Spicy Korean Pork Belly (Daeji Bulgogi)

For years I have had an absolute obsession with exotic foods. Born and raised in suburbia, my only early exposure to a variety of culture was during my time living in, and around Philly. Wandering around a wild city at fifteen, the world was mine and my adventures were endless. I have to say that a foodie bucket list was not even in existence back then. Honestly, my idea of a great meal was beer… oh and maybe a cheese steak. Now days I experience the outside world through food, and food is my absolute cure all. I want to try it all, any bad day can be resolved with a great meal, or even just something new. Lately for me that means Korean food. Its popping up everywhere, and my curiosity has absolutely been piqued. It is the next big food trend. Korean “fusion” as they call it, is popping up on the other big food trend, the food truck. They are serving up Korean twists on taco’s, burgers, hot dogs, and even fried chicken. With a sprinkle of of bold Korean flavors like gochujang, or kimchi you can really make anything extremely flavorful and Korea-fied.

Justifiably this years to-do, and you cant talk Korean food without thinking about barbecue. I am incredibly keen on the stuff, I can not get enough no matter how hard I try. How can you go wrong with fatty and delicious meat? I have been trying to eat more and more traditional foods, and I’m trying to eat a little better. Korean food can be as nourishing or gratifying as you’d like. This is probably not the best example of healthy nourishing food, but it is spicy, sultry, sweet and meaty. (You only live once, may as well do it right.) The good news is that these fatty luxurious cuts of meat are really good for you in their own way. They are great for your skin, hair and bones because of the collagen and elastin. So yes, pork belly does have a few very nourishing qualities. Consumed in moderation it can give your skins complexion  a boost, the hard part is … the moderation. Seasoned spicy pork belly is a great starter or main. Simply grilled, broiled or braised and served with rice and lettuce it is extremely rich, sweet and spicy. Amazingly simple yet seriously out of this world!

Spicy Korean Pork Belly

My pork belly was given to me by my lovely Korean admirer: Miss Jina. It was previously seasoned and thinly sliced. (approximately 1/4″ thick.) I received it already sliced and pre-seasoned. I do not usually buy pre-seasoned, pre-packaged foods  but the Korean markets seem to have it going on. I’ve toyed around with this marinade, and method. I can honestly say that this is close if not fairly identical to what I got from the  market. Why try to master it? Well because first, I know what’s in it, second I can make the same thing over and over as much as I’d like without requiring a runner. I can not under any circumstance find pork belly, or any moderately exotic goods locally. I’ve traveled up to an hour for mediocre pork belly. So for those of you who are fairly secluded like myself, and tempted by this recipe… fear not you can make a version of this with sliced pork shoulder, or fatty pork chops. Its not  close to pork belly at all, but still really good in its own right.

Spicy Korean Marinade
(Different than, dipping sauce)
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons gochujang (see note)
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger

Combine and coat desired meat. Marinade 8 hours or up to 2 days. (it will not dissolve meat like heavily acidic marinades) To thin it out, add some water. You don’t want to dilute it too much, you just want to be sure that it coats the meat evenly. To sweeten it further, add honey or grated apple. (Asian pear is standard) Sliced pork belly, pork shoulder, chicken or even brisket works well. So far I’ve made this with pork chops, as well as chicken. (I even smeared it on an egg. Its pretty good but semi-potent.)

Pork Belly
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork belly, sliced into 1/4″ slices

Coat pork belly with marinade. Evenly smear it across the meat and refrigerate 8 hours or more. To prepare the barbecue simply grill over medium high heat. Two to three minutes per side. From what I’ve heard most Koreans absolutely do not like charred meat. My best guess is that its believed to be carcinogenic. I dig that charred bit, just lower the heat if you want a softer cooked meat.

A cast iron grill pan works perfectly for those who do not have, or want to use a grill.

Serve with rice, lettuce, perilla, green onion, sesame seeds, or … on a plate (or not.) I especially LOVED it drizzed with honey as-is, it can be used in other dishes to pack a punch of flavor.

Note: Gochujang, is wicked awesome however, I can’t get that here either. I’m fortunate enough to have 5 pounds of it on hand. (seriously I owe Jina my next born or something, the stuff is amazing!) I have substituted sriracha in Korean recipes that call for Korean chili flakes or gochujang and again, its not quite the same but its not so bad that it ruins the recipe. Add a bit of ginger, grated apple and honey and it kind of shares some of the same flavors. You get a similar taste of the true recipe, its just not really authentic, or very traditional.  Lets be honest, its not super close but it gets the job done.