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Indulge in a Korean-inspired feast with this mouthwatering Pork Bulgogi. Imagine tender slices of pork marinated in a savory and sweet blend of pear, ginger, and soy sauce, then perfectly seared until irresistibly flavorful – it’s a vibrant and exciting twist to your weeknight dinners!
Easy Korean Inspired Pork Bulgogi Recipe
Take your taste buds on a delightful journey with this Korean-inspired Pork Bulgogi. Think tender, succulent pork tenderloin slices absorbing a sweet and savory marinade, rich with the aromatic duo of garlic and ginger, the fruitiness of pear, and that irresistible hint of heat from red chili flakes. This dish is like an exciting little party in your mouth, with every bite bursting with flavor.
But the magic doesn’t stop at the marinating. Picture this: those well-seasoned slices of pork, sizzling as they hit the hot skillet, caramelizing into a perfect balance of smoky and sweet. It’s not just a meal; it’s an experience. Serve it over steaming rice or noodles and watch as your table falls silent but for the sounds of pure culinary joy.
What Is Bulgogi
Bulgogi is a classic Korean dish that translates to “fire meat.” It traditionally consists of thinly sliced, marinated beef or pork that is cooked over an open flame or on a grill. The marinade typically features a harmonious blend of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and sometimes Korean pear or apple to add a hint of sweetness and to tenderize the meat. The result is a delightful combination of savory, sweet, and smoky flavors.
In modern preparations, bulgogi is often pan-cooked, making it convenient to prepare at home. Served with steamed rice and a variety of Korean side dishes known as ‘banchan,’ bulgogi is a celebrated dish that is beloved both in Korea and around the world.
- Pork Tenderloin: Thinly sliced and succulent, it absorbs the flavors of the marinade beautifully. Alternatively, you could use pork shoulder or thinly sliced beef.
- Garlic: Adds a depth of aromatic flavor that is a quintessential part of Korean-inspired cuisine. No substitute can match its punch.
- Fresh Ginger: Brings warmth and zing to the dish, highlighting the savory elements of the marinade. Ground ginger can work in a pinch, but fresh is best.
- Soy Sauce: The foundation of our marinade; it’s rich, salty, and savory. Tamari or coconut aminos are great gluten-free options.
- Red Chili Flakes: For that spicy kick that wakes up your palate. Adjust to your liking, or swap for a milder chili powder or paprika if desired.
- Pear: A Korean secret! It tenderizes the meat while adding a subtle sweetness. Apples or kiwi can be used as a substitute.
- Sesame Oil: Infuses the dish with a rich, nutty aroma. Another oil won’t deliver the same flavor, but canola or vegetable oil can work if necessary.
- Light Brown Sugar: Enhances the sweet notes in the marinade. Honey or maple syrup can serve as a natural alternative.
- Vegetable Oil: Used for cooking the meat to a perfect sear. Canola or avocado oil are great substitutes.
- Green Onions: For a fresh, colorful garnish that also adds a crisp, oniony finish. Chives or thinly sliced shallots could step in if needed.
This pork bulgogi recipe is a breeze to whip up, and it’s about to make your kitchen smell amazing. Let’s get started.
First, grab a bowl, mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chili flakes, grated pear, sesame oil, and brown sugar. Give it a good whisk until everything is nicely combined. This is where all the flavor magic happens.
Pour this beautiful marinade over the pork in the bag. Seal it up and give it a gentle shake to make sure every piece of pork is getting some marinade love. Let this sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Got more time? Let it marinate in the fridge for up to 8 hours. The longer, the better.
Heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the marinated pork, laying it out in a single layer. Let it cook, untouched, for about 3 minutes or until it starts to get that gorgeous brown, almost charred look. Turn the pork slices and let them cook for another 2 minutes or so until they’re browned on both sides. Then, transfer them to a bowl and set aside.
Repeat the process with the remaining oil, pork, and marinade. We’re building layers of flavor here, friend.
All that’s left is to pile that flavorful pork over some steaming rice or noodles, and sprinkle those chopped green onions on top for a fresh crunch. Dinner is served, and it’s a masterpiece.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to use pork tenderloin?
