• 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 green onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 pound tender beef (flatiron or sirloin)
  • Kimchi (available at Asian groceries)
  • Marinated Bean Sprouts (recipe follows)
  • Sesame Spinach (recipe follows)
  • Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)
  • Chile-Fried Little Fish (recipe follows)
  • 3 or 4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths (optional)
  • Cooked rice
Time Estimates

Prep time: 10 min  

Cook time: 20 min  

Total time: 30 min  


  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet, stirring or shaking frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a medium bowl and combine with the garlic, ginger, green onion, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
  2. Slice the beef thinly across the grain. To tell if it is tender enough to cook as is, dip a piece in the marinade and quickly sauté it in a hot skillet (the one you used for the sesame seeds) and cook to medium-rare, 30 seconds to a minute per side. If this results in a chewy cut, tenderize a slice by scoring it with shallow X-shaped cuts, whacking it with the side of a cleaver or a meat pounder, or both. Slice and, if necessary, tenderize the remaining meat and add the slices to the marinade. Marinate overnight in the bowl or in a sealable plastic bag.
  3. At your leisure, prepare the garnishes.
  4. Set the table with a rice bowl or small plate for each diner and place the garnishes in the middle, within everyone’s reach. Preheat a stovetop or tabletop grill and have a warm platter ready to receive the meat. Grill the meat slices to medium-rare or to your liking, 30 seconds to a minute per side. Serve immediately with rice.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

Good to know

Variously spelled bulgogi, bulkogi, or other variations, this dish of thinly sliced beef in a sesame and soy marinade is Korea’s best known specialty and is probably on the menu of every Korean restaurant in North America (except those catering to vegetarians). In some restaurants, diners cook the meat themselves on a hibachi-like grill at the table, which you can do at home if you have an appropriate tabletop grill or even an electric skillet.

Which beer should I drink with this?

Go for the malt flavors here — amber ale, dunkel, maybe a sweet stout.


1. Short ribs, especially the thin crosscut version called flanken ribs, are the traditional cut for this dish, and while they have lots of flavor, I find them hard to eat with chopsticks. I prefer a more tender boneless cut such as the small, tender flatiron muscle in the chuck or various parts of the sirloin. If you’re not sure, ask for something suitable for stir-frying. 

2. By itself, bulgogi would just be another version of soy-flavored grilled beef. What makes it special is the assortment of little dishes set out to accompany the beef and rice. I have seen as many as seventeen items served along with bulgogi in restaurants. Kimchi, the fiery pickle that seems to be equal parts cabbage and chile powder, is a given; it’s widely available wherever Asian foods are sold, so I suggest buying it already made. Bean-sprout salads are another constant, often several varieties, as are spinach and cucumber salads. I have suggested a modest assortment, including one for the adventurous made from tiny dried fish. 

3. In traditional family style, everyone helps themselves to meat and garnishes with chopsticks; if you prefer, you can provide serving spoons.


Marinated Bean Sprouts


  • 1/2 pound (2 cups) mung bean or soybean sprouts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 or 2 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally
  1. Parboil the bean sprouts in lightly salted water for 2 minutes; drain thoroughly. Combine the sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add the drained sprouts and green onions and toss to blend.
Sesame Spinach
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (8 to 10 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  1. Separate the larger outer leaves from the spinach and trim their stems; leave the smaller leaves attached to the roots and trim any withered stems. Wash the spinach well in several changes of water. Parboil in lightly salted water until wilted, about 30 seconds; retrieve and rinse with cold water, then squeeze gently and leave to drain thoroughly in a colander.
  2. Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes in a mixing bowl; add the spinach and toss to coat evenly with the dressing. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the sesame seeds.
Cucumber Salad


  • 1 pickling cucumber, about 4 inches long
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  1. Slice the cucumber very thinly (1/8 to 1/16 inch). Slice the garlic to about the same thickness. Combine in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and toss to distribute the salt evenly. Let stand 30 minutes to several hours, then rinse with cold water and drain well on a cloth or paper towel. Combine in a bowl with the vinegar and sugar and let stand until ready to serve.
Chile-Fried Little Fish


  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup tiny dried fish (may be labeled anchovy, whitebait, or simply dried fish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine red pepper flakes (called "sausage grind" in some spice shops; or sift regular flakes through a coarse sieve)
  1. Heat the oil in a wok or small saucepan over medium heat until a fish siz- zles on contact. Add the fish and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and quite crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain briefly on absorbent paper, then dust with red pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: When the oil cools, you can strain it through a fine sieve, store it in a jar, and use it for frying or stir-frying other seafood.

The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook 

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: David Wasserman/Jupiterimages