Crispy, fatty pieces of pork belly. Gochujang-based marinade. Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi is the indulgent dish you’ll want to cook over and over again.
A long time ago, when my husband and I were still dating, I brought him to Halmoni’s house for a visit. She liked him immediately. Even though Paul wasn’t Korean and didn’t speak Korean, she liked him A LOT.
One day, Halmoni made Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi for Paul. He loved it and couldn’t stop raving about its deliciousness. She beamed in delight. I knew what would happen. Sure enough, Halmoni made this dish whenever we visited. Each time, Paul ate it with gusto, scraping the plate clean. Even now, this is his favorite dish to order in Korean restaurants. And every time, he still comments, “It’s not as good as Halmoni’s.”
Back then, Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi was Halmoni’s special dish. She’d marinate pork belly strips and broil them in the oven, watching carefully so they didn’t burn too much. This wasn’t an everyday dish but way more indulgent. Most pork bulgogi recipes used pork shoulder or butt. Halmoni’s version used pork belly.
I don’t know if it’s a Korean thing or a human thing, but Halmoni’s way of showing love was to cook fatty, indulgent food for people. Dishes they wouldn’t normally cook for themselves. Something a little bit extra. Meals that felt like a luxury.
Now you can make this popular Korean dish at home. Make it for the people you love, the way Halmoni made it for Paul. Their bellies and hearts will be full!
If you’re wondering why so many Korean dishes are called “bulgogi” that’s because it’s a catch-all term that literally translates to “fire meat.” Bulgogi generally refers to any kind of thinly sliced meat that’s cooked over a flame.
There’s Beef Bulgogi, the Korean classic that everyone knows and loves.
Then there’s Chicken Bulgogi, an equally well-loved favorite, although somewhat lesser known.
Also, Spicy Korean Pork is technically a bulgogi recipe, although I named it more generically. This recipe is good for weeknights or everyday eating because the meat is more lean (pork shoulder/butt vs pork belly) and doesn’t require pureed/grated asian pear, garlic, or ginger.
Pork Belly. Pork belly is basically uncured bacon. You can find fresh pork belly strips in most Asian grocery stores. Make sure to buy pork belly with lots of meat vs fat, like the pork belly below. Also, pork belly without skin will taste best in this recipe, as the skin will be too chewy and rubbery for this particular cooking method. Read the packaging carefully — it should be clearly labeled “with skin” or “no skin.”
Gochujang. Gochujang is Korean fermented chili paste that everyone seems to be loving right now. Amazingly, you can order Gochujang on Amazon or find it in the Asian food aisle of most standard grocery stores. If not, a trip to the Asian grocery store should do the trick. Gochujang keeps forever in the fridge, like ketchup or sriracha. Just make sure to keep it well covered.
Asian Pear. Asian pear tastes like a crispy hybrid between an apple and pear. The skin is usually brown and thick. My recipe calls for 1/2 large Asian pear, as most are about the size of a large grapefruit. I eat the other half or feed it to my kids while cooking.
How to Make Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi:
Grate onion and half an asian pear with a box grater. (Alternately, you can whizz the onion, asian pear, garlic, and ginger in a food processor until pureed. However, if you don’t have a food processor, this method also works well!)
Add grated onion and asian pear to a bowl with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Mix thoroughly with spoon.
Add long strips of pork belly and mix well. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
Preheat broiler for 10 minutes and reposition top rack so that it’s 3-4 inches from the heat element. Lay pork belly on foil-lined baking sheet, making sure there’s a little bit of breathing room between each.
Broil for 5-8 minutes on each side until meat is cooked through and crispy on the edges with charred bits. You’ll have to watch the pork carefully so that it doesn’t burn too much. Also, rotate the pieces with tongs so they receive equal heat from the broiler.
Crispy, fatty pieces of pork belly. Gochujang-based marinade. Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi is the indulgent dish you'll want to cook over and over again.
- 1.5 lb thick cut pork belly strips
- 1/2 large asian pear peeled and cored
- 1 small onion peeled
- 1/2 cup Gochujang Korean fermented chili paste
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp mirin or rice wine
- 2 Tbsp Gochukaru Korean chili flakes/powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 inch fresh ginger minced
Grate onion and asian pear with box grater. (Alternately, you can whizz onion, asian pear, garlic, and ginger in food processor until pureed.)
Add grated onion and asian pear to large bowl. Add remaining marinade ingredients. Mix thoroughly with spoon.
Add pork belly and mix with hands until thoroughly coated. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. Or, marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Position oven rack 3-4 inches from the heat element. Preheat oven to BROIL for at least 10 minutes. Line a sheet pan with foil for easier clean up.
Add pork belly strips to sheet pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Broil until crispy looking and browned, about 5-8 minutes for each side. Keep broiling until pork belly is cooked through with charred bits and crispy edges.
You'll have to watch the pork carefully so that it doesn't burn too much. Also, rotate the pieces with tongs so they receive equal heat from the broiler.
Cut into bite-sized strips and transfer to serving platter. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately with rice, lettuce wraps, and ssamjang.
*Fresh pork belly strips come in two options: with skin or without skin. For this recipes, choose pork belly WITHOUT skin. The skin makes this dish too chewy and rubbery.