Nope, you don’t have to. Pork shoulder or pork belly also works wonderfully in this recipe. They’re a bit fattier, but that means they’ll be incredibly tender and flavorful after marinating and cooking.
I can’t handle too much spice; what can I do?
No worries at all! You can reduce the amount of red chili flakes or leave them out altogether. The ginger and garlic will still give the dish a nice kick without the extra heat.
Why use pear in the marinade?
The pear acts as a natural tenderizer for the pork and adds a subtle sweetness that balances the savory and spicy elements of the marinade. If pears aren’t your thing, you can substitute it with apple or kiwi.
Can I make this dish ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can marinate the pork up to 8 hours in advance. If you’re in a real pinch, even 30 minutes of marinating will infuse the pork with lots of flavor. Plus, cooked bulgogi reheats well, making it perfect for meal prep.
Can I cook this on a grill instead of a skillet?
Yes, you can! Grilling the pork will give it a wonderful smoky flavor and beautiful charred edges. Just make sure your grill is hot and the grates are well-oiled to prevent sticking.
- Slice It Right: For tender and succulent bites, make sure to slice your pork thinly and against the grain. This makes the meat absorb the marinade better and ensures it cooks evenly.
- Don’t Rush the Marinade: Give the pork time to soak up all those amazing flavors. Marinating for at least 30 minutes is good, but if you can let it sit for 2 hours or more, the difference is remarkable!
- Searing Matters: When you’re cooking the pork, resist the urge to move it around too much. Let it sear and develop that beautiful, flavorful crust before flipping. Patience is key here.
- Keep It Hot: Use a hot, well-oiled pan or grill to cook the pork. This ensures that you get a nice char on the meat, which is essential for that authentic bulgogi flavor.
Storing your Pork Bulgogi is a breeze! After letting it cool to room temperature, transfer the cooked meat to an airtight container. It will stay fresh and delicious in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
If you’re thinking ahead, you can also freeze this dish: just place the cooled, cooked meat in a freezer-safe bag or container, press out as much air as possible, and seal it tightly. It will retain its flavor and texture for up to 2 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy it again, simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave.
Discover More Korean Inspired Recipes
- Korean Beef Bulgogi
- Korean Fried Chicken
- Bibimbap (Korean Rice Bowl)
- Korean Style Pork Chops
- Korean Beef Stir Fry
- Korean Beef Tacos
- 1 pound pork tenderloin (cut into thin pieces)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled and grated, about 1 inch piece)
- ¼ cup soy sauce (low sodium)
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- ½ medium pear (grated)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar (packed)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for cooking meat)
- 2 green onions (chopped for garnish)
- In a bowl add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chili flakes, pear, sesame oil and brown sugar. Whisk everything together well.
- Pour the marinade over the pork, close the ziploc bag and shake it around a bit to make sure that the all the pork meat is covered in the marinade. Let it marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat it over medium high heat. Add half of the meat to the skillet and arrange it so that it's in a single layer. Cook it for about 3 minutes without touching the meat, or until the meat starts to brown, almost char, then turn it and cook for another 2 or so minutes until it's browned on both sides. Remove the meat from the skillet to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil and remaining meat along with remaining marinade. Repeat cooking the same as above.
- Serve over cooked rice or noodles and garnish with chopped green onions.
- Easy Slicing: Place the tenderloin in the freezer for 10 minutes if you’re having trouble getting thin slices.
- Marinating Time: For best results, let the pork marinate for at least 30 minutes, but if you have time, letting it soak up those flavors for up to 8 hours is ideal.
- Heat Level: Adjust the red chili flakes to your preference – more for a spicier kick, less for a milder flavor.
- Pear Substitute: If you don’t have a pear on hand, you can substitute with a sweet apple, which also tenderizes the meat and adds sweetness.
- Serving Suggestions: This Pork Bulgogi shines when served over steamed rice or noodles, but it’s also fantastic in lettuce wraps for a lower-carb option.
- Nutritional information does not include rice.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit