Chicken Bulgogi

Bulgogi chicken recipe

While people have been tripping over each other lately, letting everyone know how authentic they can be, outraged over a recipe or poem they saw online, one only needs to look to Korean food to see how it’s done.

Bulgogi chicken recipe

Koreans don’t seem to have the same strictness to guidelines that are bestowed upon other cuisines, which is great because you can cook, add things that you like, and mix together seemingly incongruent ingredients without getting yourself into hot water. I was making kimchi a while back and had some stewed plums I was thinking of adding, which I mentioned on social media. Instead of getting a slew of nasty messages (like I did when I joked about making a low-fat carbonara with smoked tofu and soy cream, and people actually used the F-word), a bunch of Koreans chimed in – “Go for it!”

While it’s nice to honor and adhere to tradition, as my friend Patricia the Vanilla Queen,noted to me in an email exchange about all the bickering: “People constantly trip over themselves and get in their own way, which is very sad. Having a sense of humor, the ability to play and to not take ourselves so seriously goes a long way toward being happy!” That’s something I am going to print out and put on my wall: It’s my new motto.

Bulgogi chicken recipe

In many cases, authenticity is about the spirit of the dish, not necessarily following a specific list of ingredients. I was recently speaking at an event and talked about bouillabaisse, a French dish born of poverty, using leftover scraps of fish that went unsold at the markets. The intent was not to use the rarest, most hard-to-get types of seafood, although now restaurants serve the “authentic” version as a luxury item. Not sure which is better – to honor the spirit of the dish, or a rote list of ingredients?

I think people, like me, are drawn to Korean food because it’s all about the excitement of eating, with bold flavors and ingredients, with seasonings meant to give your palate a jolt. The “street food” movement made the cooking field ever riper for an explosion of Korean foods, because the foods and cooking techniques could be adaptable to other types of food. While I found the combination of kimchi and tacos a less-than-successful pairing (and the kimchi and falafels I had a while back as well), instead of getting my knickers in a knot about them, I just let them go. Whew! I feel better…

Bulgogi chicken recipe

A recent book about Korean food came out, Koreatown: A Cookbook, which caught my eye. Written by Deuki Hong, a Korean-American chef with a restaurant in New York’s Koreatown, along with a collaborator, Matt Rodbard, self-described as a “white boy jew from Kalamazoo,” who according to some people, has no business writing about foods from other cultures. But on the other hand, did a pretty bang-up job with Korean food this time around. So there.

(A woman in Paris came up to me at a book signing once and wondered how I could write a book about French cuisine because I wasn’t French. I wanted to say that it doesn’t matter where you were born and just because you were from somewhere, didn’t mean you were a good cook of that cuisine. I’m sure there are bad Chinese cooks in China, just like in the United States, Mexico, France, Korea, Italy, etc… But instead, I just smiled and said, “Thanks for coming!”)

Anyway, it’s all good and food is about sustenance and enjoyment, which is why I liked this book. It celebrates the spicy, garlicky, fruity, meaty, and funky flavors that make Korean food so appealing. I’m also drawn to the communal style of eating because one can make their own dish by adding whatever is available in the little side dishes known as banchan, which could be as simple as a few pickled cucumbers, to curiosities like acorn jelly and tangles of tiny dried fish.

Bulgogi chicken recipe

Probably the most well-known Korean dish is bulgogi, served as a mound of thinly sliced or pounded, marinated meat that’s been cooked on a grill or in a skillet. (If cooking Korean food indoors, I recommend a good hood fan!) Dak bulgogi is made with chicken which I sometimes prefer to the beef version. The thicker chicken thighs soak up the soy sauce and garlic-spiked marinade, then are quickly grilled until the marinade caramelizes on the outside, but remains juicy inside. I took a few liberties with this recipe, namely reducing the amount of black pepper and adding hot sauce. But I’m sure most Koreans won’t get upset about that.

Most of the recipes in Koreatown: A Cookbook are on a single page and have just three or four steps. You may need to make a trip to a Korean or Asian market, or shop online, for staples like rice wine vinegar, gochugaru (Korean red chile flakes), and ginger to make them, but once you have them, you’ll be able to take on many of the other recipes in the book and make Korean dishes at home, some authentic, and some that use those flavors to take dishes in unexpected directions.

