Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef. The meat is marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and other ingredients such as scallions, or mushrooms, especially white button mushrooms or shiitake. Sometimes, cellophane noodles are added to the dish, which varies by region and specific recipe. Before cooking, the meat is marinated to enhance its flavor and tenderness.
Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan-cooking is common as well. It's common practice in Korean barbecue to grill or fry whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions, and chopped green peppers are often grilled or cooked with the meat. This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce or other leafy vegetable, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang, or other side dishes, and then eaten as a whole.
Bulgogi literally means "fire meat" in Korean, which refers to the cooking technique—over an open flame—rather than the dish's spiciness. The term is also applied to variations such as dak bulgogi (made with chicken) or dwaeji bulgogi (made with pork), although the seasonings are different.