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The Paradoxical Bulgogi Pie

March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

Did you know that…..

The ancient Egyptians were among the first to discover the concept of Pi and Pie.

Pi is the most popular mathematical constant, and Pie is the most popular dessert (in America).

Pi has an infinite decimal representation (irrational number), and Pie has an infinite filling representation.

Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day (3.14.1879).  He spent much of his life thinking about Pi.

Pie is cuter than Pi.  *check out #1 under “the brownie you never knew”

When you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter, you get a pie in the sky!


Pie Poll Results

Thanks to everyone who voted in the Pie Poll for Pie Day 2010!  Bulgogi won with 44% of the votes.  Bulgogi Pie it shall be!


Pie-ifying Bulgogi

What is Bulgogi?

Bulgogi is a popular Korean barbeque dish that is made from very finely sliced, marinated rib-eye steak.  The marinade can include a number of ingredients, depending on the preference of the cook.  Soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, scallions and garlic are the universal base ingredients, and yellow onion, sesame seeds, vinegar, mushrooms, ginger, and black pepper are common additional ingredients.  Bulgogi is traditionally grilled (but commonly pan-fried), and served with steamed white rice, or with leaf vegetables in a “ssam”.

The Paradoxical Bulgogi Pie

Bulgogi is never served with wheat based products, and it is  impossible to make the perfect, buttery, flaky pie crust without using wheat flour.  Furthermore, pie does not exist in Korea!  If you ask for it, you will be offered a pre-packaged “Choco Pie”.  And you know how I feel about store-bought pie.

Pie in the Sky

Is this Bulgogi Pie just a pie in the sky?  Or can it be made into a delicious reality?  I recently watched my first Jamaican film, “The Harder They Come”, which featured a song that mentions pies up in the sky!  This all has absolutely nothing to do with Bulgogi Pie.  But this song is uplifting, and perfect for a lovely Pi day.  So check it out:

The Solution

As a Korean-American pie lover, I knew it was my call of duty to solve this paradox.  Here was my plan:

1. Get mama’s bulgogi recipe.

2. Koreanify my favorite pie crust recipe by incorporating rice flour and toasted sesame seeds.

3. Create a creamy Bulgogi roux recipe, using rice flour and Bulgogi pan drippings.

4. Perfect all three components and combine!

Pie Crust 101

Making the perfect pie crust is truly an art.  And since we don’t have the time to go into extensive detail (we only have until 1:59 pm), please note the following:


The tenderness of your crust is dependent on the protein content in your flour and the amount you handle your dough.  The less protein in the flour, and the less you handle your dough, the more tender your crust will be.  All-purpose wheat flour has the ideal protein content for a tender pie crust (~10%), and also contains the proteins (gliadin and glutenin) that form gluten.  Gluten is a substance formed/activated by moisture and handling; it is necessary to create elasticity in the dough and rigidity in the final baked product.  Although a small amount of gluten is essential to creating a workable dough, too much can easily create a tough crust.  Therefore, the dough should be handled just enough to properly incorporate the ingredients.  Rice flour has a ~6% protein content, and does not contain the proteins to form gluten.  Therefore, I incorporated toasted, crusted sesame seeds into my original Koreanified pie crust recipe to compensate for the loss of protein.


The flakiness of your crust is mostly dependent on how you handle your fat.  The key is to chill your fat, and to work it into the flour as quickly as possible.  The reason for this is that you want small chunks of fat dispersed throughout the dough without melting before baking.  These pieces of fat expand during baking, and are what separate the dough into layers/flakes.  The most common sources of fat are shortening, butter, and lard.  Shortening has the highest melting point, and is therefore the easiest to work with, and creates the most structurally stable end products.  However, butter and lard offer much better flavor, and if handled properly, can most certainly create structurally sound crusts.  I have yet to explore the specific differences between butter and lard pie crusts, but I plan to do this in the very near future!


There are three main components in a pie crust: flour, fat, and moisture.  The rule of thumb is roughly three parts flour, two parts fat, and one part moisture/liquid.  The source of moisture is most commonly ice-cold water, but can also be milk, cream, sour cream, eggs, or vinegar.


Let’s Cook AND Bake: Bulgogi Pie with a Toasted Sesame Crust

Part I: HHC’s Mama’s Bulgogi


  • 1 lb of thinly sliced rib-eye steak (purchased at a Korean market)
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce
  • ½ cup shittake mushrooms, diced into ~½ inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of ginger, finely minced


1. Cut the pre-sliced rib-eye into ~1 inch squares.

2. Combine all of the ingredients but the beef, onions, and mushrooms in a large bowl.  Once the sugar has dissolved, add the beef, onions, and mushrooms.  Using your hands, massage the marinade into the beef.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (and up to 3 hours).

3. Place the marinated beef (and excess marinade) in a ~2-3 inch deep skillet.  Cook over medium high heat until lightly browned (~5 minutes).  You can also use this recipe to make traditional Bulgogi (not to be eaten in a pie).  Just follow the steps, only, don’t cut the rib-eye at the beginning, and use high heat when cooking the bulgogi (to get seared edges).

