I Had To Do It: Bulgogi Burgers

It is all Sarah Gim’s fault.

I was perusing Slashfood the other day, and ran smack into her post, “Food Porn: The Bulgogi Burger,” and had an instant craving. (Any woman who has been pregnant knows exactly what I mean when I say, “instant craving.”)

What the heck is a bulgogi burger? Well, Sarah took some ground beef and mixed into it the marinade that goes on bulgogi, the famous Korean grilled beef that is amazingly tasty, especially when served wrapped in leaf lettuce with some herbs and raw onions. Then she cooked the burgers, and topped them with lettuce and onions that had been marinated in that same bulgogi marinade, and instead of ketchup, she moistened the bun with goh-choo-jahng, which is Korean red chile sauce.

She mentioned that if she had kimchee, she probably would have shredded some of it up for a “slaw” to go atop the burger, but as she the fridge was bare of the fermented cabbage, she did without.

By the time I read the post, my mouth was watering. I -had- to have me one of those burgers. I just had to. I became fixated upon them, and I hankered mightily for those burgers with a hunger just this side of Elvis clamoring for another peanut butter ‘n ‘nanner sammich.

(To be fair, at this time, I have to say that this is not all Sarah Gim’s fault–John T. Edge holds some amount of the blame here, too. I had just finished reading his book, Hamburgers & Fries, where I read about all sorts of regional variants on hamburgers that are to be found in this great land, and I was jonesing after every last one of them, all because Edge writes the way Aretha Frankling sings.)

And I had in the pantry all of the fixings for bulgogi marinade and kimchee. I was distinctly short of goh-choo-jahng, but I did have a fine and tasty substitute: sriracha. Sriracha sauce is the wonderful tangy hot sauce with the jaunty rooster on the bottle that one applies to one’s bowl of pho in countless Vietnamese restaurants, or which is used to heat up one’s pad thai in countless Thai places across the US.

In our house, sriracha is ubiquitous, but we never call it by its proper name; we just call it, “The Rooster.”

As in, “Pass me The Rooster, please?”

Or, “I think we are running low on Rooster.”

So, tonight, because there was no chance of rain, I determined to make bulgogi burgers for supper.

About five hours before dinnertime, I minced up some scallion top, ginger and garlic, added some pepper flakes, raw sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil, and kneaded this mixture firmly into a pound and a half of local, grassfed ground beef. Then, I covered it up and let it sit for a while, and get all tasty while I went about my day.

Right before dinner, I made the toppings, and improvised a side dish. Instead of marinating raw onions, I caramelized some, and then added rice wine, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil to them. I let the liquid reduce to a thick glaze, and the onions cooked down into a rich dark brown “jam” that was heady with scent and flavor. The kimchee slaw was even simpler–I just shredded up half a small jar of kimchee and called it slaw. (No one else in the house had the kimchee on top of the burger, so I ate the rest of it on the side. No sense in letting perfectly good kimchee go to waste.)

As for the side dish–I roasted the new potatoes I picked up at the farmers market on Saturday in peanut oil, with chile flakes and salt. When they were halfway done, I added minced garlic, and when they were done, I tossed in some minced Thai basil.

How did it all taste?

Fantastic. Just fantastic. Zak cooked the meat so that it was still juicy on the grill, and the potatoes were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. Better than french fries, in my opinion, and the Thai basil and garlic combination was a winner. The onion jam, Rooster, kimchee and leaf lettuce added textural contrast and layers of flavor to the already quite tasty burgers, and the whole-wheat buns held it all together.

The onions were rich and smoky, sweet and smooth. The kimchee was crunchy and tangy, with heat and salt to spare, while the burgers had all the richness of bulgogi in patty form. The Rooster added another level of sweetness and tanginess while ramping up the heat another notch, and the lettuce was all crisp, buttery and green.

It was all good.

Will I be making these again?

Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.

Thanks, Sarah–it was a great idea!

Bulgogi Burgers with Roasted Thai Basil Garlic Potatoes

Ingredients for the Burgers and Toppings:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 dark green scallion top, minced
1/2″ cube ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon peanut oil
pinch salt
pinch chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
kimchee, shredded, as needed
lettuce leaves, as needed
The Rooster
buns of your choice


Mix together first nine ingredients well, put into a bowl, cover and sit in the fridge to marinate for at least four hours. An hour before you are going to cook it, take it out and allow to come to room temperature, still covered.

While meat is marinating, heat peanut oil in a small skillet and saute onion. Sprinkle with salt early on to bring out the water in the onions faster, and stir constantly. When it is medium golden in color, add sugar and chile flakes, and continue cooking and stirring. When the onions are quite shrunken and are starting to turn deep golden, add wine, and boil off alcohol, still stirring. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and simmer until the liquid reduces to a shiny brown glaze and the onions have started to fall apart into a “jamlike” consistency.

Grill burgers to desired doneness, and when they are finished cooking, allow them to sit for about three to five minutes to rest. Assemble burgers with some lettuce, onions, and kimchee if desired with The Rooster being the final touch.

