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Onigiri with Korean Beef Bulgogi

Onigiri are also very popular in Korea. Korean rice balls are known as Jumeok-bap. Korean rice balls are just like Japanese rice balls and you can also find these triangular rice balls in many places in Korea and even convenience stores! It comes as no surprise that the fillings would be more Korean and so beef bulgogi is a popular filling for onigiri.

What is Bulgogi? ( Traditional Korean Dish)

Beef bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish of marinated and grilled beef. The meat is cut into thin strips and seasoned with garlic, ginger, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pepper flakes. Bulgogi is often served with rice and kimchi.

The beef is often cooked on a stovetop griddle or hot plate. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat. . Also many times, an indoor gas grill is used and they usually cook the bulgogi at the table and eaten with condiments.

The beef is usually marinated in bulgogi marinade ahead of time usually a day in advance, but if you are in a hurry, you can omit this step.

Beef Bulgogi Marinade

Let's start by making the marinade. This marinade is enough for 1 kilo of beef and will keep well for a week in the fridge.

  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce (I use regular Kikkoman soy sauce)

  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

  • 2 Tbsp rice wine (mirin)

  • 1/2 onion thinly sliced (80 g / 2.8 ounces)

  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp minced ginger

  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Place in a jar and put in the fridge until you are ready to use the sauce.

The Beef for Beef Bulgogi

Any cut of beef can be used for this dish. They need to be cut into thin strips so they aren't chewy. For onigiri, we prefer to cut the beef into tiny pieces so that we can put more filling into the rice ball. If you are using tough cuts like flank, chuck or brisket, one way of marinating is using fresh pears. Simply blend or mash one pear and mix into 1 kilo or 2 pounds of beef. (The Koreans have been using pear as an all-purpose ingredient in their cooking since ancient times; they use it to tenderize meat and add sweetness when it is not present naturally in the ingredients being served.) Leave to tenderize in the refridgerator overnight. Don't leave it in the fridge to long or the meat will turn mushy.

If you are using a nice cut like tenderloin, ribeye or sirloin, you do not need to tenderize with the pear. Simply slice in in thin strips and marinate with salt and pepper

Making Beef Bulgogi (recipe for 4 onigiri)

200 grams Beef of your choice

4 TBSP Bulgogi marinade

1/4 small leek shredded

pinch of sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Cut beef into small strips or pieces. As this will be for onigiri filling, we shall dice beef into small pieces. If you wish, you can use minced beef so that the filling can be easier to fit in the rice ball later. Marinate with beef bulgogi marinade.

  2. In frying pan, using high heat, sautee the beef. Add shredded leeks into the mixture when beef is brown and fragrant.

  3. Sprinkle sesame seeds on beef

  4. Let mixture cool down and use as filling.

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