The original form of Bulgogi was called “mac-jok.” It was a type of meat dish where people marinated the beef with sauce and garlic before barbecuing it over the fire. The term “mac” indicates the region of Koguryo, an ancient Korean kingdom that was located in the northern part of Korea. Traditionally, Chinese people did not marinate their meat before grilling. However, Mac-jok, which was developed in Korea, consisted of marinating meat before grilling. It involved marinating beef in Korean sauce and garlic; this became the early form of Bulgogi.
The Secret of Taste: The reason that Bulgogi has become so popular everywhere is probably because of its tender beef that almost melts in one’s mouth. Of course, the quality of the beef would be important in creating such effect, but the true secret is in how well the beef is cut and how devoted the cook is in preparing the food. Traditionally, tender and less fatty portion of sirloin is used for Bulgogi. Also, the fat and the tendon between the meats have to be carefully removed. To tenderize the beef, one has to carefully pat the lean meat in the opposite direction of the meat’s texture with the back of a knife. Even if it takes a while, it makes Bulgogi taste better. During this process of cutting and tenderizing, the meat becomes tender and the marinating becomes more effective.
The preparation of Korean beef dish always begins with marinating. The beef is marinated with thick soy sauce, honey (or sugar), finely chopped green onion, garlic, powdered sesame mixed with salt, and black pepper. During this process, all the ingredients ferment and help reduce the amount of harmful compounds that are formed during the cooking process. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that marinades containing soy sauce or sugar inhibit the development of so-called cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) during cooking.