Bulgogi is grilled beef that’s a popular dish in Korean barbecue. Its sweet and savory flavors burst in the mouth and are served hot right off the grill.
If you’ve ever been to a Korean restaurant that features bulgogi, it’s truly an experience to witness.
For those just beginning to dip their toes into Korean cooking, you may have questions about what to eat with bulgogi. Typically, it will come with a host of sides.
Things like short grain white rice, noodles, kimchi, cucumbers, and other vegetables are all common offerings.
However, bulgogi can be a part of many other traditional recipes like rice bowls and stir-fry.
So, bulgogi is a dish you can eat on its own or with a variety of other foods, making it very adaptable to just about anything.
Bulgogi, Korean BBQ & Dining History
Speculated to originate during the Goguryeo era (37BC to 668AD), bulgogi has a long history intrinsic to Korean food culture.
They used to call it maekjeok, which meant skewered and grilled beef. But, during the Joseon Dynasty, it became neobiani, or thinly spread meat.
During medieval times, there were records of bulgogi, but it comes under the name of yeomjeok, or “fire meat.”
Today, Koreans still call it “fire meat” under the moniker “bulgogi.” It insinuates no skewer.
After the Korean War, American soldiers brought recipes back home, and they became quite popular across the US.
Preparation & Marinade
Bulgogi is thinly sliced meat sitting in a marinade for a period of time and then cooked on a grill or barbecue.
The cuts of meat and the marinade are what sets bulgogi apart from other BBQ items that feature pork belly or chicken, for example.
While bulgogi can comprise pork or chicken, it’s traditional beef.
These are some of the best cuts of meat like skirt steak, sirloin, tenderloin, or even beef tongue.
After slicing about ⅛ inch thick, it sits in a blend of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pear juice, sugar, onion puree, and ground black pepper, among others.
It’s important to note, though, that many chefs and home cooks create big variations, and some steer away from the traditional spices.
It’s just that the ones mentioned here are the most common and traditional.
Typical Foods Served with or Containing Bulgogi
Due to bulgogi’s simplicity in preparation and cooking, you can serve almost anything alongside it.
When bulgogi is the lone meat featured as the main dish, the most common sides are kimchi and plain white rice.
But any kind of vegetable or small side salad will delightfully accompany the dish.
However, it takes on a whole new character when it acts as an ingredient in a recipe. If you do a search online, you’ll find a myriad of recipes containing bulgogi.
There are rice bowls, dumplings, hotpots, stir-fry, noodle dishes, wraps, soups, stews, and so much more.
To modernize the dish, Korea has incorporated it into many cultural foods from the West. Surprisingly, it fuses well with French, Italian, and American cuisines.
To illustrate, there are bulgogi-flavored burgers at fast food places.
These come with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, and cheese. The dishes mentioned below discuss several popular recipes that contain bulgogi.
1. Bulgogi Pizza
Just as how it sounds, bulgogi pizza is the Korean take on an Italian classic. It has a doughy crust topped with sauce, black olives, cheese, and, of course, bulgogi.
The sauce can be tomato, but sometimes it can be red chili paste or fermented soybean paste.
2. Bulgogi Mandu
Mandu is the word for “dumpling” in Korean. So, these are dumplings stuffed with bulgogi. It can be pork or chicken bulgogi as well.
The dough comprises rice flour or a combination of wheat and rice flour.
Kimbap with Bulgogi: Kimbap is a rolled rice and seaweed slice that is very much akin to Japanese sushi.
Bulgogi can be a part of it, making it a delicious high-protein snack. The thin slices are very accommodating to creating the roll.
3. Bulgogi Jeongol
For a thick, hearty, and nutrient-laced winter stew, bulgogi jeongol hits the spot. It has plentitudes of vegetables, and the bulgogi is a perfect addition to it.
The veggies are things like carrots, celery, radish, kimchi, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and many others.
4. Nongshim Japchae with Bulgogi
Glass noodle dishes, called japchae, are excellent with thin beef sliced prepared as bulgogi.
The sweet potato starch in the noodles combines with vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, kimchi, and cucumbers. It is absolutely delicious!
Traditionally, bossam contains steamed and thin slices of pork. However, some people will use bulgogi in a similar manner.
They will wrap the bulgogi in lettuce (or cabbage) along with things like carrots, garlic, kimchi, and green onion with ssamjang.
Beverages to Consume with Bulgogi
Just as bulgogi is versatile in what you can serve and make with it, so are the beverages you can pair with it.
Bulgogi can be an anju, which is a dish enjoyed with an alcoholic drink. Most people often consume bulgogi with soju, a distilled rice liquor that’s kind of like vodka but sweeter.
However, somaek is very popular as well. This is when a shot of soju sinks into the bottom of a glass of beer.
But, sake, a Japanese rice wine, and makgeolli, a fermented rice wine-like spirit, are also popular choices.
The sweeter alcohols are best when the bulgogi is hot and spicy.
This is because the sugariness removes the heat from things like red pepper flakes and red chile paste while accommodating other spices like ginger.
So, it’s probably more interesting to ask what NOT to eat with bulgogi since it’s such a versatile dish.
While it depends on whether bulgogi is the main dish or part of a recipe, whatever you choose to eat with it will be delicious and leave your belly happy.