Maeun Bulgogi 매운 불고기 (Spicy Korean Barbecue Beef)

After being pleasantly surprised with the visit to K-Peppers  (Korean fusion restaurant) in Middleton, I had to try and copy their delicious, spicy version of bulgogi (thinly sliced barbecue beef, or translated literally as “fire meat”).  For those who don’t know what bulgogi is, it’s thinly sliced rib eye steak (or another prime cut of meat) that is marinated overnight with a main combination of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, Mirin, and sesame oil. How’s the taste you ask? Basically, it’s the most tender and flavorful meat out of all the Korean BBQ varieties—next to my other favorite meat dish called kalbithat can only be described as sweet, savory, and full of rocking flavors. The sweetness is especially appealing to foreigners, who usually end up falling in love with this dish and other Korean BBQ variations. At most restaurants, you’ll usually find this grilled right in front of you on an iron cast griddle right smack in the middle of the table for everyone to fight over. However, it’s more than acceptable to cook it on the stove top and serve individually like I did with my batch. Like most Korean BBQ dishes, it is served with a variety of lettuce (red, green, and perilla leaves are my favorite), which is then wrapped with the meat, ssamgjang (dipping sauce) and other namul banchan (vegetable side dishes). As for today’s dinner, the family loved it with Sis giving a big thumbs up and my approving in her own unique way (Korean moms are always hard to please). Unfortunately for me, nothing I cook really tastes that great (the downfalls of cooking), but I must say that it did closely mimic the spicy version at K-Peppers! 🙂


Cut the vegetables into thin slices and set aside.
Rib-eye steak is ideal for this recipe, but other cuts of meat will work as well.
Once you get the meat sliced thinly, place in glass bowl and prepare the sauce ingredients.
With the main combination of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, Mirin, and sesame oil, make sure to taste the sauce before mixing with the meat. It should taste sweet, slightly salty, and savory. Adjust as necessary.
Give the meat and sauce a good rubdown, wrap airtight, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
For extra kick, include some gochujang (red pepper paste) or gochugaru (red pepper flakes) as much as you like along with the vegetables.  I used about 1 tbsp per serving, which resulted in a little perspiration and extra glasses of water to cool down the heat.
Spicy bulgogi all ready to eat!
Another serving for Sis.
A serving for Mom.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Marination time: minimum 8 hours to overnight

Ingredients: Serves 4 people

  • 2 lbs rib eye steak
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp Mirin (cooking wine)
  • 4 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 3 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • sesame seeds (garnish)


1. Cut the beef into paper-thin slices, set aside in glass bowl.
2. Mix all the sauce ingredients together minus the gochujang (red pepper paste). Add the sauce to the meat, coat well by hand.  Marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of a few hours, although overnight refrigeration is recommended.
3. After marination, cook the meat on medium high heat using a non-stick skillet or frying pan (adding a little oil is optional). Add 1 tbsp of gochujang (more if you want it spicier) for each serving. Cook until meat is well-browned but not burnt, about 5~7 minutes. Add vegetables during the halfway mark to retain their crispness.
4. Serve hot with rice and banchan (side dishes) including lettuce varieties for wrapping. Red leaf lettuce, Boston bibbs, and romaine lettuce work best.
*For easier slicing, stick the beef in the freezer for about 20~25 minutes. This will make cutting much easier; we’re looking for paper-thin slices. 
**Although selecting premium cuts of meat is recommended for better taste and quality, my mom often uses cheaper cuts like chuck and blade which work just fine. 

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