From its origins in ancient Korea to kitchens across the diaspora today, this staple of Korean barbecue means something different to everyone.

By Eric Kim

In a spiral-bound police community cookbook from the 1970s, Songza Park’s recipe for “BUL KOGI (Barbecued Beef)” calls for two pounds of sirloin steak that you have to slice “very thin on the bias” before scoring each piece with an X. In 1965, when Ms. Park immigrated to the United States from Korea, she had no access to Korean grocery stores, where today entire cases are dedicated to pre-sliced meat often labeled “bulgogi beef.”

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