Korean Meatloaf. You want this.

Korean Meatloaf. You want this.

130502 korean meatloaf iphone

Sometimes a package of ground beef just begs to be something other than burgers. Or maybe it’s just that I’m tired of them. Whatever the case, I just couldn’t bear to make the same-old, same-old, yet again.

Since Stephen’s been begging for meatloaf, I figured I’d try to make him happy. But again, I’m not a huge fan. (Except for Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatloaf. That, I love.) So I didn’t want to go traditional. I wanted a twist, a zing, a curveball. I wanted to layer ethnicity into this resolutely American dish. And when I think “ethnic food” and “beef,” often I wind up in Korea.

This version has all the basic elements of old-school meatloaf (ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg) but adds flavors that together are unmistakably Korean (soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, scallions, ginger). To really take it home, I added a sweet-and-salty glaze towards the end of cooking.

The result falls somewhere in international no-man’s-land: It’s definitely meatloaf, but it’s definitely not what the word “meatloaf” leads you to expect. What it is, is so freaking delicious, with a lip-smacking, mahogany crust cloaking a moist, flavorful interior, that you won’t care a bit about where it comes from.

NOTE: If meatloaf ain’t your thang, this mixture works beautifully as meatballs. Brown them and drain excess fat, then simmer in the sauce as it reduces. By the time the sauce thickens into a glaze, the meatballs will be cooked.

Korean Meatloaf
Serves 4

For the meatloaf:
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, whites and greens (from about 2 scallions)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup panko (I used whole wheat)
1 pound lean ground beef

For the glaze:
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, sliced very thin
2 thin slices fresh ginger

For garnish:
Thinly sliced scallion greens
Toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then coat foil with cooking spray (this makes cleanup MUCH easier).

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, and ginger. When sugar has completely dissolved, add the panko and stir, then add the beef. Use clean hands to mix it gently, and don’t worry about making it perfect—overmixing will make a dense meatloaf.
  2. Divide mixture into four equal portions, and shape each into a small loaf. Place on the baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. While that cooks, make the glaze: Combine all the ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When it boils, reduce heat slightly and cook at a fast simmer (lots of small bubbles), stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces and thickens, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out solids.130502 bulgogi glaze
  4. Pull the meatloaves from the oven and brush each with the glaze, then return to oven for another 3 to 5 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the center of one meatloaf reads 160°F. Brush on another coating of glaze and serve, sprinkled with scallion greens and sesame seeds. Pass extra glaze at the table.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Even with reduced-sodium soy sauce, this is too salty for the youngest eaters. After about nine months, leave one portion of the meat mixture unglazed for baby—without that additional salt and sugar, it should be fine. If you want to make it easier for him/her to handle, shape it into several thick oblongs (think steak-fry shape). These will cook faster than the larger loaves—check the temp when you’re adding the first coating of glaze to the others.