Do take the time to find prepared gochujang. It comes in squeeze bottles, and as Korean food becomes more popular, I’ve been seeing it everywhere. You can probably find it in the Asian foods aisle of most well-stocked supermarkets. Annie Chun’s makes a popular variety, but I’ve tried several brands and all supplied the sweet, bright heat that makes the savory filling pop. You could use sriracha, but the flavor is more vinegary and it’s hotter – and the flavor won’t be Korean!
Incidentally, if you don’t have shiitakes on hand, or if you’re vegetarian or just cooking like one, you can easily use all beef or all mushrooms instead of the mixture. This is a homestyle recipe; to give it a classier feel, substitute thinly sliced beef for the ground beef.
You may be tempted to leave out the pinch of salt, since you’ll be adding soy sauce later, but I learned recently that a pinch of salt makes onions soften more quickly when frying. It really makes a difference!
Korean Shiitake-Beef Lettuce Wraps
Serves: 3-4, with a side dish Time: 30 minutes Hands-on: 30 minutes
8 ounces ground beef
Pinch of salt
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1/2 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced or grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Several grinds black pepper
1 head lettuce (Boston or red leaf are good), leaves rinsed and dried whole
1/2 cucumber, skinned if waxed and sliced
1 carrot, grated, optional
Gochujang (or sriracha, in a pinch) for serving
In a large skillet, start browning the ground beef. (If using only mushrooms, heat a tablespoon of neutral oil.) When it starts to exude liquid, add the salt, mushrooms, onion, and garlic, and fry until the meat is done and the mushrooms are soft.
Push the meat and mushrooms back from one edge of the pan and add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. The sauce should bubble up, starting at the edge and moving inward; this step caramelizes it and concentrates the flavor. When it has all bubbled, stir into the filling mixture along with the sugar, ginger, sesame oil, and pepper. Taste and add more soy sauce, sugar, or pepper to taste
Scoop the hot filling into a bowl and place on the table with bowls of lettuce leaves, cucumbers, and carrots, and the bottle of gochujang. Encourage diners to select a lettuce leaf, stuff it with the filling and garnishes, and top with chile sauce.
NaBloPoMo 2014 Post #1