Chicken Bulgogi
Print Recipe
Four servings
Adapted from Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt RodbardIf cooking the chicken in a skillet, you can cut the chicken into smaller pieces before marinating, but the larger ones work better on a grill since the longer cooking time will give them a nice sear on the outside. People will often put some fruit puree or syrup, like maesil chung (green plum syrup) or add grated or pureed pear in their Korean marinades, or even some pineapple juice, which flavors the marinade and tenderizes the meat. If you want to do that, add about 2 tablespoons juice, or about half a pear’s worth – grated or pureed – to the marinade. Although the recipe in the book didn’t call for it, I added some chile paste to the mix. Gochujang is a traditional Korean chili paste, which I didn’t have, so used Sriracha. Thai chile paste is a lot hotter, so you could add a teaspoon of that instead.Korean grilled meats are usually served with banchan, a selection of little salads and pickles, such as kimchi and other treats. I made the muchim pickles from the book, and had some kimchi on hand.You may be tempted to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Because the meat is sliced thin, breasts would dry out: Thighs remain much more juicy and moist after cooking. So I would recommend thighs, although boneless breasts would work if you must.
1/2 cup (125ml) soy sauce
optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons Korean chili paste (gochujang) or Sriracha, depending on how hot you like things
1 in small onion, peeled and grated or pureeda food processor
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon mirin or rice wine*
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (peeled or unpeeled)
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
4-5 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds, 450-575g)
1. Mix the soy sauce, chili paste or hot sauce, onion, brown sugar, mirin or rice wine, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, a few generous turns of black pepper, and sesame seeds in a large zip-top freezer bag.
2. Lay the thighs on a cutting board, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and pound them so they’re about 1/3-inch (1cm) thick with a meat pounder, rolling pin, or another heavy object. (You can also pound them, a few at a time, in a separate freezer bag to make clean-up easier.) Trim off any excess fat.
3. Put the thighs in the plastic bag with the marinade, press excess air out of the bag, seal it closed, and massage it so the marinade covers the chicken. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight. The chicken can also be marinated in a stainless steel or glass bowl, covered and turned several times while it’s marinating.
(Optional: You can cut lengths of scallions and put them in the bag with the marinade, then grill them with the chicken, too.)
4. To cook, heat your grill to high heat. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and lay them flat on the hot grill. When well-seared on the bottom, turn them over and cook another few minutes until the thighs are cooked through. The total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. (You can baste the thighs with any leftover marinade while grilling.)
To cook in a skillet, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces before marinading and put them in a large, lightly oiled skillet. When the chicken is seared on the bottom, stir the chicken and add any leftover marinade and let it reduce in the pan while the chicken finishes cooking.

Serving: Bulgogi is often eaten wrapped in lettuce or perilla, with kimchi, thinly sliced raw garlic, perhaps slivers of fresh chili, and a dollop of Ssamjang, sometimes with a spoonful of rice in there. I like it at home served over rice with kimchi and other condiments.

*If you don’t have mirin or rice wine, you can use rice vinegar or a sweet/fruit vinegar, like balsamic or apple cider.

Related Recipes and Posts

Teriyaki Chicken

Olympic Seoul Chicken

Beef Bulgogi (Maangchi)

Tofu Bulgogi (Yup…it’s vegan)

Roast Chicken with caramelized shallots

Sweet and crispy chicken wings

Is it Safe to Cook with Plastic? (Modernist Cuisine)

Pajeon: Korean scallion pancakes

Kimchi

Kimchi omelet

Asian ginger soy sauce chicken

 

 

 

 


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64 comments

  • April 13, 2016 3:39pm

    You can get boneless chicken thighs in Paris? Where?

    • April 13, 2016 3:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not seen them but they are pretty easy to bone yourself as they just have one bone. Or you could ask your butcher to do it.

      • Bebe
        April 13, 2016 6:20pm

        If one has a nice sharp boning knife, or other small knife with a sharp blade, doing the boning oneself produces a better result. The ones that come boned are often mangled, badly cut up by a hurried mass-producing butcher or perhaps a machine?

  • April 13, 2016 3:53pm

    You made me laugh out loud! This sounds delicious.

  • Taste of France
    April 13, 2016 4:05pm

    This sounds delicious. I share and applaud your “big tent” approach to cuisine. Bravo.

