Korean BBQ is not merely a meal but an immersive culinary experience combining delicious food, a unique cooking style, and rich cultural traditions. If you’ve ever wondered about the allure of Korean BBQ, you’re in the right place.
What Makes Korean BBQ Unique
History and Origin
Korean BBQ traces its roots back to the Goguryeo era (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.). The tradition of roasting meats evolved over centuries, shaping the unique style of BBQ we know and love today.
Key Ingredients To Korean BBQ
The star of Korean BBQ is, without a doubt, the meat. The diverse selection of meats is a defining feature of Korean BBQ. Different cuts and types are prepared and cooked to perfection, each offering unique flavours and textures.
A pork belly, similar to uncured bacon in the West. It is thick, fatty, and incredibly flavorful. Despite its high-fat content, Samgyeopsal is served unmarinated, allowing the naturally rich taste of the pork to come through when grilled.
Thinly sliced sirloin or another prime cut of beef. The meat is marinated in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper, giving it a sweet and savoury flavour profile. When grilled, the thin slices take on a slight char and pack a big punch of flavour.
Galbi refers to short ribs, either pork or beef. Often marinated in a similar mixture to Bulgogi but also include pear or apple juice in the marinade. The juices tenderize the meat and add a hint of fruity sweetness.
Dak Galbi: Chicken, marinated and grilled just like beef or pork. It’s less common than the other options but still delicious, offering a slightly leaner option for those poultry lovers.
Chadolbaegi: Thinly sliced brisket cooks very quickly on the grill. It’s often unmarinated, relying on dipping sauces for flavour after it’s cooked.
Marinades and Sauces
Marinades infuse the meat with a burst of flavour. The common marinades often include soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper. The sauces served alongside, like Ssamjang, add an extra layer of taste.
The Korean BBQ Experience
In Korean BBQ, the grill isn’t behind a counter or in a kitchen—it’s right at your table! You cook your meat to your liking, creating an interactive and fun dining experience with a built-in grill at each table. The real charm of Korean BBQ comes from the DIY element. Armed with tongs, you’re encouraged to become the head chef. You flip your meat, deciding when it’s cooked to your desired level, whether rare, medium, or well done.
While the meat sizzles, you can add vegetables to the grill. Typical additions include mushrooms, onions, and garlic. These add to the feast and contribute to the wonderful mix of scents wafting from the grill.
When the meat is almost ready, cut it into bite-sized pieces using the provided scissors. Each mouthful can be customized, wrapping the meat in lettuce leaves with a dab of sauce, a slice of garlic, or a pinch of Kimchi.
The cooking process at a Korean BBQ is interactive, communal, and heaps of fun. It offers the chance to savour each bite you’ve had a hand in preparing, creating an unforgettable dining experience.
Respecting the communal aspect is key. Use the provided serving tongs, not chopsticks, to handle raw meat. And remember to enjoy every bite—it’s not a race!
Pairings and Side Dishes in A Korean BBQ
Banchan refers to the array of small side dishes served with Korean BBQ. These can include Kimchi, pickled radish, and a variety of seasoned vegetables.
One of the most iconic beverages in Korean BBQ is Soju. Soju is a clear, distilled liquor with a smooth, clean taste. Its alcoholic content varies, typically around 20%, making it less potent than vodka or rum. Given its neutral flavour, Soju pairs exceptionally well with Korean BBQ’s robust and complex flavours.
Another traditional Korean drink served at BBQs is Makgeolli – a type of rice wine that is milky and slightly fizzy. It has a unique sweet and tangy taste with a hint of creaminess, making it an interesting counterpart to your meal’s rich and savoury flavours.
For those looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, Sikhye is a traditional sweet rice beverage that could be an option. It’s a mildly sweet drink made from malted barley and rice, often served as a dessert beverage.
Beer is also a common sight at Korean BBQ joints. A crisp, cold beer is a great compliment to the hot, sizzling meats. Korean beers include Hite, Cass, OB Lager, Max and Kloud. Mixing beer and Soju to create a cocktail known as Somaek is also popular.
- What’s the best meat to order for Korean BBQ?
- It depends on your preference, but popular choices are Samgyeopsal, Bulgogi, and Galbi.
- Is it necessary to cook your own meat at Korean BBQ?
- Generally, yes. It’s part of the unique dining experience.
- What are the common side dishes in Korean BBQ?
- You can expect a variety of Banchan, including Kimchi, seasoned vegetables, and pickled radishes.
- What drinks pair well with Korean BBQ?
- Soju and Makgeolli are traditional choices. Beer and soft drinks are also common.
- Can I have Korean BBQ if I’m vegetarian?
- Yes, many places offer vegetable grills and a variety of vegetarian Banchan.
From the sizzling grill to the myriad of flavours, Korean BBQ offers a unique dining experience that delights all senses. If you haven’t yet, it’s about time to embark on this mouthwatering culinary journey. Find the best Korean restaurants in Edmonton today!