Bulgogi Rice Bowl (GF)

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If you haven’t had bulgogi before, then you are definitely missing out and have to try this! Bulgogi is like the teriyaki or barbeque of Korea. It has that great balance of sweet, salty, savory & spicy that scintillates the taste buds.

Here I’ve adapted the traditional recipe to make it both vegan and easy for us home cooks.

First, you press the tofu and make the marinade. Traditionally, bulgogi sauce is made with pear puree. The pears both impart a subtle sweetness and chemically tenderize the beef (the sauce itself doesn’t taste pear-y).

While we don’t need to tenderize our tofu, we definitely want that traditional pear component. I opted to use pear baby food. I know it sounds weird, just hear me out: 1) I didn’t want to get a whole food processor or blender dirty just for 1/4 cup of pear puree, 2) Pear puree in a can or jar has a bunch of added sweeteners and sometimes spices that we don’t want, and 3) Since baby food is made for babies, it doesn’t have additives and is the purest form of puree you’ll find on a store shelf. So if you want to make the pear puree yourself, go for it; I fully support you, but the baby food worked really well so I’ll be sticking to that.

Next, you whisk the marinade ingredients together and pour over your pressed & sliced tofu.

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Allow the tofu to marinade for 30 mins to 2 hours

While the tofu is marinating, you can prep your toppings by washing and chopping them.

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My toppings of choice: kimchi, bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, thai basil, king oyster and enoki mushrooms. Not pictured: chili oil and crushed peanuts.

Next, you’ll get the rice cooking and pan-sear the tofu. You can use your favorite frying oil of choice. This time I tried butter-flavored coconut oil and it worked very well. I like to use just barely enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. You’ll also want to make sure your pan isn’t too hot because the tofu can burn very fast, and definitely use a non-stick pan anytime with tofu (that’s a lesson I learned the hard way!). I like my tofu to get some nice browning to emulate what would happen on the grill (which is the traditional way that bulgogi beef is cooked).

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Pan fry the tofu to get nice and crispy brown on both sides

Then, if you are adding mushrooms on too, place those in the now-empty tofu pan, pour the leftover marinade on top of them, turn the heat up to medium (or med-high for heavier pans), and cover to steam until cooked through.

The mushrooms were very delicious; they really soaked up the marinade flavor well. If you’re not a tofu person (or watching soy intake), then you can easily sub mushrooms for the tofu as the “meat” component of the bowl.

Lastly, assemble the bowls with all the deliciously beautiful ingredients and DIG IN.

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Bulgogi Rice Bowls

Serves: 3

Marinade Ingredients:
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce (GF if needed)
  • 1/4 Cup Tamari
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp Agave Nectar (or can sub Maple Syrup)
  • 1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Gochujang Paste or Sriracha (more/less, according to your spice preference)
  • 2 tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds (I used half white & half black, either will work)
  • 4 Tbsp Pear Puree Baby food (or pear/apple/peach mix baby food)
Other Ingredients:
  • 12 oz Firm or Extra Firm Tofu
  • Oil (coconut or avocado oil recommended)
  • Cooked Rice (white or brown)
  • Lettuce (I used butter lettuce)
Optional Toppings:
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean sprouts
  • Scallions
  • Cilantro
  • Thai Basil
  • Kimchi
  • Chili oil and/or Sriracha
  • Crushed Peanuts
Directions:
  1. Press tofu to remove excess water.
  2. Whisk all marinade ingredients together. Taste to adjust salt, pepper, and spice levels.
  3. Slice tofu. Pour marinade over the tofu and allow to set for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hours).
  4. Pour oil in non-stick pan so the oil just barely coats the bottom of the pan. Heat pan over medium heat.
  5. Once the oil is hot, put the tofu in the pan and allow to brown. Keep a close eye (it can burn quickly); you may need to lower your heat. I recommend frying just one piece of tofu first to confirm the temperature of the pan is just right.
  6. Allow tofu to get golden on one side and just start to brown, and then flip and repeat for other side. Place tofu on paper towel until ready to serve.
  7. If adding mushrooms: place mushrooms in now empty pan, drizzle marinade over, and cover to steam (may need to increase heat back to medium to get the pan steaming). Flip halfway through and cook until both sides are done.
  8. Assemble bowls: place chopped lettuce in bottom of bowl, add 1/4 – 1/2 Cup rice, then top with tofu and other optional toppings.
Note:

This dish is like a buddha bowl, feel free to try different toppings and mix-ins that you like! You could add some grilled onion or bok choy, or some fresh thin sliced radish, red onion, or cucumber. The options are endless. Have fun with it!

“Make ethical choices in what we buy, do, and watch. In a consumer-driven society our individual choices, used collectively for the good of animals and nature, can change the world faster than laws.”
― Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

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