Spicy Bulgogi Rice Burgers
Oh Korean barbecue, is there no wrapper this stuff doesn't taste great in? I've had Korean barbecue stuffed in lettuce, steamed buns, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, dumplings, and more and it always tastes right at home. Well, I have another deliver method to share with you today that's just as delicious, and even more impressive—rice burgers!
I love some beef bulgogi, but for me, spicy pork bulgogi will always have my heart. Whenever I'm out with my friends, I make us order an extra plate of this stuff because no Korean barbecue experience feels complete to me until I've had some grilled pork shoulder that's been soaked in a complex gochujang-based marinade prior to cooking.
I keep making this over and over again, and this exact marinade has now been featured in three recipes on my blog and counting. When something is so simple and tastes so incredibly good, it's hard not to keep coming back to it, so while this now marks my fourth identical spicy bulgogi recipe, you're bound to keep seeing it repeated going forward.
What makes this recipe different from the others is how it's served, and that's on "buns" made out of rice. When first considering this idea, I assumed these buns would have been constructed out of glutinous rice, but most recipes I saw for them actually just used jasmine or sushi rice. I planned on utilizing the grill to get some crispness on the finished rice buns and worried those other types of rice would end up falling apart in that scenario, so stuck to glutinous rice based on good results from past experience. To start off the rice, I first washed it and then soaked in water overnight.
During the soaking downtime, I put together a couple sauces to top the final "burgers" with. The first I made is a recipe from Momofuku for a ginger-scallion sauce. The sharpness of the ginger and oniony scallions add instant immense flavor to anything you use it on, so it seemed like a no-brainer to pair with the bulgogi. I also made another gochujang-heavy spicy sauce, but since the pork already has those flavors in it, I think it's non-essential and it's not in the final recipe to keep things manageable, but if you don't mind a little extra work like I do, feel free to whip of up a batch to add an extra kick to the burgers.
Unlike most rice preparations, sticky rice needs to be steamed. To do this, I lined a steamer basket with cheesecloth, poured in the soaked rice, and then folded the top of the cloth over the rice so it was completed incased. I then let it steam for fifteen minutes, flipped the entire rice cake over, and steamed for another fifteen minutes until it was done.
Forming the buns ended up posing more of a challenge than I was expecting. At first I was breaking off a chunk of rice and trying to form it into a patty shape using my hands like I would do when making burgers. My hands were getting super sticky though and I couldn't get the shape right. So I switched to using a mold—a biscuit cutter to be exact. I set a biscuit cutter on a parchment-lined baking sheet and added some rice in. I then pushed down on the rice until it filled the mold and was of even thickness. This ended up being much easier and gave me consistent results.
Now onto the grilling portion of the recipe, which started with a very hot, direct fire and quickly cooking up the marinated pork. With such thin slices of meat, you'd think they'd be easily lost between the grates, but I've found just putting a big mass of the stuff together on grill, and continually flipping it, cooks it up evenly with great browning and little to no loss of meat to the fire.
Once the bulgogi was done, I moved it to a platter and placed the rice buns on the grill. I let them sit until the first side began feeling a bit dry and crispy. I then flipped the rice cakes over and brushed the top with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds—flavors I thought would compliment the spicy pork well. After the second side was a little dry and crispy too, I removed the buns from the grill and assembled the final burgers.
Korean barbecue by any other name is just as incredible! Yup, I called these "burgers" in the end, but they were really just another amazing Korean barbecue delivery vehicle. The rice buns may just one-up some of the more prolific methods like tacos though—they added a really unique texture that consisted of a bit of crunch, a lot of chew, and more flavor than you'd expect thanks to that soy-based brushing applied at the end. Combine that with the super flavorful and nicely spicy pork, crisp and fresh lettuce, sharp and tangy scallion sauce, and a little extra heat from the spicy sauce, and I don't think you need me telling you again these were immensely awesome in so many ways. Hope you're not tiring of my Korean barbecue creations yet though, because I have at least one more idea in store for 2019—beef bulgogi cheesesteaks!
Spicy Bulgogi Rice Burgers
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 50 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours
- For the Ginger-scallion Sauce
- 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced (white and greens)
- 1/2 cup minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- For the Spicy Pork
- 3 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 1 tablespoons finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 scallions, finely minced
- 1 lb thinly sliced pork shoulder
- For the Rice Buns
- 2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- To make the ginger-scallion sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the scallions, ginger, oil, and sherry vinegar. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the spicy pork: In a small bowl, whisk together gochujang, soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, gochugaru, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and scallions. Place pork in a large resealable bag, pour in marinade, seal bag and toss to even distribute marinade. Place bag in refrigerator and let marinate four hours to overnight.
- To make the rice buns: Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water for 1 minute. Transfer rice to a large bowl, cover completely with cold water, and let soak for 2 hours to overnight. Drain rice into a fine mesh strainer. Transfer rice to steamer insert lined with cheesecloth. Place steamer insert in pot over 2 inches of rapidly simmering water and steam, covered, for 15 minutes. Flip rice over and continue to steam until rice is cooked through, 10-15 minute more. Remove pot from heat and let cool slightly.
- Break off about 1/4 cup of rice and work into in a round, flat patty about 3-inches in diameter on parchment paper. Pushing rice into a round cookie cutter can assist in the shaping, but is not required. Repeat until all rice is formed into patties.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place marinated pork on grill and cook until lightly charred and cooked through, flipping meat occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pork to a platter or bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Place rice buns on grill and cook until lightly browned and crisp on first side. Flip rice and brush with soy sauce mixture. Continue to cook until second side is lightly browned and crisp. Transfer rice buns to a serving platter. Top with bibb lettuce, spicy pork, and ginger scallion sauce. Serve immediately.
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