There’s a lot to be said for eschewing ‘festive’ traditions that bring no real joy — and if there’s a joyless food, it’s turkey. Miserly with its fat, yet excessive in bulk: why do we eat this thing, again? It’s the reason duck has been a staple at my past few Thanksgivings, and why I think bulgogi may be the perfect Christmas dinner.
Bulgogi (Korean marinated beef, for the uninitiated) might go better with kimchi than with cranberry sauce, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t holiday-appropriate. Its heady mix of garlic, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and chilli excels in the fragrant-kitchen department, for starters. It marinates for hours, but cooks quickly. And — an important consideration, when you’re sharing food with those you love — it’s best served family-style, with plenty of accompaniments on the side. Fried eggs, spring onions, the aforementioned kimchi, and a fiery red sauce made with gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste): mix them all in and enjoy a Christmas dinner with actual kick.
These bulgogi bowls have sweetness, purring heat, acidic tang and fermented funk, all of which suggest that they might be difficult to pair with beer. But Brew by Numbers’ Saison Citra was an ideal fit. 01|01 is beautifully golden, boasts a juicy-fruit demeanor, and has a whiff of real pungency about it, courtesy of the Citra. Its own multi- dimensionality means it works with sweetness and with funk, while its sheer gulpability bats away heat. It’s a damn good beer for an extra special dinner.
Adapted from Bon Appétit
For the bulgogi:
½ pear (Asian pear, preferably), peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, grated
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbs ginger, grated
1 tbs demerera sugar
1 tbs toasted sesame oil
500g steak (you could use skirt, topside, or another cut that takes well to marinating and searing)
Add the pear, garlic, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, ginger, sugar, and sesame oil to a ziploc freezer bag. Meanwhile, slice the beef into very thin slices — about as thin as you can get — and add to the bag. Seal the bag and ensure the marinade and beef are well mixed. Place in the fridge and allow the meat to marinate for 6-8 hours.
For the sauce:
4 tbs gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
2 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs demerera sugar
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds
3 tbs water
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, grated
Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk until well blended.
For the rice:
500g sushi rice
Rinse your rice in a sieve under cold water for several minutes, stirring gently with your fingers as you do, or until the water runs just about clear. Add the drained rice and the water to a saucepan and heat on high until the mix has come to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the rice to stand, with the lid on, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice.
2 tbs vegetable oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Once the rice has been cooked and the sauce prepared, get ready to fry your beef. Add the vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat on high until very hot. Add the beef to the pan in a single layer (you will likely have to cook in several batches) and season lightly with sea salt. Cook for a minute or so until lightly browned. Flip, and toss the meat, continuing to cook over high heat, for 2-3 minutes more, or until nicely browned.
To assemble, divide the rice between the bowls. Top each with a generous helping of the bulgogi. To each bowl, you can add a healthy dollop of kimchi and top with a fried egg. Finish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and spring onions. Drizzle over with sauce — the more, the spicier.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And swing over to the shop or the online store to pick up Brew By Numbers Saison Citra while stocks last.