Korean Favorite: How to make Meat Jun / Gogi-Jun
As mentioned many times on SF Food, San Francisco truly lacks good Korean restaurants. Whenever I want Korean food, I have to head to Santa Clara, or cook it myself.
In the mood for authentic “gogi-jun” (고기전), we went to the grocery and bought the ingredients I need to prepare this dish at home.
This is one of those Korean dishes that is commonly presented at parties and feasts, but for some reason, this dish is rarely served up on casual dinner tables. In fact, this applies to many different “jun” dishes including the ever popular fish-jun (생선전). The reason is perhaps due to this being the type of dish that requires quite a bit of preparation and time, and historically, food like “jun” were prepared for the emperor of the country. Meat or fish needed for this dish was not readily available for the common folk. Even in modern day Korea, when a special occasion comes up, the ladies will gather to make all kinds of jun.
As far as Korean cuisine goes, whenever you stick the word “jun” after the ingredient, it means that it is a dish that is fried in the manner described below, always using flour and egg. It could be meat jun, fish jun, oyster jun, green onion jun, etc.
This meat jun is also described as dong-geu-rang-ddaeng (동그랑땡); it’s a favorite for many Koreans as an accompaniment to rice, usually served with a soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce. It’s made to pack for kids’ lunches as a special treat, or will sometimes grace Korean dinner tables. What you call it doesn’t matter — it’s the same exact thing.
Okay, let’s start off with how to prepare the meat.
Although this dish is commonly beef-based, I started to mix in about 1/3 ground pork to 2/3 ground beef a few years ago and have continued doing so when I have pork on hand. With the meat, keep in mind that the leaner the meat is, the drier your jun will be. For ground meat, try not to get beef that is too lean.
I used about 3/4 of a pound, of which 1/3 was ground pork. Put it in a stainless steel bowl and sprinkle some salt on the raw meat. If you will be making a dipping sauce, which I didn’t, use less salt. In my case, not wanting soy sauce today, I put in more salt so that the meat jun was adequately seasoned with no need for soy sauce. Add pepper to taste. For this amount of beef, I poured in about 1.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
I like to add a small amount of Panko breadcrumbs (this is my own variation; the original gogi-jun will not use breadcrumbs). For this amount of beef, I used perhaps 1/3 C to the mixture. I also added a small amount of minced garlic. You have the option to add minced onion, which is commonly done, but I opt out of this because it tends to create more liquid than I like in jun. This was probably started because ground beef can be so dry, but with good meat and the addition of oil, it should be perfectly juicy without the onions.
Now, knead the whole mix together. Kneading well is important not only in making sure the salt and crumbs all distribute evenly, but also helps in tenderizing the mixture. Once finished, take a small chunk out of the mix and roll into a ball in your palm. The ball should be smaller than the size of a ping pong ball. Once in this shape, take one hand and flatten the ball into the other hand until each piece looks like it’s shown above. You want to make sure that is is relatively even in thickness throughout to ensure that it cooks evenly, and it shouldn’t be thick or else it will be impossible to cook through without a microwave.
Lay all the meat patties on a plate and leave to the side.
This is when I begin heating a pan on the stove. I always use medium heat, but your stove may need a lower or higher setting. For this dish, I truly prefer to use Teflon frypans as it makes the process much simpler and requires less attention than my All-Clad cookware. Pour some vegetable oil into the pan and let it heat up until hot.
In the meantime, pour a small amount of flour in a bowl.
In another bowl, I take two eggs, a couple tablespoons of cream (if available, and obviously my own addition to this recipe as it softens the egg batter and adds to the flavor), a sprinkle of salt, and beat with a fork until completely mixed through.
Now, we’re ready to begin cooking.
This is not a dish you just leave unattended — and make sure to adjust your heat/flame setting as needed as if burned, this dish is ruined.
Take each individual patty, and very lightly dip into flour. You want to coat the entire patty but at no point do you want a lump of flour. (This is also why if you can sift the flour, it’s even better.) The amount of flour shown on the patty in the photo is about ideal for coverage.
This step is crucial and most often skipped or unknown when making gogi-jun. Without it, the egg batter does not sufficiently stick or absorb to the meat patty!
Take the patty that is already covered in flour and dunk into the egg mixture. While you want the entire patty coated in egg, do not leave in the mixture but rather swirl in the mix once or twice, and lift the patty out taking care not to destroy the shape of the patty since it is now wet and softer.
Gently lay each patty into the hot oil. Try to make sure that the patties do not touch, or the egg will cook together and may end up peeling off of the stuck patties if pulled apart later. This is when you can check your heat source as the egg should not be burning when you do this, but at best — just cooking but not browning slowly. The slow heat will help to cook your meat mixture thoroughly without burning the egg batter to a crisp.
Patience. Edges should be sizzling to a soft brown. Take care not to flip too early. You want to make sure that this side is about 80% done before flipping. Why 80%? You will see in a little bit.
The color you see above is about ideal, and is about 80% of the final color you will want from these meat jun patties. Begin flipping over each piece, in the order in which you laid them, or if your heat source is uneven like many electric stoves are, then in the order they are cooking.
At this point, I usually begin to push the half-cooked (and significantly smaller due to being cooked) patties over to the outskirts of the pan and add more flour and egg battered patties to the center of the pan. If you were able to cook all of your patties at once, then this step would be unnecessary, obviously. Continue cooking the first batch for a couple of minutes.
Once you feel the meat is adequately cooked, flip the original batch of patties over and fry the originally fried side for about 40-45 more seconds. This is the final 20% that you needed to “brown” the egg and I do this solely to ensure even distrubution of the oil and moisture inside the patty. When you flip it, you will notice that the second side has significantly less egg batter than the first side. This is natural as much of the egg dripped down to the original side during the original frying.
Remove immediately from the frying pan. Depending on how much oil is dripping from the patties, I will sometimes use one plate with a good paper towel on it to absorb some of the oil. In the above scenario, I plated directly from the frying pan as there wasn’t that much oil on the patties.
And that’s it.
Meat Jun is a basically simple dish to make, but it is very hands-on and requires paying attention to the cooking process. I have yet to meet a child or a man that doesn’t love this dish — so give it a whirl in your kitchen. What I can tell you is that as easy as this is, it’s not readily made or served in Korean restaurants. You would also have to ask for “Gogi-Jun”, should they have it. It will be more commonly found at buffet restaurants, or at any Korean festivity.
The next time I make fish-jun, I’ll be sure to take photos and post on SF Food.