Serves 4

Ground beef gets a bad rap from snobby foodie types, but since it’s something I grew up eating, I prefer to see the positive—​it’s an incredibly affordable and versatile starting point for families looking to save money (aka, all families). It’s all about what you do with it. In this recipe, we’re using it to prepare a version of bulgogi, one of the most popular dishes in Korean cuisine, both in restaurants and in homes. Typically prepared with fancier cuts of beef, bulgogi rests in a mild, balanced marinade for hours (ideally overnight) before getting crispy and caramelized on the grill. This recipe delivers all that flavor on a hamburger budget. Sweet and salty, it’s a flexible base that can be served with lettuce wraps, rice, noodles, or rolled up into homemade Kimbap.


  • 1 pound ground beef

    Learning Korean Book Cover Learning Korean: Recipes for Home Cooking Peter Serpico
  • ½ medium yellow onion, sliced

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-​inch pieces (white and light green parts)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


Combine all ingredients except vegetable oil in a bowl and mix together well. Allow the beef to marinate, covered in the refrigerator, for a minimum of 4 hours, ideally overnight. The next day, heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the ground beef thoroughly, stirring occasionally to break up any large chunks. Serve the bulgogi hot, with lettuce or cabbage wraps and steamed rice.


Reprinted from LEARNING KOREAN by PETER SERPICO. Copyright © 2022 by PETER SERPICO. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.