Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Little Help From A Friend

When my first child was born we had moved across the country only months before our daughter was born. We had met only a handful of people, many of them kind enough to offer to bring us a meal, which we were so thankful for. One of these kind folks was a Korean friend who offered to bring spaghetti. I was surprised and had hoped for something more um, Korean. So, I asked. Apparently their family loves spaghetti, so she thought I would enjoy it too. Instead she brought Bulgogi, a Korean style lettuce wrap. It was DELICIOUS! Our friendship grew and she often made this meal (and others) for our family while we lived in Colorado. One day I asked for the recipe, so she gave me the long list of ingredients and told me to marinate the meat for about 12 hours! I was shocked and suddenly overwhelmed by her generosity. Since I had young children she would not let me repay the favor, although she often called us to help her understand some English phrase or words that she didn't know the meaning of. Ryan and I always enjoyed her calls, the questions she asked were always so random. Finally I convinced her and her family to come over for dinner on Christmas Eve for a homemade pasta meal - Ryan's family pasta, Cavatelli. That was most definitely a labor of love, but so worth it to say thank you to this very special friend and her family.

I'm tearing up (mostly with joy) just thinking about my friends in Colorado and the special couple of years we had in Family Housing. Just walking around Smiley Court at dinner time was like traveling to several countries at once. The food from others' kitchens always smelled better than whatever I was making that night for dinner. Alas, I digress...

Lettuce wraps sound kind of "summery," but actually many of the ingredients are in season right now! This recipe makes a lot, but my friend often marinated extra meat and froze it for future use. I have frozen the marinade ready to use at a later date. Feel free to cut it in half, thirds, even fourths, or make up some batches for the freezer. But you really may as well make all of the marinade as I am sure you and your family will love this meal! In fact, I served Venison Bulgogi to our Bible Study and no one knew that it wasn't beef. I told them after the meal, they all loved it. My friend always served this with a spicy bean paste, but when I stopped by a local Korean grocery store to pick some up, the owner did not know what I was requesting (nor did I really). So we sometimes add an Asian garlic hot sauce to add some kick to ours.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's site. Check it out for more great recipes. This post is also part of Simple Lives Thursday. Check out more great posts for living simply, HERE.



  • 5 lbs Beef (or venison) cut pepper thin (you can use a cheaper cut here as the marinade makes it super tender)
  • 1 cup Soy Sauce (fermented), Tamari, etc
  • 1/2 cup Sugar (you could try less or use honey)
  • 1/4 cup Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Green Onion (I've used regular onions)
  • 1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Garlic, crushed
  • 1 Pear, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Apple, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 6 oz Pineapple Juice (no sugar added)
  • 1 Head of Lettuce - Romaine, Bibb, anything large enough to use as a wrap
  • Cooked Rice, preferably brown or a mix of whole grain rice
  • Stirfry Veggies - broccoli, onion, carrots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cabbage - whatever you like, cut small
  • Spicy Bean Paste, or other asian hot sauce


  1. Ask your butcher to cut the meat pepper thin, or do it yourself when the meat is slightly frozen (you can throw it in the freezer for about an hour or so, while you make the marinade and this should do the trick).
  2. In a blender, combine the Soy Sauce through Pineapple Juice and blend until thoroughly combined.
  3. In a non-reactive container, combine meat and marinade. If you plan on freezing some, go ahead and separate that now and place in the freezer. Marinate the meat for at least 12 hours.
  4. When you are ready to prepare the meal, heat a skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add the meat and whatever stirfry veggies you would like to use. Cook until the meat is cooked through and the veggies remain somewhat crisp. You may need to work in batches depending on how big of a skillet you have.
  5. Serve with lettuce, rice, and your choice of spicy sauce. Our friends always put less meat and rice in their lettuce than we did, thus eating a lot more lettuce than us.
Prep Time: 12 h Cook Time: 20 min Ready in: 12 h 20 min
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Bulgogi courtesy of Jamie Del Balso.

1 comment:

  1. These look yummy. I made beef lettuce wraps the other day and just kind of winged it without a recipe. I think I will refer back to this post though the next time I do it to enhance the flavor.