Park's BBQ 'Magic Sauce' Marinade and Bulgogi

Time50 to 80 minutes total (15 to 20 minutes prep)
YieldsMakes 1 cup sauce for 1 pound meat, 4 servings
Jenee Kim's Park's BBQ bulgogi with her 'magic sauce' marinade.
(Laurie Ochoa / Los Angeles Times)
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“I call it magic sauce because you can use it for beef, chicken, shrimp, fish,” says Jenee Kim, owner of Park’s BBQ, the Los Angeles Times’ Gold Award winner for 2023.

It encapsulates so many of the flavors of Korean BBQ, with heady aromatics and nutty sesame oil. “Once you make this sauce, you can come up with five, six dishes,” says Kim. Kiwi is her secret ingredient, but she warns that if you use it, you can’t marinate the meat too long, no more than an hour.

At home, she marinates bulgogi, thinly sliced rib-eye, in the sauce then stir-fries the meat over high heat until cooked through. The marinade also works on LA galbi, or lateral-cut short ribs and as a sauce for japchae, a stir-fry of sweet potato starch glass noodles (dangmyeon) soaked in water for 15 minutes then stir-fried with julienned vegetables of your choice (Kim likes carrot, onion, red and yellow bell pepper). The sauce is also excellent for chicken, seafood or other proteins.


To make the marinade: Puree the onion, Asian pear and kiwi (if using) in a blender. (Onion, pear and kiwi can be roughly chopped if using the blender. If making marinade without a blender, make sure onion, pear and kiwi are finely minced.) Combine green onion, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, soju, sugar, sesame seeds, black pepper and honey, if using, in a large bowl and mix well.


For the bugogi: Add the meat to the marinade and let sit 30 minutes to 1 hour (no longer if using kiwi), tossing every so often to ensure the marinade coats all of the meat.


Lightly coat the bottom of a large pan with vegetable oil and heat over high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the meat to the pan and cook on high heat until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Kim’s alternative oven method: Spread the meat out on a baking sheet and cook in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fully cooked, rotating halfway through.


Serve with cooked short-grain rice.