What I know about Korean cooking fits in your standard No. 10 business envelope. I know that Koreans, not unlike many other Asian cultures, use a lot of soy sauce. I know that kimchi is a big deal (thank you M*A*S*H reruns). I know that Korean barbecue is a way for a restaurant to charge you money only to have you do the cooking at your table (though I might be simplifying things here). When I mentioned to The Wife that I was doing something Korean for dinner, I got a raised eyebrow, a ruffled forehead and a lot of silence.
As a social media follower of McCann’s Local Meats in Rochester, I often see photos of the café’s bulgogi sandwiches. Having known Kevin since his days in Syracuse, this is not a surprise. Korean short ribs, bulgogi, and other items often show up in his meat cases and prepared food bars. I’m going to guess that his wife, who is Korean, has something to do with it. But even if it doesn’t, Korean food looks good and is certainly worth trying. I mean, think about how you hated sushi without ever trying it. “Eww. Raw fish?” Right?
Digressing, since I know nothing about Korean food, I decided to start slow with bulgogi, which is loosely translated to “really delicious marinated steak that has been shaved razor thin.” Actually, Wikipedia tells me that the literal meaning is “fire meat” but I like my explanation better. With a bunch of shaved ribeye, a really good marinade and some day-old Pastabilities stretch Italian bread, I decided to do what any good American would do: add cheese. Nothing too crazy here, but a mild fontina or mozzarella goes a long way with a subtle salty and gooey addition to the roll.
WHAT WORKED: Gochujang. It’s sriracha for the more enlightened. More specifically, it’s a paste made of red chilies, fermented soybean and salt. It’s spicy upfront with a heat on the back end that makes you stand up and grab a beer from the fridge. Sriracha = Good. Gochujang = Gooder.
WHAT DIDN’T: Wegmans. One might think that the staff at one of the chain’s flagship stores — Dewitt — might have a grip on what it stocks. After looking for shaved steak and not finding it, I asked one of the meat department guys where it was shelved. The dead-behind-the-eyes gent loading chicken into a cooler pointed me to the Steak-Umms in the freezer. Everyday you get their best…except when you don’t. I ended up buying it at Trader Joe’s.
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium. You need to keep your eyes on your grill so that the meat doesn’t burn.
BEST FOR: A quick and easy midweek dinner, or something laid back for the weekend.
SERVE WITH: Some steamed edamame, spring rolls and a light-bodied lager.