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Bulgogi (/bʊlˈɡoʊɡiː/; from Korean 불고기, literally "fire meat") is a gui (Korean-style grilled or roasted dish) made of thin, marinated slices of beef or pork, grilled on a barbecue or on a stove-top griddle. It is also often stir-fried in a pan in home cooking. Sirloin, rib eye or briskets are frequently used cuts of beef for the dish. It is a beloved dish in both South and North Korea, being one of the national dishes of North Korea. In South Korea, bulgogi is found everywhere, from fancy restaurants to pan-ready kits at local supermarkets.
The word Bulgogi literally means fire meat in Korean, and is derived from the Pyong'an dialect. It refers to marinated meat (generally beef if used without a qualifier) cooked using traditional grilling techniques such as gridirons or perforated dome griddles that sit on tabletop braziers, unlike deep frying or boiling in water. The term is also applied to variations such as dak bulgogi (made with chicken) or dwaeji bulgogi (made with pork), depending on what kind of meat and corresponding seasoning are used.
Bulgogi is believed to have originated from Goguryeo, when it was originally called maekjeok (맥적), with the beef being grilled on a skewer. It was called neobiani (너비아니), meaning "thinly spread" meat, in the Joseon Dynasty and was traditionally prepared especially for the wealthy and the nobility.
Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef. Before cooking, the meat is marinated to enhance its flavour and tenderness with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, red pepper, and other ingredients such as scallions, ginger, onions or mushrooms, especially white button mushrooms or matsutake. Pureed pears and onions are often used as tenderizers. Sometimes, cellophane noodles are added to the dish, which varies by the region and specific recipe.
Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan-cooking has become popular as well. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat. This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce or other leafy vegetable, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang, or other side dishes, and then eaten together.
Bulgogi is served in barbecue restaurants in Korea, and there are bulgogi-flavoured fast-food hamburgers sold at many South Korean fast-food restaurants. The hamburger patty is marinated in bulgogi sauce and served with lettuce, tomato, onion, and sometimes cheese. It is similar to a teriyaki burger in flavour.