The first time I had something wrapped in lettuce I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to like it. I mean… why not use a tortilla or bread or any number of delicious wrapping things. Lettuce? Really? That’s the best you can do?
Of course, when I tried it, my mind was immediately changed. Lettuce, you see, is nature’s wrap. It crunchy, healthy, and never over-powers the stuff that it’s wrapping. Plus, because lettuce tends to be smaller, it makes for either an appetizer or a meal. Just eat as many as you want!
This marinated beef dish, bulgogi, is a staple in Korean restaurants. The beef is thinly sliced and quickly seared and served with various toppings. Add some crunchy lettuce and you can make little bulgogi wraps!
While the steak is kind of the star of the show here, it’s also a perfect opportunity to use one of my favorite condiments: Kimchi. It can barely even be called a condiment when I eat it because I can consume it by the pound…
1) Slice the flank steak thinly across the grain.
2) Mix all the steak marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add your sliced steak. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes.
3) Prep all your other ingredients like washing the lettuce, slicing garlic or scallions, cooking rice, or just getting kimchi out of the jar.
4) Cook the steak in a very hot pan (I used a cast iron pan) for about 45 seconds per side. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
5) As the steak is cooked, pull it off onto a plate.
6) Serve immediately making small wraps with lettuce, steak, rice, and toppings.
Marinating the Steak
The marinade for this bulgogi version is very delicious. Maybe my favorite beef marinade that I’ve tried. To start, get a good piece of flank steak and slice it thinly across the grain. That’ll make it really tender and easy to eat.
Then you’ll need some things for the marinade. If you start cooking with a lot of Asian flavors, you’ll notice that they tend to use the same things over and over again in sauces and marinades. For this one, I had almost everything except the scallions and fresh ginger in my pantry already.
Mix all your ingredients except the neutral oil and scallion greens in a large bowl and then add your sliced flank steak. Stir it together and let it marinate for at least 15 minutes. There’s really no need to go longer than an hour on this marinade because the steak is so thin.
While the steak is marinating you can prep your other things. I really recommend making a pot of rice to go along with this. You can eat the bulgogi straight with the rice if you don’t want to do the lettuce wrapping thing, but the rice also works well in the lettuce wraps.
The star of the accompaniment show though, for me anyway, is definitely this stuff:
As far as lettuce goes, I used butter lettuce for my version here but if I were to make it again I think I’d use something a bit sturdier like Romaine. The butter lettuce was just a bit too frail to hold up to all the fillings in the bulgogi. Even when I doubled up my lettuce, it was still hard to keep the filling contained.
I also sliced up some raw garlic very thinly. The flavors in the beef and kimchi are really powerful so the garlic doesn’t really overpower them. One or two very thin slices works nicely.
Cooking the Steak
You can use any number of pans to cook the steak in. I like using a cast iron pan just because it can get really hot and sear the beef nicely. Whatever pan you are using, get it going over high heat and then add just a bit of oil to the pan to get it lubed up.
When the oil it hot, add the beef in a single layer! Don’t add it all at once and make sure the pieces aren’t overlapping. I had to do mine in a few batches. If you cook too much at once then the pan will cool down and you won’t get a good sear on the meat.
Ideally, it’ll just take about 30-45 seconds per side to cook.
As my steak finished I pulled it off the pan and heaped it all on a plate. It probably only took me 5 minutes to cook all the meat so make sure everything else is ready to go before you start cooking it. You want to serve the meal as soon as possible once the steak is done.
Making the wrap is pretty straightforward now. Add some rice to your lettuce and then a strip or two of steak. Don’t over-stuff these guys. You could either assemble a bunch beforehand and serve them to guests or just set out all the fixings and let people mix and match what they want.
The best way to keep these for leftovers is to keep stuff separate. The lettuce would get really soggy if you made a bunch and then tried to store them overnight or something. If you keep everything separate though, they keep just fine and make for a great lunch the next day!
These were really flavorful and seriously if you’ve never tried kimchi, go grab some. If you at all like pickled things and spicy things, you’ll love it.