Ingredients for the Potatoes:

1 quart small new potatoes, cut into halves or quarters depending on their size
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
red chile flakes to taste
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves, stemmed and minced


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange potatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silpat or is non-stick. Pour peanut oil over, toss to coat potatoes. Make sure they go back to being cut side down and all surfaces of the potatoes have been coated with a thin film of oil.

Sprinkle with salt and chile flakes.

Bake in oven 18 minutes. Take out of oven, and sprinkle evenly with the garlic, and return to oven and bake another seven minutes for a total of 25 minutes. With very small potatoes, this should be enough time–test with a fork. If they are not tender, put back in the oven for a few more mintues.

Sprinkle with Thai basil and serve.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. That sounds absolutely AMAZING!!!!

    I wish it wasn’t 7.55am I really want one of those burgers now!!

    Comment by Pamela — June 9, 2006 #

  2. Oh my gosh! It is only 6:30 in the morning and I want that food now! Sounds so delicious.

    Comment by Fran — June 9, 2006 #

  3. HAHA!

    The ol’ standard “Burgers and Fries” done Barbara style!

    I love it!


    Comment by Dan — June 9, 2006 #

  4. Hey, Pamela and Fran!

    Yeah, I read about the idea on Slashfood in the morning, too, and it didn’t stop me from developing an instant craving over them!

    Dan–we will be making these again so you can taste them soon!

    Comment by Barbara — June 9, 2006 #

  5. […] Tigers & Strawberries ร‚ยป I Had To Do It: Bulgogi Burgers Gotta try this. (tags: bulgogi recipes burgers korean_food) […]

    Pingback by Erin S. O’Connor » Blog Archive » links for 2006-06-09 — June 9, 2006 #

  6. I couldn’t resist this recipe but decided to make it with turkey breast which I have minced myself. Do you think it’ll work ok?

    Do you think the burgers will hold together ok, or will I need to add an egg white?

    I’m really looking forward to trying them, the meat is marinading in the fridge as I type this ๐Ÿ˜€

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

    Comment by Pamela — June 10, 2006 #

  7. I think I maybe reduced the onion jam too much as it tastes really salty (I guess from the soy), any tips?

    Comment by Pamela — June 10, 2006 #

  8. Ground or minced turkey should work, but it might require an egg white, Pamela. The only way to tell is by forming up a patty of it and seeing how it holds together. If it crumbles in your hands, a bit of egg white will help bind it.

    As for the onion jam–don’t reduce it quite so much. To rescue it, add a pinch of sugar,a tablespoon of wine and a teaspoon of water, and bring it to a simmer to rehydrate it. Taste it. If it is still too salty, add some more sugar until the flavor balances.

    Or, put that aside, and start over with another onion. Caramelize the onion up to the point where you add the soy and wine and sesame oil, but do not add the soy. Add the wine. Cook down to a jam. Mix the two together. Taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

    This way, you may end up with extra onion jam, but it tastes good with just about everything, so why worry? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope I helped!

    Comment by Barbara — June 10, 2006 #

  9. Thanks Barbara!!!!

    I hope you don’t take offence to my toppings

    Comment by Pamela — June 10, 2006 #

  10. Ok, now you’ve done it. I am drooling on the keyboard. I have to make these burgers!

    Comment by Barbara (Biscuit Girl) — June 11, 2006 #

  11. Be careful with the drool on the keyboard thing, Biscuit Girl! It is hard on the equipment!

    Comment by Barbara — June 13, 2006 #

  12. it’s all my fault! it is! it is! LOL!

    and i am pea green with envy that you have kimchee. KIMCHEE!!!

    (btw, the rooster is what we used to call it, too. now it’s just “the hot sauce” because it’s the ONLY hot sauce)

    Comment by sarah — June 30, 2006 #

  13. Hi Barbara,

    I was just looking at this recipe again and am hoping to make it this week. One question: do you make the onion jam in advance, or right before you serve the burgers?

    Thanks, love your recipes!


    Comment by Aimee — February 11, 2007 #

  14. Aimee–

    Whichever way you want to do it is fine. Just warm it up before you serve it if you make it in advance, okay? It is better warm, but not hot.

    Comment by Barbara — February 12, 2007 #

  15. Hey Barbara, just wanted you to know that I’ve now made these burgers half a dozen times and they’ve always gotten rave reviews. They are a favorite in my house now, especially with homemade buns. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by Erin — September 19, 2007 #

  16. Erin–I am thrilled to hear this. They are my favorite, too. I like them even better than my usual Indian chapli kebab lamb burgers! And that is saying a lot, because I love Indian food and I love lamb!

    Comment by Barbara — September 19, 2007 #

  17. “The Rooster”? You mean “Hot Cock”.

    Comment by Todd — July 23, 2008 #

  18. […] a cook. For many, many years, my favourite burger of all time has been an adapted version of the Tigers & Strawberries Bulgogi Burger, a beautiful burger that’s been popular among my friends and is specially good because you […]

    Pingback by Friday Feed: Some Assembly Required Burgers « Tui Talk — January 27, 2011 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress. Graphics by Zak Kramer.
Design update by Daniel Trout.
Entries and comments feeds.