  • April 13, 2016 4:30pm

    Sounds so tasty! Do you think this would work under a broiler? Too cold outside in the US upper midwest to grill yet…

  • April 13, 2016 5:05pm

    I was planning on making some bulgogi beef tonight but switched to braised short ribs – now I’m wishing I would have stuck with my gut!! Stunning!

  • Catherine Marie Rose
    April 13, 2016 5:11pm

    I was a Philosophy major, so I have some training in deep thought.

    If you cook, that qualifies you to be an (insert ethnicity or style here) cooking. There is no exception; one must cook.

    We can’t be too strict here. :)

    Thanks for choosing a kinder, less traveled path.

  • Mo Soar
    April 13, 2016 5:15pm

    I like to buy plum jam and use it in place of hoisin sauce in a lot of recipes – sounds like it would go well here, too. I have a recipe for bulgogi beef I like except it is made in a cast iron skillet and it make a huge mess of the pan….

    Also, what is the handle of the mallet in the 4th photo? Carbon fibre? Granite?

  • April 13, 2016 5:21pm

    Hello I am French BUT have lived and traveled abroad, my family has roots both in Poland and Middle East, I have Japanese friends, Mexican ones, English, American…. Everywhere I go I am curious about local food, go to markets and shops, I meet chefs when possible, take cooking lessons, I have a whole library of cookbooks so yes I agree with you David you don’t need to be French to cook French (see Julia Child)

  • Bebe
    April 13, 2016 5:47pm

    I thought it hysterical that the person pontificating on the absolutely only way to make Spaghetti Carbonara is a Brit woman writing for The Guardian.

    Those who go all “precious” over food are crashing terminal bores.

    This chicken recipe sounds wonderful. Ends up a bit like Korean fajitas, and would be delicious wrapped in something the way one eats Peking (Ok, Beijing) Duck.

    Thanks, David – for the recipe and the badly-needed humor in tense times.

    • Oonagh
      April 14, 2016 3:05am

      To be fair to Felicity Cloake, she does a series called “How to cook the perfect…” where she tries out various famous chefs / food writer’s recipes for a particular dish and refines them, giving her reasoning, into a sort of ultimate version. The carbonara recipe reproduced in that article is taken from this series.
      Her “perfect” recipes are generally excellent and very reliable, well worth trying.
      Also, although she works for the Guardian, she’s an American.

  • Shell
    April 13, 2016 6:03pm

    Spaghetti Carbonara? I once saw a battle royal on one blog on how to make the perfect BLT.

  • Sarah Woo
    April 13, 2016 6:04pm

    Yay, thanks for giving Korean food such thorough treatment, David!

    I’m lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, where we have our pick of Korean grocery stores. Growing up, meals often consisted of just rice, banchan, and maybe a soup or stew (which may be eaten over the course of a few meals). Much easier than having to think about a new dish for each meal.

    Have you read Maangchi’s latest cookbook, Real Korean Cooking? I’ve cooked many of the recipes and find they taste exactly (or pretty close to) like my mom’s cooking. What I love about her and her YouTube videos are her stories about growing up in Korea. My favorite is her nearly 30-minute video of how to make doenjang (fermented soybean paste) and guk ganjang (soup soy sauce) from scratch. It takes months, and involves hanging up bricks of soybean paste in her apartment and dragging soy sauce out to the river’s edge to boil, to avoid offending the noses of neighbors (oh and to drink beer). A great watch, if you ever have time!

    Here is the link to that video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGhKwCq7SZk

    • April 13, 2016 7:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t have her book but I’ve been a fan for years. (She once profiled me on her site – swoon!) She’s done a lot of videos and I like that her stuff is so accessible. I felt that way when I posted Thai Stir-Fried Chicken, from the book, Simple Thai Cooking, which reassures you that if you get can’t certain ingredients, there are substitutions you can make that won’t raise the ire (or eyebrows) of purists.

