Mushroom Bulgogi

By / Food / March 15th, 2022 / 1

By Joanne Lee Molinaro 




Many people believe that Korean food = Korean BBQ and bibimbap. My hope is that with the recipes in this book, you will realize that like all other cuisines, Korean food is more than its most known dishes, in this case, grilled meat and rice bowls. That said, a Korean cookbook—even a vegan one—wouldn’t be worth its salt if it did not include some grilled deliciousness. Bulgogi translates into “fire meat.” It’s usually made with flank steak, rib eye, or other cuts of beef. In order to recreate that texture, I use Soy Curls, which are just soybeans that have been cooked and then dehydrated. Soy Curls hold up exceptionally well against the rich and intense flavors of the marinade and the heat of the grill.


  • 1 cup Soy Curls
  • 3 to 4 dried shiitake mushrooms 
  • ½ cup Omma’s Korean BBQ Sauce (recipe follows))
  • 1 scallion, cut into
  • 2-to 3-inch lengths
  • ¼ red onion, julienned
  • ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • Oil for grilling
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds


1. Soak the Soy Curls in water for at least 1 hour. Drain and squeeze out any excess liquid. At the same time, soak the shiitake mushrooms to rehydrate, then chop.

2. In a large zip-top plastic bag or reusable silicone bag. place the Soy Curls, barbecue sauce, scallions, red onion, bell pepper, and shiitakes. Make sure all the Soy Curls are submerged in the sauce. Place it in the refrigerator and marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat a grill or a grill pan (or a cast-iron skillet). Slightly oil the grates or pan. When the grill is hot, place the marinated soy curls, scallions, onions, and mushrooms on the grill pan or grill topper, basting with the remaining marinade.

4. Drizzle with the sesame oil and garnish with the sesame seeds before serving.





One of the very first things my mother ever taught me to make in the kitchen was her Korean barbecue marinade—i.e., the liquid gold you soak your meats and vegetables in before grilling them. Absolutely bursting with umami and garlicky goodness, I like to keep a jar on hand at all times. It’s so simple to make and I often use it in place of soy sauce for many recipes. While it’s great as a marinade, you can also use it as a base for a sauce that is delicious with hearty dishes like Galbi or Bulgogi. “Sauce-ifying” the marinade is very easy, and I have jars of the sauce version in my refrigerator at all times, too!


  • ½ red onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 scallions, trimmed
  • 8 to 9 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup (or your preferred sweetener)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • ½ cup rough-chopped Korean pear or apple
  • ½ cup rough-chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 knob fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Mushroom Dashi or water
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch


1. Make the marinade: In a high-powered blender, combine the red onion, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, brown rice syrup, rice vinegar, mirin, Korean pear, bell pepper, ginger, sesame oil, and pepper and blend until smooth and frothy.

2. Make the sauce: Transfer the marinade to a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the liquid until reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the mushroom dashi into the potato starch to create a slurry. Gradually stir the slurry into the cooking marinade and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.

4. Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and let it cool (allowing it to thicken a little more). Once cooled, store it in the refrigerator for use in the next several days or freeze it for future use.

Joanne Lee Molinaro is a Korean American trial lawyer, born and raised in Chicago. Molinaro adopted a plant-based diet in January 2016 and began The Korean Vegan as a passion project later that year. Her immensely popular TikTok, @thekoreanvegan, incorporates her recipes with personal narration.

From THE KOREAN VEGAN COOKBOOK: REFLECTIONS AND RECIPES FROM OMMA’S KITCHEN by Joanne Lee Molinaro, to be published on 10/12/2021 by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 Joanne Lee Molinaro


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