Trader Joe’s (vegan) Korean Beefless Bulgogi


Bulgogi is a very popular Korean BBQ dish of marinated beef which is grilled. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beefless Bulgogi consists of little strips of “vegetarian meat” made from soy protein and other things, made to resemble Bulgogi . It seems to be a bit of a hit, especially with vegetarians, which I am not. The texture of these strips kind of make it resemble beef. They have a fairly pleasant chewy, tender texture with a beefy mouthfeel. They don’t really have any sauce in the package. I think these will be tastier if you do give them some sauce. TJ’s Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, $1.99) is a no-brainer to go with these. That can make a fast easy sauce for these which will match well with the strips which are a little plain on their own.

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

To best enjoy these, I suggest you don’t do this super lazy thing I see on the ‘net, being just microwave this up and put it on rice, which is what I see with people exclaiming “this is the bomb”. I can only imagine these people have never tasted actual Korean cooking? Just putting this on rice may be edible but so boring people! Don’t be so lazy… Think of these strips as the protein in a dish, and cook up something with them. First know that these will be best if you get a little sear on them so don’t just nuke them, you should brown them up in a pan. Below is one recipe stir fry idea for these. You can throw a dish together in 10 minutes with just a little effort. First – TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen which TJ’s often recommends. I suggest defrosting this before cooking.

I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or take it out in the morning for that nights dinner. Or just leave on the counter for maybe an hour or two out of the box. In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted.

STIR FRY: Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted strips and let them cook in a single layer until they get a little sear (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them as they sear. When they are seared, toss in some vegetables of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Toss in 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling on Gochujang sauce (for a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang and equal amount water till its a smooth sauce) Drizzle that sauce over the finished dish. Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) and serve the stir fried dish with some white (or brown) rice.

If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJs Asian vegetables. and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First I am not vegan and I adore real Bulgogi. These are pretty good and slightly resemble beef however they would not fool me as real beef (though frankly my Korean wife didn’t know they weren’t beef unill I told her!) What they got right here, is the texture, which is pretty good, a little chewy and “beefy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty.

A package is $3.49. Note: This is Vegan but it is NOT Gluten Free (contains Wheat Gluten). Gluten is what gives this the nice chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten for Vegetarian Mock meat for a thousand years. That is what “Seitan” is.

TJ’s ARTISAN ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA


RAVE

This is a great new pasta Trader Joe’s recently introduced with a great shape. It’s a “Fusilli” (corkscrew) curly shaped pasta with a little hole (bucati) in the center. This shape is very good and will hold lwhatever lovely sauce or ingredients you use with it. You can tell it’s a premium quality pasta just by looking closely: the exterior is not smooth but rough indicating it was *bronze die cut, and produced by a high end artisanal Italian manufacturer (closeup below: note the rough texture). This pasta has a fast cooking time, the package says 7-8 minutes. I just cooked it and at around 6 minutes it was al dente, meaning if I’m going to finish this with the sauce in a pan the way Italians do, I would fish the pasta out at around the 5 minute mark – a minute under al dente.

closeup

I just cooked some to taste, quite simply with butter, grated cheese and pepper. It was excellent. This is indeed terrific pasta. This corkscrew hollow shape should be great with many sauces, either tomato based and I think especially with a pesto sauce (green or red)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA. Imported From Italy. Organic Durum Semolina Wheat. $1.99. Try this if you see it, it’s really good. Me, I will buy a bunch for our pantry.

* Bronze dies make better pasta as they give pasta rough edges which makes for better sauce adherence.

RECIPE: I made a Tuna Pasta dish with this fusilli. It was excellent.

COLD TUNA PASTA too. (Pasta, One or two cans tuna, drained. Capers, Lemon, Olive Oil, A little mayo, chopped parsley.)