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Beef Bulgogi: one meal for 3 types of eaters

by | Last updated May 27, 2022 | Published on Jan 15, 2021 | Prep | 1 comment

beef bulgogi

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Tonight’s dinner was a perfect example of how I modify dinners for different members of my family. My starting-point recipe was this excellent Korean Beef Bulgogi from Damn Delicious. (FYI, this is a great site to visit if you want to learn how to cook Korean food.)

My husband loves red meat, my two-year-old is going through a picky phase, and my seven-year-old is growing out of his pickiness, but he still likes things plain and his food separate. I, on the other hand, prefer to eat vegetarian, and I have been trying to eat more vegan meals since the new year rolled around. This post shows how I made the same meal work for all of us.

The meat – make it plain and keep it separate

The original Beef Bulgogi recipe calls for a 1 1/2 lb ribeye steak, which you temporarily freeze and then cut into 1/4″ slices. Instead, I made sure to buy a thin steak from the supermarket that I could easily pan-fry without cutting. I did not marinate the meat ahead of time; I cooked it straight out of the package, adding salt and pepper to each side. I wanted to keep the meat plain for my sons, since that is how they like it.

Note that I could have used the ribeye, and I have done so in the past. But I am lazy, and I hate cutting raw meat. This was mainly to save myself time and disinfectant. My supermarket labels meat for its intended purpose, so I made sure to buy one that said “Great for Frying.”

The marinade – use it as a topping instead

I prepared the marinade as directed in the original recipe, but I did not put it on the steak ahead of time. Instead, I kept it separate and heated it up in a saucepan on low heat while everything else was cooking. When the rest of the food was ready, I plated it and used the marinade as a topping for me and my husband’s meals. We got the delicious Korean flavors, and the boys got to eat steak that wasn’t spicy.

The rice – two easy ways to prep it

The Beef Bulgogi recipe does not call for rice, but I tend to make rice as the side whenever I serve an Asian dish. In this case, I made a simple long-grain white rice on the stovetop, throwing in a pat of butter and some salt while it was cooking for added flavor. Easy peasy. I know my kids and husband prefer this kind of rice.

Since I prefer short-grain brown rice, I threw that in the Instant Pot first thing before starting to cook anything else (it has to soak for 30 minutes, and the Instant Pot has a timer that will start cooking the rice after that time is up). I made extra so that I can eat the rice at other meals during the week. I did not add butter or salt to that rice.

The vegetable – quick and easy

This was the easiest part. I nuked a bag of frozen mixed veggies in the microwave for 5 minutes.

As with the rice, the original Beef Bulgogi recipe does not call for a vegetable. But whenever I plan out a dinner menu, I always try to include a fruit and veggie. In the interest of simplicity, I try to choose things that are quick and easy. Frozen vegetables worked well with this meal because they could be eaten either separately or stirred in to the final dish, using the marinade/sauce as a topping.

The fruit – repurpose those extra ingredients

The only fruit in the recipe was 1/2 a pear, which was used in the marinade. I cut up the other half and gave it to my sons for their fruit (my two-year-old eats small portions). For my fruit, I cut up a grapefruit that I had in the fridge and needed to eat before it went bad. If I’d had a second pear, I would have just used that.

Putting it all together

This is what the assembled meals looked like:

For the meat-eater (my husband): 

  • Full-sized pan-fried steak
  • White rice
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Marinade drizzled on top
  • Garnished with scallions 

For the picky eaters (my kids): 

  • Diced pan-fried steak, plain
  • White rice
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Pear slices
  • All served in separate sections of a divided plate

For the vegetarian/vegan (me): 

  • Short-grain brown rice
  • Extra-large portion of mixed vegetables
  • Marinade drizzled on top
  • Shelled peanuts added for protein (in retrospect, edamame would have also worked well here)
  • Pickled ginger on the side (just because I like it)
  • Garnished with scallions and toasted sesame seeds

As you can see, I didn’t really have to cook anything extra, besides the brown rice, and that was just my preference. What I did was rearrange how things were cooked and plated. The ingredients were mostly the same. 

I hope this gives you an idea of how you can make mealtime work better for your family, even if you have different eating styles.

Looking for more meal planning ideas? Check out my post on
The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning Success.

Helena Ramadan, MS, RDN

Welcome to Spark Change Nutrition! I'm Helena, and I love sharing nutrition info, meal ideas, and strategies for balanced living.



Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

About the Author

Helena is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), a health coach, and the mother of two young boys. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Helena loves sharing nutrition tips and meal ideas in the hopes that it will help someone else eat better tonight.

While Helena, the creator of Spark Change Nutrition, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), she is not providing Medical Nutrition Therapy on this website. Anything found here, including downloads and other content, should not be construed as medical advice. The information provided by her is general nutrition/health/fitness information, and is not individualized to your specific medical condition. Helena is not liable for any losses or damages related to any actions you take (or fail to take) as a result of the content presented herein. Please note that the information presented here is not intended to diagnosis or treat any health conditions. Talk to a qualified health professional, such as a doctor or a registered dietitian, about your specific health questions or concerns. 

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1 Comment

  1. Helen

    What a wonderful way to put a meal together for different preferences!! Your explanations were very simple to understand and easy to follow. Thank you 🙂


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