Here’s what I’ve learned from all the Korean cooks who’ve worked with us over the years: at the end of a long service, there’s nothing better than Korean barbecue. We like to go to Hahm Ji Bach in Flushing, Queens (I like Park’s in Los Angeles, too), but I wanted to learn how to make it myself. When I started asking Korean cooks about it, I learned that in every family recipe, there’s always one key ingredient in the overnight marinade for sweetening and tenderizing. Sometimes it’s ground-up Asian pears; sometimes it’s kiwi. But the most popular ingredient? The ultimate American flavor: Coca-Cola.
This recipe is definitely not authentic bulgogi: it’s my backyard version of that sweet-salty late-night flavor. I like rib-eyes for my version, but you can use any kind of steak that you grill—and you don’t need a grill to do it. Even if you’re using the broiler in your apartment oven, I guarantee it will come out seriously succulent and flavorful.
SERVES 4 TO 6
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup Coca-Cola
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 green onions, minced
- 2 bone-in rib-eye steaks (2 1/2 pounds each)
- 1/2 cup kimchee (from a jar), for serving (optional)
- 1/2 cup peeled, grated daikon radish (from a 3-inch piece), for serving (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, Coke, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce. Add the garlic and green onions, and whisk well.
There are two ways to get the marinade on the steak. Do whichever of these floats your boat: (a) Put the steaks in a large deep dish and pour the marinade over them. Cover the dish tightly with tin foil and put it in the fridge. Or (b) pour the marinade into a gallon plas- tic bag, put in the steaks, seal the bag, and shake them around till they’re coated in the marinade. Either way, the steaks should marinate in the fridge for 12 hours. (But don’t let them marinate for longer than that: you don’t want the meat to break down too much.)
Pull the steaks out of the marinade, pile them on a plate, and let them come up to room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes).
Either fire up the grill or turn the broiler on high. If you’re using the grill, you should also preheat the oven to 400°F.
If you’re using the broiler, put the steaks on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, place the baking sheet on the middle or middle-high rack, and broil the steaks for about 6 minutes per side. If you’re using the grill, lay the meat right on the rack so it gets a nice char, and let it grill for 4 to 6 minutes a side, depend- ing on the thickness of the meat: you just want to get a nice char going. Then bring the meat back inside and finish it on a rack in a roasting pan in the oven at 400°F for 6 minutes, turning it over once so it cooks more evenly.
No matter how you’re cooking the steak, it’s done when the meat springs back to the touch (if you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 115°F).
Let the meat rest for 5 minutes; then slice it thin. If you want the full Korean experience, serve up a bowl of kimchee on the side. And even though it’s not Korean at all, I really love to serve this with grated daikon, too.