The Legend of Bulgogi in America

A Home Dish Goes International

Bulgogi is that classic Korean dish of thinly sliced, marinated beef, a staple in every Korean home and cook repertoire. It’s a dish deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. It’s origins go way back for such a simple dish.

It was in the Goguryeo era (37 B.C. to 668 A.D.) that bulgogi started. It began as a kabob-like dish of skewered meat called maekjeok. Later, it transformed into seoryamyeok, which was a brothy meal of marinated beef soaked in cold water. And then, it became a royal dish of the Korean monarchy, then called neobiani, already thinly-sliced, marinated and charbroiled.

Along the way, neobiani became bulgogi, influenced by the Korean people’s shifting relationship with meat brought about with the invasion by the Japanese, and Korea’s fight for independence. Beef became highly commercialized from the 1920s and beyond when its two versions were popularized – one brothy and the other grill-roasted. However, during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-45), bulgpogi’s prominence dipped when its price soared due to serious beef shortages. By the 1990s, bulgogi reemerged as Korea’s most popular dish.

When waves of Koreans began immigrating to America (starting from the early 1900s), they brought along bulgogi. Some say it’s probably the most popular Korean food product to come to America; however, the kimchi and bibimbap were also very iconic Korean. The 1970’s through the 1930’s was the highest amount of Korean immigration in over 5 years. During these times, many immigrants were unable to bring along the Korean tradition of their home meals. They were not able to cook for their families. So they decided to start their own places for their home foods. The rise of Korean food in America is the latest in a string of East Asian influences on the American diet.

Much later on, these small affairs would turn into 5 star restaurants. Today, bulgogi in America is less frequently served in its brothy form, rather, now grilled. Korean restaurants most often offer bulgogi, and not only found in K-towns, but all across the United States. American venus have gradually eased themselves into Korean cuisine, especially with Korean barbeque.

Serving Bulgogi for Lunch to Dinner

Seoul Hot Pot is one of Bellevue’s favorite hot spots where Korean fare is concerned. We do traditional Korean bulgogi and combine it with our own take on flavorful sauces and marinades. Our restaurant is one of Bellevue’s best.