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Bulgogi Empanadas | Guest post by Winner Celebration Party

by Vijay on December 9th, 2011

Today is the first of our Guest Post series and we’re joined by our dear friend and all-around-awesome-person Sarah Woo of Winner Celebration Party (amazing name, right?).  A law student by day, Sarah never lets the books get in the way of cooking amazing food and for that, we are all better off =) She knows how much we LOVE Korean food and created this east-meets-(south)west treat-on-the-go!  Make sure to check out her blog and leave some love.


I love bulgogi.  A little sweet, a little salty, bulgogi is a great beginner’s introduction to Korean food.  I recently came up with my own recipe for bulgogi marinade, after several failed attempts to get precise measurements from my mom (whose measurements seem to be limited to “not too much” and “just guess”).

But I didn’t stop there.  Tender Korean barbecue is delicious, but as a busy law student, I don’t often find time to sit down to a big flaming grill.  So I decided to make the bulgogi portable by encasing it in an empanada.  Yes, empanadas.

The crust of choice, based on an informal poll of my friends.  And now that I think about it, bulgogi and empanadas really do go hand in hand.  Coming from the word empanar, meaning to wrap in bread, empanadas are to Spain, Portugal, and Latin America what rice is to Asia.  Ubiquitous, versatile, and crowd-pleasing.

So how does it taste?  Surprisingly delicious.  With a tender butter crust and a make-my-Korean-mom-proud filling, these empanadas may not be traditional, but they are satisfying and amenable to variations.  If you’re feeling adventurous, take the filling up a notch by replacing some of the bulgogi with ginger, kimchi, or even some cheese.  You can’t really go wrong.  Have fun!

Bulgogi Empanadas

Bulgogi Filling

1.5 lbs beef sirloin, thinly sliced then chopped into small pieces
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white sugar
3/4 Asian pear, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp water
4 cloves garlic
4-6 small carrots, julienned
4-6 shiitake mushroom caps, destemmed and chopped
1/2 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Empanada Dough

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 large eggs
2 tbsp white vinegar
Egg Wash
1 egg white, beaten with a bit of water


1. Marinade: Add the soy sauce, Asian pear, sugar, sesame oil, mirin, water, and garlic to a food processor.  Process for ten seconds, until the ingredients are fully blended.

2. In a large bowl, combine the beef sirloin with the marinade.  Use your hands to massage the marinade into the beef.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for two hours.

3. In the meantime, make the empanada dough per directions at Smitten Kitchen.  Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

4. Bulgogi Filling: Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the carrots and onions, and saute for a few minutes until the onions have sweated.  Add the marinated beef and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Next, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the meat filling to a bowl and set aside.

4. Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  On a clean, floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Use a biscuit cutter or any object with a six-inch diameter (I used a pot lid) to cut out circles from the dough.  You can reroll the dough scraps once to cut additional circles.

6. Empanada Preparation: Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of bulgogi filling onto each dough circle.  Fold each circle in half to form a crescent.  Pinch the edges to seal (use water if necessary).  Take a fork and make vertical impressions around the edge of the crescent.  Gently brush each empanada with egg wash.

7. Place the empanadas on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.  Flip the empanadas halfway through the baking time.

8. Cool the empanadas on a wire rack.  Serve warm.

Serving Suggestion: This is a recipe for a basic bulgogi empanada.  Give the filling extra kick by adding some chopped kimchi, ginger, or maybe even some cheese