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Korean Style “Bulgogi” Burgers with Tangy Mei-Fun Slaw

When my family hosted Korean exchange students in the early 90’s, they introduced us to a whole new world of culture and food. We had never heard of Bulgogi, but it quickly became a family favorite and we would enjoy eating it Korean style, around the table with our new friends, who were glad for a reminder of home. The authentic Korean version uses a lettuce leaf wrapper to hold succulent grilled beef- this version fuses the wonderful flavors of the authentic recipe with the American traditions of toasty rolls and a crunchy slaw.

Ingredients 

For the marinade and slaw dressing:
2/3 cup soy sauce
½ cup puree of a peeled, seeded Asian pear
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon mirin (rice wine)
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
For the slaw:
3-6 cups peanut oil, for frying, depending on the size of the pot 1 package (sizes may vary) of mei-fun (rice) noodles
1 ½ cups finely shredded napa cabbage
1 scallion, green part only, chopped finely
1/2 cup Asian pear, unpeeled and cut into small matchsticks
½ cup Sweet Red Chili Sauce
For the patties:
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 scallions, white part only, chopped finely
Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 soft Kaiser rolls, unseeded, split
12 tablespoons Korean spicy black bean paste (Hoisin could be substituted)

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high. To make the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, pureed Asian pear, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, mirin, scallions, and ginger. Stir well to combine. Set aside 1/3 cup of the mixture to use for the burgers. The remainder of the marinade is for use on the slaw. To make the slaw: Prepare a large, deep heatproof pot or dutch oven by pouring enough oil to go at least 1” up the pot. Do not allow the oil to reach more than halfway up the pot. Check the package directions for how to fry the mei-fun noodles, and adjust the grill/heat the oil to that temperature (around 350 degrees F). Carefully drop a small handful of the mei-fun noodles into the oil and fry according to package directions, or until the noodles are puffy but not browned. Repeat this process until you have 1 cup of fried noodles. Remove from the oil onto paper towels using tongs. Carefully remove the pot from the grill and away from the heat. Combine the napa cabbage, 1 cup mei-fun noodles, scallion tops, and Asian pear in a bowl. Add the chili sauce and toss gently to coat. Adding 1 Tablespoon at a time, dress the slaw with a few tablespoons of the remaining meat marinade until it is coated but not overly dressed. Set aside. To make the patties: Combine the chuck, kosher salt, scallions, and 1/3 cup of the reserved marinade mixture in a large bowl. Mix very gently to combine, being careful not to over mix the meat. Divide the meat into six equal portions, making a small indention in the middle to prevent the burgers from bulging. Set aside. When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil .Grill the patties with the grill top closed for 4 minutes. Turn and grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the patties registers 160 degrees F (for medium), about 4 minutes longer. During the last 2 minutes of grilling the patties, place the rolls, cut side down, on the grill to toast. To assemble the burgers, place a patty atop each bottom bun. Top each patty with about 1/3 cup of the mei-fun slaw. Spread 2 Tablespoons of black bean paste onto bun tops, and top each burger with the buns. Makes 6 burgers