      • Sarah Woo
        April 13, 2016 7:58pm

        I love it! I also love her accessibility and agree with you about the flexible approach to recipes in Korean cuisine. Every mom has a different way of making bulgogi marinade, for instance. My mom uses pureed Asian pear for sweetness while others prefer 7-Up. On another note, my husband is Chinese-American, and we do mishmash dinners all the time where he’ll throw whatever ingredients he likes (usually just chewy rice cakes) into every stew or soup I’m making. The only time I get particular about Korean food is when people insist on judging it against another culture’s food (usually Japanese), as if one is superior or is the “measuring stick” against which the others are assessed.I could go on and on about this, but that’s another rabbit hole that I am sure you are all too familiar with!

  • Debbie C
    April 13, 2016 6:23pm

    My mom…almost 70, and born and raised in Korea…is constantly adding unorthodox things into her Korean cooking, mostly for added health benefits but sometimes because she happens to have something in her fridge, so why not. Growing up I learned that most Korean home cooks don’t bother to measure their ingredients; a lot is eyeballed or added to taste. It’s a very flexible way to cook for sure! And so delicious.

  • Martinn Key2paris
    April 13, 2016 6:26pm

    what happened to my previous comment ? :-)
    I was just backing you up, saying that you don’t need to be French to cook French. Loving food, open minded, learning from others, being curious is enough… Forgot to say that I also had Indian friends who taught me, as my Mexican, Japanese, Mexican , Japanese, US , UK friends, my visits to market, coobook stores, cooking lessons, travels. So if I am not Japanese but my Japanese food is appreciated and authentic, I don’t see why a non-French could not cook French . Also I love Korean food and It is, I thing, the year of Korea in France? But what happened to my previous comment ? Why did it disappear ?????

    • Bebe
      April 13, 2016 6:39pm

      Look again. It’s back. I thought all of mine were gone. Then I refreshed and voila!, they were back in place.

      • Martinn Key2paris
        April 13, 2016 6:47pm

        Thanks bebe … yes weird sometimes.
        Anyway I love David’s posts always inspriring, beautiful photos, a world Gourmet..

  • April 13, 2016 6:47pm

    I so agree about not being a certain nationality to cook fabulously. Love the simplicity of this recipe; will be making it very soon, thank you!

  • Bebe
    April 13, 2016 7:11pm

    It’s interesting to read about the history of French cuisine. And how many different regional “cuisines” that really comprise it.

    Here’s as easy a place as any unless one has the time to read a large volume:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cuisine

  • Barbara
    April 13, 2016 7:25pm

    Hi David, As usual, I enjoyed your post, & my advice to those who get wacky when one changes up stuff? Just chill out!!! This recipe looks delicious (@ least your wonderful photos), & easy enough for me to make, so I look forward to.

  • Helen
    April 13, 2016 7:27pm

    I’m so TIRED of arguing over food, recipes, cooking etc.; being told I can’t create or appreciate Mexican dishes since I’m not from Mexico or Texas, or Japanese or Italian or…etc. I grew up with ethnic foods, have studied foods/cooking all my life, like to think I know what I’m talking about and am willing to try anything and love to experiment. I enjoyed Raymond Sokolov’s column in Natural History magazine and his approach to foods. Also love receiving your emails and blog posts! Thanks David.

    • April 13, 2016 7:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve never understood why people think that because you’re not born in some country or culture, that you can’t make the food from it. Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s restaurant, is exceptional and Jacques Pépin cooks a lot of great American food. I worked with Bruce Cost who was an excellent Chinese cook. I think being American, I am used to cultures melding since in most cities, the foods and cultures co-exist side-by-side and there are crossovers and interpretations.

      I am reading a new book that talks a lot about how Jean-Louis Palladin came to America from France in 1979 and he was so used to cooking with local, fresh ingredients, he had a hard time doing menus. Then he discovered the varieties of fish and other things that were native to the United States (he became famous for his corn soup!), and used those in his cooking, and became a big success.

      • Oonagh
        April 14, 2016 3:09am

        David, didn’t Trish Deseine, who is Irish, publish lots of books in France on French cooking? Did she get the same treatment or was she accepted?

      • June2
        April 16, 2016 8:36pm

        Paladin used to come into the restaurant where I worked (as a waiter) all the time to visit the chef/owner there, a fellow Frenchman. He seemed, like all the expat French, fun and friendly and open minded.

  • April 13, 2016 7:30pm

    This looks awesome David. Growing up in the U.S. my best friend’s Korean mother fed us bulgogi often, and to this day I’m a big fan. For some reason it never occurred to me to make a chicken version. Definitely have to give this a try.

