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Korean Barbecue

Sweet, tender beef great with rice, salad or piled on sandwich

– or a version of it – was something Will Le grew up eating.

But the owner and operator of Banh Mi Barista, 5320 Coldwater Road, says his version of the dish has evolved since he first had it as a child in Vietnam.

“I’ve been cooking this for over 10 years,” says Le, who has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 15 years.

The recipe has evolved over that time as Le has traveled and explored more restaurants.

“I make up the sauce,” Le says. “I add in red wine to help tenderize, and the five spices I use help enhance the flavor.”

Ingredient: Korean barbecue beef

Taste: “It has the sweetness of the sauce and the tenderness of the beef,” Le says. “It makes for a good combination.”

Secret’s in the sauce: The Korean barbecue sauce is made with salt, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, black pepper and Chinese five-spice powder, among other ingredients. Le also adds red wine to help tenderize the beef.

Cut above: Le prefers to use the top tip of the sirloin when making Korean barbecue beef, saying that sirloin is a tender cut of beef without being too fatty.

Serve it up: Traditionally, Korean barbecue beef is served with rice or in a noodle bowl with a salad. At Banh Mi Barista, the Korean barbecue beef is served on a sandwich with butter mayonnaise, cucumber, a pickled carrot and daikon slaw, jalapeños and cilantro.

For home cooks: Recipes for Korean barbecue sauce abound on the Internet, but, for a shortcut, Le says cooks can look for Bulgogi sauce, which is available in specialty Asian markets.

Preparation tips: “The sauce has got to be right,” Le says. “Don’t overcook the meat or it will make it chewy.”

Le typically marinates the beef for 24 hours, helping to tenderize it before cooking.

To cook, thinly slice beef and grill or pan-fry in a hot skillet.

Mix it up: The Korean barbecue sauce can also be used to marinate pork and chicken.

Smooth finish: Le likes to eat the Korean barbecue beef sandwich with an avocado smoothie. “It enhances the flavor (of the sandwich),” he says.

In the mix

Secret Ingredient is a monthly feature that highlights an ingredient and its uses. If you are a chef or home cook with a favorite ingredient and would like to be featured, email Assistant Features Editor Kimberly Dupps Truesdell at

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