Store Bulgogi

There are two ways you can store bulgogi: in the fridge, or in the freezer. Cooked bulgogi needs to be refrigerated as fast as possible. 

It’ll spoil when left out for too long, but in the refrigerator, it can last 3-4 days. Make sure to seal the bulgogi in an airtight container for the best results.

If you’re not planning to eat your bulgogi that fast, you can also put it in the freezer to extend its lifespan. By putting it in the freezer, bulgogi will last several weeks. 

Keep in mind that the longer it’s in the freezer, the more the flavor will go stale. 

Conclusion

Bulgogi is a meat-filled dish that originated in Korea. It has beef as its primary ingredient in the form of ribeye, tenderloin, or sirloin. 

Bulgogi directly translates to “fire meat” and is known for having both a savory and sweet flavor. It’s normally made using a stove-top griddle or stir-fry.

Back in the Goguryeo era, bulgogi came to life and stuck around for centuries because of how delicious the meal was. 

Along with the beef, there’s several other ingredients used such as: soy sauce, onions, garlic, and chives. As the love of beef grew more, so did the love of bulgogi.

Lastly, bulgogi is similar to most other Korean foods in the sense that it’s very versatile. It can be eaten on its own, in a smaller portion with side dishes, or put in a wrap. To store bulgogi, put it in a container and place it either in the fridge or the freezer. 

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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