A short meal for a long day: bul go gi (Korean BBQ beef)

Today was the first day of non-daylight savings time here in Melbourne. I always find it the longest day of the year: sure, some people get an extra hour of sleep (not me, as my kids were up at 5 rather than their usual 6 am-ish) but by the time 7 pm rolls around, you’re ready to hit the hay. Or maybe that’s just me…

Regardless, on a day that seems interminably long, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend hours cooking a meal that no one’s really going to want much of because – you guessed it – they’re too tired! This is where today’s little gem of a recipe comes in. But of course, there’s a history to it…

Back when I was an undergrad, I lived on campus in a self-catering college. In second year, a Korean exchange student, Kim, moved in. As we both studied sociology, we became pretty good friends. Anyway, the absolute best thing about self-catering colleges are the massive kitchens where you learn oh-so-much about food, particularly food from other places! To this day, I can’t see roti without being transported back to Canberra… But I digress: Kim and I (with a bunch of friends) often shared dinners, cooking together and learning recipes. We’ve since lost touch, but I wonder if she makes spaghetti bolognese back in Seoul, the same way I make her beef dish.

In teaching me how to make bul go gi, Kim emphasised that this is a recipe of tastes: the exact proportions of ingredients vary depending on what you like. She also used scotch fillet steak, but I have used oyster blade, rump steak, chicken fillets and tofu in its place, all with great success. Usually, it’s rump steak for reasons of economy.

In order to boost the vegetable component, I serve it with salad or add in yummy green vegetables, sliced finely. Broccoli, asparagus and zucchini tend not to take anything away from the taste but add lots of nutrients.

A parental note: For my kids, I serve this with soba noodles instead of rice and cut all of the vegies up very small. Before serving, I give it a good stir through and they generally attack it with gusto…

Bul go gi (Korean BBQ beef)

Serves 2 hungry adults or a family of 4

You will need:
500g rump steak (or other protein, see my note above), sliced into thin strips
2-3 spring onions, sliced, including right up to the end of the green bit
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Other green vegetables, sliced finely (optional – these weren’t in Kim’s original recipe): no more than 3/4 cup worth
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
3 tbsp – 1/3 c tamari or soy sauce (start lightly and add more if you want)
Pepper, to taste

1. Place all ingredients into a plastic container or bowl. Mix together. It’s easy if you use a container with a lid because you just put the lid on, shake and, hey presto, it’s mixed!
2. If you have time, let the flavours mix for half hour or so. I never do this and it still tastes delicious.
3. Heat a wok or frypan over high heat. Add the extra olive oil. When it’s hot, add the meat mix in small batches and stir until its browned. Tip that batch out and repeat the process til it’s all cooked.
4. Serve with rice or noodles!

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