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Bulgogi: Barbecue Beyond Burgers
Bulgogi is a centerpiece of Korean-style barbecue. Bite into Groupon’s exploration of how it gets its sizzle.
Open flame shines through the taste of bulgogi. The dish’s name is derived from the Korean for fire meat, reflecting its time spent over a hot charcoal fire. That heat brings to life a startling range of flavors: sweetness from sugar or honey, saltiness from soy sauce, zest from garlic and scallions, acidity from rice wine or vinegar—all bloom amid the tendrils of smoke. Beef bulgogi made with thin meat slices is the most common, but as versions of the dish have been around since as early as the third century BC, chefs have had plenty of time to develop pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian variants. Whatever the protein, things begin by bathing meals in a marinade until the flavors are potent enough to stand up to the heat of the grill (although the dish can also be pan cooked).
Bulgogi was served during celebrations for much of its history, and the style of dining remains communal and jovial in most Korean restaurants today. Chopsticks often chatter above a shared grill, small bowls of the cooling vegetable side dishes known as banchan, and, sometimes lettuce leaves for wrapping the morsels of meat.