Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sweet on Beef

Hello everyone, and welcome to my fourth post. I spent the day in San Francisco last weekend going rock climbing with friends at a bouldering gym. We climbed for several hours until our arms ached and we had built up an appetite. We ended up eating at a tiny SF Korean barbecue restaurant crowded with younger people (in their 20s) eating, drinking and talking loudly.
We sat in a booth - a large party of eight - with tables squeezed in between the benches. Unlike most Asian restaurants, no art hung on the walls. Instead, the red walls were darkened by dim lighting.  Despite the crowd, it was not too noisy and unfortunately I could hear every word of the extremely talkative member of our party.
I ordered the "No. 2", which was similar to what I used to order from a Korean barbecue place when I lived in Portland. A bulgogi beef dish, which was  made up of sweet beef marinated in a glaze of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, pepper and sesame oil, then cooked on a hot metal plate. In Portland, it was always served with a variety of red sauces and vegetables, but here there were no side dishes and the thinly sliced meat came hot and sizzling with a small bowl of plain, white sticky rice. Surprisingly, the meat was not too hot to eat, and I held my bowl Japanese style in the left hand and used my chopsticks to top the rice with meat before shoving both in my mouth.
The soft beef was noticeably sweet, which I balanced with the plain rice and my glass of water. I prefer a marinade that isn't so strong on the sugar. I like the sweetness to be offset by the saltiness of the soy sauce and to get some hints of garlic and sesame in the flavor. Often times, I've been served kimchi or another type of pickled vegetable with red chili pepper flakes on the side. Even though I don't care for it, the option to break up a strong taste on my palate is nice. In this case, the option was not offered. However, my sweet, soft beef-and-rice dish left me basically satisfied and felt worth it for the price of $12.00. It filled my hunger and tasted pretty good. After eating the whole dish I felt pleasantly full.
Although it tasted good to me, how good was it for me? Let’s find out. According to, beef bulgogi has 17.7g of fat, 7.3g of carbs, and 35.5g of protein. Add to that the nutrition facts of one cup of cooked rice, which according to, is 0g of fat, 45g of carbs, and 4g of protein. Compared to the cheeseburger from the first post (27g of fat, 39g of carbs, 22g of protein in an In-N-Out burger), I would say the bulgogi is a bit more nutritious, especially considering the cheeseburger contains some trans fats. It is also a better choice than the ramen, whether or not it is healthier than a set of California rolls is up to a person’s body. If they function better with carbs, then the California rolls are probably healthier, but if they react to protein better, the bulgogi is more beneficial. Personally, I feel the most energetic with a combination of protein and carbohydrates, and from a nutritional standpoint, the bulgogi is the better option for me.
The final comparison to make is with the pad Thai. I didn’t mention this in the last post, but according to a website called iChange, beef pad Thai has 30g of fat, 60g of carbs and 40g of protein. Together the rice and bulgogi have about the same amount of protein, but fewer carbs and less fat. Personally I would go with the pad Thai, as I feel I have the most energy after eating it.
Just like with the pad Thai, I was interested in finding out the origins of bulgogi beef. Pad Thai and bulgogi are very similar in that they both represent their respective countries. Bulgogi is eaten in Korea, but unlike pad Thai, can be traced back to as early as 37 BC during the Goguryeo dynasty (Jin Lee and Sook Cho p. 169). The bulgogi’s heritage is one of the major reasons for its importance in Korean culture. According to the article “The Evolution of Bulgogi over the Past 100 years,” bulgogi has “shifted from a mere cuisine to a symbol of Korean culture, a cultural heritage that has developed with Korea’s long history.”
Bulgogi began with roasting and marinating beef. The term seoryamyeok was used to describe treating meat in this process during the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Eventually this process changed to include seasonings, which again shifted the name to neobiani. The seasonings in the meat were made up of soy sauce, salt, pepper, scallion, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and pear juice, many of which would create the base for the bulgogi glaze (Jin Lee and Sook Cho). In fact, bulgogi and neobiani are almost identical, the difference between the two being that bulgogi can refer to either boiling or roasting meat, while neobiani only refers to roasting.
Since the term bulgogi came into existence during the 1920s, many Koreans, despite the history of bulgogi as a roasted meat, ate the dish in the boiled form where the meat is served in a meat broth. This finally changed in the 1990s when people began to focus less on the broth and more on the meat, resulting in the return of roasted bulgogi (Jin Lee and Sook Cho p.193). The two are still important parts of Korean culture today, and serve as a representation of Korean cuisine to the world.
That’s it for this post. Thanks for reading.

Works Cited
"How Many Calories in Beef Pad Thai, 1 Plate." IChange. Herbalife. Web. 20 May 2016.
Jin Lee, Kyou, and Sook Cho, Mi. "The Evolution of Bulgogi over the Past 100 Years." Korea 53.4 (2013): 168-94. Korean American Data Bank. Web. 20 May 2016.
"Korean BBQ Nutrition Facts, Korean BBQ Calories, Nutritional Information." My Fitness Pal. Web. 20 May 2016.
"Nutrition Facts Analysis for Rice, White, Long-grain, Regular, Cooked." Self Nutrition Data. Web. 20 May 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Daniel,
    First off I wanted to say that I have had a similar dish to bulgogi in my past, but listening to your description of bulgogi made my mouth water. I find the evolution of bulgogi to be interesting, especially how far back you managed to trace parts of it to (918!).
    My favorite part of your posts is that I am constantly fascinated by this well diverse and cultured palate you have, and frankly, I'm a little bit jealous. Your trifecta of Japanese, Italian, and American food knowledge make for an interesting read for sure.