Bulgogi BBQ Ssam Party

It’s June and we are so excited to officially kick off the summer with some delicious classic Korean summer dishes like Bulgogi, which translates to fire beef. I remember growing up in Korea as a kid, the summer time meant hiking up to the nearest mountain with access of trails and streams or creeks where you can get away from the busy city and enjoy nature and picnic with the whole family. After a somewhat rigorous hike, we would lay out a huge tarp and set up our cooking station with all our meats, side dishes like ssam sauce, various kimchi pickles and lots of fresh lettuce and cut up veggies we would wash on the creek. The rice is washed at the site and cooked over a camping stove first to get the party started. The smell of the marinated beef cooking in the wilderness is something I can never forget and feel nostalgic every time I see a creek in the woods.

If you had the dish at a Korean restaurant and experienced the sheer joy of cooking your own meat table side with all the side dishes called banchan, rest assured you can recreate this fun interactive meal in your backyard (no charcoal required) surely to impress your friends at your next outdoor gathering. This iconic dish will become your new go to dish that is an easy crowd pleaser that everyone from kids to grandparents will love.

There is some equipment you need to acquire but I assure you that the investment is well worth it and it will inspire you to try some other Korean BBQ dishes. I will be sharing more of that later.

In addition you will need to learn the basic components of making the perfect Korean BBQ. Here is the breakdown.

1.Outdoor grilling pan. I like this simple one designed with a curve shape to drip out any liquids as it cooks so the meat does not get moist and grill evenly. 

  1. Camping stove + Butane gas canisters. You can use any camping stove like  this.

  1. Cooking tongs and scissors are a must-cooking tool for Korean BBQ.

After you have acquired the equipment, next is to learn the components of making a Korean BBQ. There are basically 5 parts you must have to create the perfectly balanced flavors. Once the meat is cooked on the grill the method of eating is called Saam which translates to wrap. The lettuce is used at the main vehicle to layer on the different components to make the perfect bite of savory, sweet, sour and umami flavors. Recipes below.

  1. Meats 
  2. Lettuce Wrap (Ssam)
  3. Rice
  4. Ssamjang
  5. Store bought or homemade kimchi OR a quick cabbage kimchi salad (recipe below)

Ok, now that you understand the structure of the Korean BBQ, let’s prep the ingredients!

Bulgogi Meat. The cut of the bulgogi is usually a ribeye sliced very thinly. You can get this at your local Asian (preferably Korean Markets like H-Mart) If you do not have access to one you can buy ribeye steak from the supermarket and freeze it until it becomes hard (about 30 minutes) then using a sharp knife slice thinly to ⅛”  thickness. 

Marinade. The marinade is a soy garlic base with lots of sweet and savory elements. The secret ingredient used is FRUIT as the tenderizer that adds the natural sweetness to the meat and creates a slight glaze when grilled perfectly. You can use Korean Pear, or a Fuji Apple.




Recipe Serves 4 


1 ½” pound of thinly sliced ribeye beef

¼ cup soy sauce

¼” cup soju(Korean rice wine)

4 tablespoon of sesame oil

6 garlic cloves minced finely

½ of yellow onion roughly chopped

½ of Korean Pear or Fuji Apple roughly chopped

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of black pepper

 ½ cup Chopped green onions used only during grilling. 

Mix all ingredients except green onions into a blender and blend until it becomes a puree. 

In a sealed tight bowl or zip lock bag, put the sliced beef and add the marinade. Mix well and keep sealed and refrigerated at least 3 hours up to overnight for a fuller flavor.


Ssam Wrap While the beef is marinating, prepare your Saam components.

Red leaf lettuce. Cleaned, dried and stored in a zip lock bag.

Optional - Perilla leaf aka Shiso leaf cleaned, dried and stored in a zip lock bag with lettuce.


Saamjang Sauce. 

2 tablespoon gochujang (fermented red pepper paste)

2 tablespoon doenjang (fermented bean paste)

2 tablespoon soju (Korean rice wine)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking wine)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Mix well and place in an airtight container and refrigerate.


Quick Cabbage Kimchi Salad. Make 1 hour before cooking. 


½ head of Napa or American cabbage finely sliced like coleslaw.

1 carrot finely julienned 

1 cup sliced green onions (2” long). Rinse chopped onions with water and dry.

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon minced ginger

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients and whisk together until fully incorporated. Mix dressing into chopped cabbage, carrots and green onion. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds as desired. Keep in an airtight container refrigerated. 

Cook Sushi rice following directions 45 minutes before grilling. 

Once all your components are prepped. You are ready to start your grill outside. Plate the Ssam platter with lettuce and ssamjang in a small bowl with a serving spoon.

Plate your quick kimchi in a bowl with serving utensils. Place the cooked rice in individual bowls or create a communal bowl with serving utensils.

Bring out the marinated meat in a pan, and grill on a heated pan at medium heat. Keep turning the meat  and cut to smaller bites as needed until fully cooked. Serve on a platter with the rest of Ssam components. Show your guests how to wrap each lettuce with the perfect bite with a bit of rice, meat on top, a small portion of kimchi and topped with Ssamjang. Create a tight wrap and take a delicious bite. Enjoy your Korean BBQ party with some soju shots and makgeolli (unfiltered rice wine). Koreans love to linger and take their time eating around the table. A shot, a meat flip, a ssam and repeat until full. Chase it down with some Korean rice wines such as Soju and Makgeolli for an authentic experience!  Chego! 

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