You Don’t Have to Be a Rams Fan to Make This LA-Inspired Bulgogi Queso

This hot, melty cheese dip with bulgogi beef is a nod to Los Angeles' Koreatown.

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bulgogi queso
Photo: Dennis Lee

When you think about Los Angeles, what foods come to mind? There’s Phillipe’s French dip sandwich; L.A.’s expansive Mexican food offerings; punk hangout Oki-Dog; hell, even In-N-Out Burger (which we have many opinions on). But a big part of L.A.’s culinary scene is its bustling variety of Korean food, from the meals found right in the Koreatown neighborhood to popular food trucks like Kogi, specializing in Korean-Mexican fusion dishes like tacos.

So to give the L.A. Rams some love this Super Bowl weekend, I thought I’d take a Korean favorite, bulgogi, and turn it into a queso dip, with ingredients you can get at most supermarkets.

I subbed out the typical shaved ribeye and opted for ground beef, since shaved ribeye can be kind of difficult to get (plus, it’s expensive). And since bulgogi has been popular in America for years now, you’ll almost always be able to find bottled marinade in the Asian aisle at the grocery store these days.

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The bottled stuff is sold by various brands, but it will almost always be called some version of “bulgogi sauce” or “Korean BBQ sauce.” Both of these work for this recipe. If your local grocery store chain doesn’t carry a Korean version, a bottled teriyaki sauce will do the trick too. You can use the rest to marinade any other meat for another meal later.

The other fun thing about this recipe is a little trick I devised to get smooth melted cheese without using a product like Velveeta. Quick food lesson: Velveeta is wonderful for melting, because it contains sodium alginate, which is an ingredient that keeps the cheese product silky and smooth even when melted. But do you have sodium alginate just lying around? Me neither. So in order to achieve a sauce-like texture, I used a technique I first learned about at Serious Eats, using cornstarch and evaporated milk to create a similar effect without any modernist pantry ingredient.

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I also wanted a different style of cheese that wasn’t necessarily so tangy—something that could serve as a backdrop for the sweet soy sauce flavors in the dip. Velveeta almost has too much flavor in that regard, so I used Monterey Jack, which has the added benefit of melting beautifully on its own.

Okay, enough chatter. Let’s go make some queso dip and watch some football.

(Note: I know it’s a pain in the ass to hand shred cheese with a grater, but don’t buy the pre-shredded stuff in bags. It’s coated with an anti-caking agent, cellulose, that might turn your queso dip grainy.)

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K-Town Bulgogi Queso Dip

  • 16 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, hand-shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. ground beef
  • 1 can (7 oz.) fire-roasted green chilis
  • 1/2 cup bottled bulgogi or Korean BBQ sauce
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk, to thin the queso (if necessary)
  • Green onions, sliced, for garnish
  • Tortilla chips for serving

In a large mixing bowl, add shredded cheese and sprinkle cornstarch evenly on top. Toss cheese gently in cornstarch by hand, making sure it is evenly coated over all the cheese shreds. Set aside.

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In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter. Add onions to saucepan and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Next, add ground beef to saucepan and cook until browned, about 7-8 minutes. Drain out the excess fat.

Reduce heat to low. Add roasted green chilis to saucepan and stir until evenly mixed. Then add bulgogi sauce and continue heating until the mixture is hot (another 2-3 minutes).

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Pour in evaporated milk and the cornstarch cheese mixture, continuously stirring until the cheese is melted. The queso will thicken as it continues to cook; if it gets too thick, add milk to thin it to desired consistency.

Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.