4. Remove the Bulgogi from the skillet and place in a bowl.  Save the pan drippings for the Bulgogi Roux.

Part II: Bulgogi Roux


  • Bulgogi pan drippings
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 2 tbsp butter


1. Heat the Bulgogi pan drippings over low heat.  Add the butter and whisk until fully melted.

2. Increase the heat to medium, and add the rice flour.  Gently whisk until the roux is thick, creamy, and bubbly (~3 min).  You can tell when the flour in the roux is fully cooked when you smell a pleasant, nutty aroma.

3. Re-add the lightly cooked Bulgogi to the skillet, and evenly coat it with the Bulgogi Roux.

Part III: Toasted Sesame Crust


  • 2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • 1 cup butter, cut into ~½ inch cubes, and then chilled in the freezer for ~10 minutes  (or 1 cup of chilled lard if you have it)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp of toasted, crushed sesame seeds, and additional for topping
  • 1 egg, whisked (for egg wash)
  • 1-4 tbsp of ice-cold water


1. Sift together the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Mix in the toasted sesame seeds.

2. Add the chilled butter to the mixture in the large bowl.  Using your hands, quickly (but gently) work the butter into the chunks are about the size of small peas.

3. Gently knead until just incorporated.  Squeeze the dough with your hand to test if it holds to itself.  If it does not, add 1 tbs of ice water (at a time) until the dough sticks.

4. Divide the dough into two equal disks.  Wrap them each in plastic and chill for ~30 minutes.

Part IV: Putting it all together

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.

2. Lightly dust a clean work surface with rice flour.  Using a floured rolling-pin, roll out one disk of dough until ~1 foot in diameter.

3. Fold the rolled dough over the rolling-pin, and lift the rolling-pin by the handles over the pan.  Unfold the dough, and gently press it into the surface of the pan.  Make sure not to stretch the dough.

4. Add the Bulgogi filling.  Repeat step #3 for the remaining dough, and then place over the Bulgogi filled pie.

5. Press the edges of the bottom and top crust together.  Crimp the edges using your fingertips.

6. Cut slits into the top of the pie for steam to escape.

7. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, and then sprinkle with additional toasted sesame seeds.

8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Allow it to cool for 1 hour before serving.  Enjoy!!!

And there you have it!  Yummy Bulgogi Pie!

NOW GET ON IT!  No time to eat this time… I know you haven’t made your pie for Pi Day yet….

But please do have a deliciously pie-filled Pi Day 2010!

Until next time…


HH Contessa

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2010 8:17 am

    The mathematician says “pi r squared.”
    The baker replies “No! Pies are round, cakes are square!”

    I absolutely adore the scientific approach of explaining your cooking methods. And more importantly, the Bulgogi Pie looks delish! Keep it uniqua HHC!

    • March 14, 2010 7:19 pm

      Aw thanks Em!
      Where were you today? We certainly missed you. If you want some pie, come over…. a ton ton of leftovers. And they are GOOD leftovers.

  2. Jackie permalink
    March 14, 2010 8:41 am

    I have to admit I voted for chorizo pie bc I couldn’t figure out how bulgogi pie would work but this looks delicious! Wish I could be there to taste today. But my favorite part of the post was definitely “you’re so irrational!” 😀

    • March 14, 2010 7:29 pm

      Chorizo and Eggs Pie should also exist. I still plan to make it!! I also plan to make the BBQ Pulled Pork Pie…

      I really wish you could have been here too. It was the best Pi Day as of yet. There were a ton of beautiful, tasty, and fascinating pies that I know you would have appreciated. The winner of our “Most Interesting Pie” was watermelon pie!!

      But yeah, I wasn’t sure how bulgogi pie could work either… but it turns out, you CAN pie-ify Korean BBQ 🙂 Now I truly believe that “the pie filling representation is infinite”!

      Haha… I was also very excited about that line! Too excited actually. I thought of that line last night, and stayed up ’til 5 am to get the post up because I so so urgently wanted to share that line.

      Anyways, I hope you had a delicious Pi Day!

  3. April 5, 2010 11:48 am

    This looks insanely good! Much better than a shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie by a long shot. A little kimchi garnish would be the piece de resistance. 😉

    • April 5, 2010 7:21 pm


      A kimchi garnish is a scary but brilliant idea. I’ll have to try it next time!


      HH Contessa

  4. April 5, 2010 12:41 pm

    Your pie crust looks PERFECT!

  5. April 6, 2010 9:13 pm

    A bulgogi pie sounds like a great idea!

  6. December 7, 2010 1:15 am

    Wow, lol. I saw the title and thought, “She didn’t really…no she couldn’t have.” Then i clicked “Read More” then was surprised to learn that “She did!”


    No but really, that is one insane idea!

  7. Christina Casler permalink
    August 7, 2020 11:15 pm

    wow. this was a total hit! I was making it for my sister whose description of what she wanted for her birthday was “maybe pie themed… if not, then Korean” (we’re Korean). One thing I would mention is I had at least 2 times the amount of meat and it lead to a really nice pie, I ratioed up the ingredients accordingly (except I followed the pie crust recipe to a tee). I had to bake the pie for closer to 75 min and I even increased the heat to 400 (for the last 10 min) to get that golden brown look. but wow was it worth it. I will keep this recipe in my back pocket for a long time

    • August 8, 2020 8:21 am

      Awesome! I think twice the amount of meat makes a lot of sense! Thanks for the suggestion and for the support!


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