  • April 13, 2016 7:36pm

    I am afraid that some people want so badly to stick to “traditions” that they do not accept any change in any recipe.
    But in the XVIIIth century, the same people would never had accepted tomato, potato, coffee, chocolate, tea in French cuisine and today we would miss so many excellent French recipes. David I think you had a post on Facebook about this topic and how French cuisine was maybe not as top as it used to be ? Creativity and tradition are not enemies. All the recipes we consider as traditional today were created one day weren’t they ? As long as it is good, made with love and quality ingredients, I am happy.

  • Sara
    April 13, 2016 8:38pm

    Dear Lord! I change every recipe I find! Usually make something the way the recipe calls for first time, but second time all bets are off.

    • Laurie
      April 14, 2016 1:28am

      I agree. Mom always said to follow the recipe the first time and then vary it after that. I think all regional cooking is about using what you have on hand so no food goes to waste. My Dad made the best asparagus omelets with wild asparagus he found along the road on his way home from work. The only other ingredients were olive oil and eggs in an iron skillet.

  • Liz
    April 13, 2016 10:06pm

    I make this often, because it’s so easy to throw together the night before and put in the fridge. It tastes great wrapped in a corn tortilla with a crisp Asian slaw made with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Fabulous. I grew up in Mexico, so anything is fair game as a taco.

  • Coral White
    April 13, 2016 10:27pm

    Your “thanks for coming” remark was very diplomatic. I don’t think I could have been that polite. My theory is women who have big, fancy gourmet kitchens don’t know how to cook. My daughter went to Colorado and stayed in a house that was valued at over $4m. The mother ordered out breakfast, lunch and supper. I am serious. My oven/stovetop/counters etc are 20+ years old. I don’t have fancy granite or the latest smooth cooktop, but I turn out some pretty damn good meals and people never turn me down when I invite them over for supper!

    • BananaBirkLarsen
      April 22, 2016 2:11am

      Absolutely! I work as a butcher and a lot of the time, the people who come in and demand only the very best, most expensive piece of steak, then demand in a panicked voice, detailed instructions for cooking it. Or they ask you to run it through the tenderizer. Or to cut it up into bite sized pieces because “cutting meat grosses me out”.

      Learning to cook well is one of the few things you can do to improve your quality of life that actually saves money. It’s why so many of the world’s best foods have grown out of poverty. I know I learned to cook because I was poor.

  • April 14, 2016 12:35am

    Loved reading your thoughts on authenticity! And thank you SO much for linking my Maesil Chung post on my Kimchimari (http://kimchimari.com) blog.

    I have thought about authenticity a lot in my years of blogging about Korean food…for me it is the resulting flavor and the essence of the dish rather than particular ingredients. I mean, what good is it if you are not able to make it because you have no access to some ingredients?

    BTW, there is definitely a traditional Korean chicken bulgogi recipe that uses Gochujang. A bulgogi with a kick! So you are totally spot on with the recipe!!

    Recipes also change with time – I went back to Korea after 20+ years to find that the flavors of many Korean dishes has changed over the years – partly due to change in the palette of the younger generation, fast pace of life, and wanting to be more health conscious (less salt, less spice..)..

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I may use it for my BBQ party this weekend.

    Cheers!

  • Gavrielle
    April 14, 2016 1:49am

    YOU USED SRIRACHA IN BULGOGI?!?!??!?!? Haha, only kidding! A+++ for the sentiment and for the recipe – I love Korean food but have been too intimidated to try making any. This is definitely doable and sounds divine. I love the way you always know exactly what mistake we are about to make and try to head us off at the pass – in this case, I will go ahead anyway with the chicken breasts as I don’t like the texture of chicken thighs, but I consider myself duly warned about the dryness!

  • Green note
    April 14, 2016 1:59am

    I think I have always cooked using ‘template’ recipes – a common process but with varying ingredients. For example, risotto = 3 cups fluid + 1.5 cups of rice; the fluid and the other ingredients are all completely subject to whim (and what needs using).

    I live in Australia where we have embraced newcomers food, British, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. Maybe living here I have been more sheltered from the ‘authenticity’ debate as our ‘national’ cuisine is probably more based around the quality of the produce and what you do with it, than the actual recipe you follow.

