Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy 추석 (Chu'seok)!

As this year's harvest festival (call it Sukkot, call it what you will) comes to close, let me post a tribute to my favorite variation upon it: Chu'seok, the Korean Thanksgiving. Readers of this blog are well aware of my affection for holidays. They're important, they're fun, they're excellent building blocks for family and community traditions...and most especially, they provide the opportunity for some wonderful meals. Chu'seok is no different. I seek out Korean food because I fell in love with it while serving my church mission there; we go overboard on Chu'seok because it's the one day a year I'll probably be able to get all my family to eat it with me. We don't prepare the full, traditional meal, with song pyun (rice cakes) and the like; I'm not that enamored with every detail of the holiday. But we do make bulkogi (Korean barbecue beef), though we lack all the tools and ingredients to do in right. There are, of course, a lot of bulkogi recipes out there (like this one). But this is one that has served us well, as we've lived in places far distant from any Korean restaurants whatsoever (Wichita is slightly better on that score than many places we've lived...but only slightly). So, in honor of the holiday today, I'm documenting every step for you. Enjoy!

Assemble (note that this was for a double serving: 2 Asian pears, 6 garlic gloves, 4 carrots, 6 mushrooms, 3 small onions, 6 green onions, 8 tablespoons of soy sauce, 5 tablespoons of sugar, 2.5 pounds of thinly sliced beef (ribeye steak works best), and 4 tablespoons peanut oil. Plus, of course, your kimchee.

Peal and cut the pears into small chunks.

Do the same with the garlic gloves, slicing them thinly.

Place the pear chunks and garlic slices in a blender. Add the soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. Blend into a marinade.

Cut up the carrots, mushrooms, onions and green onions into thin, small strips.

Do the same with the meat. If you can't obtain meat cut this size (no more than 1/4-inch thick is my recommendation; usually the meat prepared for a milanesa will be the right size), then buy some ribeye, leave it in your freezer for an hour, and cut it yourself, against the grain.

Combine all the ingredients, plus the sugar; allow to stand, refrigerated, in a covered container for at least an hour, preferably up to 24 hours.

Fry it up! If you're lucky, you have the right sort of grill to cook the meat and its accoutrements properly. In Korea, and in the better Korean restaurants in America, this will be a small grill, either flat or curved like an upside-down bowl, which can cook the meat at your table. But if you don't have anything like that--and we don't--then use a wok, or some other frying pan. Use the remainder of the peanut oil to prepare the pan, and get it smoking hot before cooking. You want the vegetables to still be somewhat firm, so don't overcook.

Serve with rice, some spicy pepper paste if you're lucky enough to have some, kimchee, and lettuce leaves, in which you wrap up the bulkogi and sides before shoving it rudely and deliciously into your mouth. Oh, and plenty of water--because if done right, this is one hot dish.


Amy F. said...

I really enjoyed reading about this tradition of yours and the step by step shots. It looks really yummy. Your family is not as picky as mine. I know Jesse would eat it for sure. He eats anything with beef in it. Maybe it had to do with the plethora of cow in your freezer growing up. I don't think our kids would though. Your family probably celebrates the most holidays out of anyone I know. Happy Chu'seok! (I've actually never heard of it, so that was fun to write for the first time.)

Peter LLC said...

Yum, I'll have to give your recipe a try.

We had a Chuseok "happy hour" at work yesterday. There wasn't much in the way of food--just songpyeon, grapes, dates and chocolate cake--but I'll take what I can get.

Russell Arben Fox said...

Amy, someday, when we're all back together in Spokane, I'll make some bulkogi for everyone: promise.

Peter, where do you live and work that you had a Chu'seok "happy hour"? That sounds pretty far out.

KLS said...

RAF, I believe you still owe me some bulkogi after stealing my leftovers from Touch of Seoul. Ante up.