Korean Royal Barbecued Pork (Maekjeok : 맥적)

I probably will never forget our trip to the historic palace area when we were visiting Korea last summer, because it was SO incredibly hot that day and we were melting away into the pavement.  But even in the midst of our dehydration and misery, we couldn’t help but admire the colorful carved buildings with all their ornate details.  There was also an air-conditioned (hallelujah) museum there, where we got to see a display of a royal table with all the typical food.

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

Maekjeok, or Korean “Royal” Barbecued Pork, is one of the dishes that only palace people used to be able enjoy, but it’s really just thinly sliced pork marinated in Doenjang, or Korean fermented soybean paste. It’s not quite as popular as Bulgogi, but it actually pre-dates Bulgogi, and has such a unique flavor!

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

I love it especially in a crunchy lettuce wrap with some spicy kimchi.  It’s like eating a present…no wonder it was served before kings and queens!

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

The good news is you can easily make this down to earth dish at home and you no longer have to be royalty to eat it!  Watch how I make this delightfully surprising Royal Barbecued Pork in EPISODE 6 of Bits & Pieces SEASON 4 below:

WATCH HOW I MAKE KOREAN ROYAL BARBECUED PORK HERE {EP. 6 SEASON 4} :


I chose to use pre-sliced pork butt that they sell at the Korean market, which is also nicknamed as “Pork Bulgogi” because of how similar it is to the thinly sliced beef rib-eye meat used for Bulgogi.  But you can also use thinly sliced pork loin if you wish, especially if you want to go for a leaner cut.

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

I really love that this recipe uses Doenjang, Korean soybean paste, instead of Gochujang, or Korean red chili paste, which is usually more common for pork marinades.  But for those of you who want to enjoy a version of Korean marinated pork without the spice, this one’s for you!

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

It has that sweet and soy sauce-y quality that is consistent with Korean style barbecued meats, but then there’s that “hmmm… what is that” factor because of that earthy soybean paste.

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

This marinated pork can be eaten traditionally with some rice, kimchi, and lettuce wraps, but it would also do so well as part of a bunch of fusion dishes.

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

I can imagine it being used for various rice bowls, Korean style tacos, kimchi quesadillas, or a Banh Mi style sandwich!  Man my mind is spinning with ideas now!

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

And even though it’s called “barbecued” meat, you don’t have to cook it on a grill.  I chose to use my cast iron pan, but I just made sure it was screaming hot so the thin slices of pork could get a nice caramelization without overcooking.  As soon it comes off the pan, you do want to eat it right away while it’s still sizzling.  It’s just not the same when it cools down.  Maybe that’s why Koreans like cooking their meat right at the table!

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

It’s funny to think that this dish was so special back in the day, because now all of the ingredients are so accessible, and it only takes minutes to marinate and cook.  It could be considered more like a quick weekday meal today!  But don’t tell your family or friends this…just let them believe you’re treating them like royalty.

Korean Royal Barbecued Pork Maekjeok 맥적 | ChefJulieYoon.com

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Korean Royal Barbecued Pork (Maekjeok : 맥적)
 
Thinly sliced pork is marinated in Korean soybean paste which gives it a sweet, salty and earthy flavor. One bite, and you'll understand why it was considered as food for royalty.
Author:
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 lb thinly sliced pork butt or pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon doenjang (Korean soybean paste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 scallion, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil for cooking
Instructions
  1. Mix the honey, water, and mirin together. Marinate the pork in this mixture for 5 minutes first. Combine the doenjang, soy sauce, chopped green onion, and minced garlic together in a small bowl. Add to the pork and mix well with kitchen gloves, making sure to toss the pork gently so the thin slices don’t break. Drizzle the sesame oil on top, sprinkle on the sesame seeds, and mix again. Marinate the pork for 30 minutes.
  2. Place on a lightly oiled grill or in a large pan with a little oil over high heat, making sure not to crowd the pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes total, or until lightly caramelized on the outside. It will only caramelize if your pan is nice and hot. Do not overcook since the slices are so thin, and they can get dry. Garnish with more sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve while hot, along with rice, lettuce leaves, and kimchi!
TIP: Do yourself a favor and buy the pork from a Korean grocery store because it’s already thinly and uniformly sliced. It’s sometimes known as “Pork Bulgogi.”

 

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