    A thought provoking article with a great recipe that I’ll be trying out. I needed another chicken marinade recipe!

  • Lillie
    April 14, 2016 1:12pm

    I was rolling my eyes while I was reading your article and thinking that Anericans being a melting pot and all wouldn’t be territorial about food. Then I remembered a while back when Melissa Clark with the NYTimes wrote about adding green peas to guacamole and how everyone came unglued. Twitter exploded and even Obama weighed it — No Peas in Guacomole! What is it about traditional recipes that make people not want to explore?

    • June2
      April 16, 2016 8:42pm

      Yes, haha! Here in Hawaii we make a killer edamame guac – try it, it’s delish

  • Doru Persinaru
    April 14, 2016 4:37pm

    “In America […] I wasn’t constantly battling ingrained prejudices as I would have been in France, where doing something as simple as adding carrots to beuf bourguignon could have gotten me guillotined, not because the carrots make the dish taste bad (they are great), but because it wouldn’t be the way a beuf was supposed to be made. In France, unless a dish was prepared exactly “right”, people would know and complain. In the States, if it tasted good, then fine, the customer was happy.”

    Jacques Pepin, The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen

    • April 14, 2016 5:50pm

      I LOVE your comment (even being French I fully agree with you and Jacques Pepin)

  • Michele Heaton
    April 14, 2016 8:33pm

    When I moved off to college, my dad wrote out some of his favorite recipes for me. One of them was for bulgogi, but we always made ours with beef. Some years later, I was at my Mom’s, and she asked me to make up a marinade for her. I automatically made bulgogi. She looked at it, sniffed the bowl, and yelled “that’s my recipe!!”…smile. Nothing like being stuck in the middle, with a Korean recipe, two adults from Oklahoma, and a California upbringing.

  • Nancy
    April 15, 2016 5:16pm

    Do you have a “print” option on your recipes? I’m not seeing it. I could copy and paste, if not – but would be so much easier if you have that feature. Let me know, Thanks!!!

    There isn’t one. More about that here. -dl

  • Susan Kahn
    April 16, 2016 1:59am

    OMG…your photos looked so mouth watering that we had to make this for dinner tonight! The flavors were so amazing! Thanks so much for the post!

  • Joan
    April 16, 2016 7:09am

    I could repeat exactly what Susan Khan said but I won’t. What I want to know is what is accompanying the chicken and the rice in the last photo–I want that too! We grilled and the scallions were a revelation. We’ll double those next time.

  • Angela Francis
    April 17, 2016 2:40am

    I grew up (early 70’s) in Korea watching my mother cook. She would taking me to the market most nights, and buy mostly fish for the evening meal that we’d also eat for breakfast. We didn’t have a refrigerator, so I don’t know how she kept our our food fresh, but I have a very fond memories of then watching my mother cooking over a stove that was build in the ground. No recipe books or measuring spoons – it was all done by tasting it here and there while it was cooking. I know it’s good Korean food when it reminds me of her. Thanks David for your sense of humor, and of course, the art of eating well.

  • Melissa
    April 17, 2016 3:19pm

    Perfect timing on this recipe! I’ve been idly thinking about trying to cook some Asian food (I am kind of stuck in the cuisines of the Mediterranean – deliciously), but the cookbooks I have are intimidating… This looks perfect and brought back great memories of a trip to Seoul, so I raced to the store and the chicken is marinating as I type. Thanks for the inspiration, as ever.

  • GBannis
    April 18, 2016 8:04am

    There was, in the 90s, a wonderful Korean restaurant on Mission Street in San Francisco. That place served up delicious, nuanced soups and other dishes. It did not do Korean BBQ, which at that time was the only form of Korean food served by other Korean restaurants.

    Today, Korean BBQ is joined by bulgogi and other intense dishes (think kim chee everything), which, while tasty, seem to continue to underrepresent the range of Korean food. I wonder if their relationship with Korean cooking is not akin to that between tacos/burritoes and Mexican cooking.

    • April 18, 2016 2:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s an interesting thought, about the predominance of bbq for our relationship to Korean cooking. I don’t know Deuki Hong, the author of this book (who cites his main influence is his mom’s home cooking), but he has a well-regarded Korean restaurant in New York City, in Koreatown, but I have been to Koreatown in Los Angeles which is a very diverse and large community and there are things on menus in their restaurants that I’d never heard of. But perhaps we’re drawn to what’s familiar to us because a Korean menu can be rather daunting if you’re unfamiliar with some of the food. Plus we like bbq!

