This is based off of a recipe that I've had laying around for about ten years (no, really). The recipe I had predated even my pescatarian (while self-identifying as vegetarian) years, and as such was meat-based. I've always kept my favorite recipes in the same notebook, so I rarely look through the first twenty pages or so, since essentially none of these are vegan or vegetarian. However, looking through this section one day, it dawned on me that Bugolgi, or Korean barbecue, wouldn't be a difficult thing to veganize at all. So, I made some changes to the old recipe, and tried it out on seitan.
The results were fantastic. The seitan is thinly sliced and marinated before being broiled. The brown sugar in the marinade caramelizes and the edges of the seitan blacken. The seitan is extremely savory and quite firm, with loads of umami flavor (umami is the "meaty" flavor that many people crave).
Meanwhile, I was considering what veggies to have as a side with the seitan. Often, bulgogi is served with kimchi, which is the Korean equivalent of sauerkraut. But, I had a number of roadblocks. Roadblock #1 was that store bought kimchi costs more than I am willing to pay (at least at Vitamin Cottage, where I normally shop), at about $8 to $15 per jar.
Fine. "I'll make it myself," I thought, and I found this really great looking recipe at the Kitchn. However, on week one Vitamin Cottage didn't have daikon. On week two, they had daikon but no Napa cabbage (they stock only organic fruits and veggies--at really great prices--but this also means that you don't necessarily have the huge selection of say, Whole Foods, who can fill in with non-organic or non-local produce if needed). I ordered the Gochugaru, but it came late, and then I accidentally used all my scallions on another recipe before realizing I needed them here.
So, seeing as I really just wanted to see how the seitan would come out, and I was running out of options in my refrigerator for the week, I decided to cut my losses, and not pay the $$$ for kimchi and also not to spend my time trying to ferment it. I came up with cheater kimchi, which may not be exactly like true kimchi. However, this "cheater" kimchi captures many of the flavors of real kimchi, and is a nice, healthful accompaniment to the seitan. If it bothers you that this isn't very traditional, keep in mind that somewhere on this blog is a recipe for enchiladas that uses flour tortillas--a travesty for a New Mexican like me--and that I did this because I thought it tasted good and not because I'm a jerk. :)
Korean Seitan Bulgogi and Cheater Kimchi
Time: 45 minutes (plus 1 hour to marinate the seitan)
For the Korean Barbeque
1 pound seitan
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons sambal oelek
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
Slice the seitan into slivers (as thin as you can!). Combine the garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, brown sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large shallow dish. Add the seitan and stir to coat. Marinate for an hour, stirring occasionally. The seitan should soak up all the marinade.
Preheat the broiler on Hi. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with the canola oil and spread the seitan out in a thin layer. Broil on Hi for 7 minutes. Remove from broiler, mix seitan with a spatula to expose uncooked seitan, and return to broiler for 1-2 minute intervals, stirring until the edges of the seitan are evenly charred (but, obviously, you don't want to completely burn the seitan).
Remove from the broiler and keep warm until ready.
For the Cheater Kimchi
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3/4 cup scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 daikons, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 Napa cabbage, halved and sliced into 2 inch chunks
2 tablespoons dulse (a crumbled seaweed, or use crumbled nori sheets)
3 tablespoons Gochugaru Korean chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add all ingredients to the skillet and cover. Steam the vegetables just until the cabbage is softened and the flavors begin to mix, no longer than 5 minutes.
Serve with the seitan and cooked rice.