Long story short, I spent a year living in Seoul.
I could regale you with tales of South Korea’s quaint cultural norms, beautiful temples and what is was like living in the world’s second biggest city by population.
Instead, let’s just get straight to the point and I’ll simply profess my love for their food and restaurant culture, above all else.
And by restaurant culture, I mean eating copious amounts of BBQ’d meat, perpetual consumption of ice cold beers and chain smoking (cheap) Malboro reds, usually followed by passing out on a subway carriage home, missing your stop entirely, and ending up somewhere so far out of the city that a taxi back into the city results in an early morning trip to the local police station with one very pissed off taxi driver, due to lack of funds for the fare.
Was a good night out though.
This is an ensemble of skirt steak with a mung bean & beef shin pancake and homemade kimchi.
It was in Seoul where I first ate skirt steak. Although rarely seen on restaurant menus, it is widely available in all butchers. It’s a cheap and underrated cut but delicious when grilled.
If you’d rather go slightly fancier, then feel free to substitute with another cut of beef steak.
You’ll also most likely need to find an asian supermarket for the mung bean powder and gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder).
I made the kimchi by leaving it to ferment for over a month. The recipe I used was from Regina Pyo’s book, Our Korean Kitchen, and it can be found here via Nigella Lawson’s website https://www.nigella.com/cookbook-corner/our-korean-kitchen-by-jordan-bourke-and-rejina-pyo
Trust me when I say that it is a worthwhile endeavour, but If you’d rather skip that stage, then just buy some from any decent supermarket.
As for the music, South Korea is arguably living through its golden age of music right now with artists such as Peggy Gou and Park Hye-Jin already well-established in house music folklore.
See below some of their finest works for an accompanying soundtrack.
Shopping list (serves 4)
Bulgogi skirt steak:
Skirt steak (cut into 4 even portions) x 800g
Pear (grated) x 1
Fresh ginger (grated) x 1 tbsp
Garlic cloves (minced) x 2
Dark soy sauce x 2 tbsp
Toasted sesame oil x 4 tbsp
Rice wine x 1 tbsp
Beef shin reduction:
Beef shin (whole with bone in) x 150-200g
Sweet red pepper (finely chopped) x 1
Courgette (finely chopped) x 1
Spring onions (finely chopped) x 1
Garlic cloves (smashed) x 2
Fresh ginger (grated) x 1 tsp
Gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) x 1/2 tbsp
Soy sauce x 2 tbsp
Toasted sesame oil x 2 tbsp
Rice wine vinegar x 1 tbsp
Plain flour x 1/2 tbsp
Boiled water x 800ml
Mung bean pancake:
Mung bean powder x 150g
Cooked beef shin (finely chopped) x 150-200g
Spring onions (roughly chopped) x 8
Garlic cloves (grated) x 2
Fresh ginger (grated) x 1 tsp
Toasted sesame oil x 3 tbsp
Dark soy sauce x 1 tbsp
Pinch of salt
Cold water x 400ml
Shiitake mushrooms (halved) x 100g
Spring onions (roughly chopped) to serve x 2
Sesame seeds to serve
Start the night before by marinating the skirt steak in the rest of the ingredients and setting aside in your fridge.
For the beef shin and its reduction, start by covering the shin cut in the flour and plenty of black pepper and salt. In a red hot pan, brown evenly on each side, before removing.
Set your oven to 140°C (fan)/160°C.
In the same pan fry the onions, red pepper, courgette and garlic over a medium heat for just five minutes. Add the gochugaru and turn the heat down, whilst mixing continuously.
Add the boiled water along with the ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey. Bring up to the boil and add the shin. Cover and then place in your oven for 4 hours, before removing and allowing to cool.
Sieve the sauce and make sure to stir through the marrow from the shin bone. Carefully scoop out the meat. Chop finely and set aside.
Reduce the sieved sauce until about 150ml remains and it’s thick and glossy. Keep warm on your hob.
An hour before you want to eat, remove the skirt steak from the fridge.
For the pancake, you’ll need to first mix the mung bean powder and water into a thick batter. Add the rest of the ingredients and ensure it’s mixed well.
Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan and press the batter evenly into the pan. Over a medium heat, fry it for five minutes on each side. You’ll most likely need to slice the pancake in half in order to successfully flip it, but by all means go for the showman’s whole pancake toss if you want…
Heat a griddle pan or dry frying pan until smoking hot. Cook the steaks on each side for three minutes and allow to rest for five minutes. At the same time, quickly cook the shiitake mushrooms in the same pan over a high heat.
Serve your sliced steak alongside a portion of crispy pancake and mushrooms soaked in the shin reduction. Finish with a scattering of spring onion and sesame seeds, and of course, a bowl of kimchi on the side.