  • Sharlotte Kramer
    April 19, 2016 4:22am

    My Korean mother is all about the eyeball measurements. It is actually a little hard to learn from her because she just says,”Your tongue knows when it isn’t right,” which is true, but she does not explain how she would fix it… Oh well, I just have to have an eagle eye while she cooks to learn her intuition. She often does things differently depending on what she has in hand, so she will change the recipe each time to adapt to her ingredients. Koreans are very free-form in their cooking. One thing you could try is my mother’s trick in her bulgogi: use the concentrated poaching liquid from a can on pears in juice instead of brown sugar. Koreans often use Asian pears that are ground up for that hint of sweetness since sugar was very expensive long ago in little farming towns like where my mom grew up. In Western markets, Asian pears are the expensive ingredient, so she substitutes the pear poaching liquid for her”right” flavor. The brown sugar has a very sharp sweetness, while the pear has a more subtle profile.

  • April 19, 2016 9:53am

    Awesome chicken – the first photo is perfect, though I regret clicking the poem link.

  • April 19, 2016 3:07pm

    I made this last night and it was amazing! I grilled some green beans at the same time and tossed them with some reserved marinade. So easy for a weeknight dinner! We’ll be making this again and again. Thanks!

  • Katie
    April 20, 2016 4:58pm

    I’m a longtime Korean American reader of your blog. It hurts to read in this post that you think people concerned with cultural appropriation and exploitation are just people with their “knickers in a twist.”

    No one minds when non-Koreans eat Korean food. It’s when non-Koreans profit off of traditions not their own – while Koreans themselves can’t get the same financial buy-in. It’s when people not from a culture are seen as experts in a cuisine, over people from that culture.

    This all ties into a much larger structure of exploitation of mostly non-white-folks’ cultures being up for grabs on a global scale, while mostly white folks profit.

    But to downplay the justifiable reasons why Asian Americans were upset about the Trillin poem, or why people are frustrated and angry about cultural appropriation is not a good look. It’s not affecting you – please don’t talk over or demean the people who are speaking up about it.

    • Topol
      April 21, 2016 10:26pm

      “It’s when non-Koreans profit off of traditions not their own …”

      I suppose this also means that Koreans should not profit off any traditions that are not their own.

      We are all homo sapiens, and culture is an adaptation that changes over time.

      Get angry that someone had better business sense than you and beat you to a profit-making business, but don’t call it an absurd and racist thing such as “cultural appropriation.”

      • Sue
        April 30, 2016 8:21am

        “I suppose this also means that Koreans should not profit off any traditions that are not their own.”

        “We are all homo sapiens, and culture is an adaptation that changes over time.”

        These are quite the fallacies.

        Cultural appropriation is racist, you’re right. Pointing out that appropriation exists is not.

    • Sue
      April 30, 2016 8:06am

      I completely agree with everything you said. The conversation around authenticity is not one and the same for all cuisines, especially in the US, nor should it be for all the reasons you laid out.

  • Sylvie
    April 22, 2016 5:01am

    Yum. We made this tonight. It was easy and delicious! Thanks!

  • April 29, 2016 8:34pm

    I made this yesterday and it is delicious, easy and quick, I’ll make it again. I ate it with plain boiled rice, fresh asparagus tips, (the rest went it to a soup)’ and some homemade onion chutney. Thank you.

  • Annie
    May 3, 2016 2:15am

    The pictures got my attention and the ease of the recipe won me, made this for dinner tonight. First try and came out awesome. I tripled the marinade for the amount of chicken I used and it scaled beautifully. Used both thighs and breasts, the breasts did dry out but flavor was good. Will adjust grill temp and cooking time on next attempt. Shopped, marinaded, and cooked all after work, only let marinade for 40 minutes and still got lots of flavor. It’s a keeper! Thanks David, enjoy your writings so much!

  • heather
    May 10, 2016 7:09am

    Acorn jelly?? Any recipes please?

  • SandraM
    May 12, 2016 6:48pm

    Made this last night for dinner. So good!! I love the chicken thighs for the grill.

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