WESTMINSTER, CO - DECEMBER 4:  The  zucchini pancake at the Korean barbecue restaurant Dae Gee in Westminster, 7570 Sheridan Blvd., on Thursday, December 4, 2014. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images )
Food - Drink
The Sweet Marinade Ingredient That Keeps Bulgogi Tender
Go to any Korean restaurant in the United States, and you'll probably be able to order bulgogi (which means "fire meat"). This dish of marinated slices of beef grilled on a barbecue is one of Korea's most iconic foods, and while you can make bulgogi using many different cuts of beef, the marinade must include this one ingredient to be authentic.
The main flavors in bulgogi marinade come from soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, and sugar, and juice from Asian pears is also a defining ingredient. The juice adds a fruity sweet note while tenderizing the beef using natural enzymes found in the fruit, but many cooks use other fruit juices or liquids that have the same effect.
James Beard Award-winning chef Peter Serpico uses kiwi in place of pear or pineapple juice, since kiwis contain the same enzymes as these fruits. Kiwi actually contains more of the tenderizing enzyme calpain, so it tenderizes the beef much faster — just don't leave your bulgogi marinating for too long, or it will turn mushy.