Tasty Korean Barbecue
Korean barbecue is starting to pick up steam internationally, given its unique recipes and flavor. Why not give it a try on your grill?
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Some might think that grilled meat is grilled meat the world over... but that's not necessarily so, and Korean barbecue is an excellent example. Like many Asian barbecues, it challenges traditional American expectations in a number of ways.
If you're a follower of this site, you know that I enjoy challenging traditional grilling expectations. So let's take a quick look at BBQ the Korean way.
The proper term for Korean BBQ is "gogigui," which oddly enough translates to "meat roasting." Gogigui, like all right-thinking barbecues, focuses on the Divine Trinity of beef, pork, and chicken.
By preference, the Koreans prefer to cook their gogigui tableside, on charcoal and gas grills, which are often built into the table itself. Sounds familiar, yes? Needless to say, the utter freshness makes a big difference.
If you don't have a picnic table with a built-in grill and you'd like to create a truly authentic experience, no worries: Just use a small portable grill. A hibachi works very well, for example, though you're kind of mixing cultures there.
When you really get down to cutting the short ribs, fire is fire and, within its various categories, meat is meat no matter where you cook it. The sweet diversity lies in the details.
Rather than your standard tomato-based sauces and marinades, Asian barbecue tends toward honey, fish sauce, and soy sauce, with generous helpings of sugars added -- both rock sugar and palm sugar, which comes from the obvious source. Sometimes the latter goes by "coconut sugar."
The result is as you might expect: caramelized, smoky goodness with both tart and earthy undertones, delivered in textures both crunchy and soft
Galbi and Bulgogi and More
The most famous Korean BBQ meat dishes are probably galbi and bulgogi, both in beef versions. The former is composed of marinated short ribs, often boneless, while bulgogi is thin slices of tenderloin or sirloin.
Pork bulgogi is dweji bulgogi (dweji for short); you can also get jumuleok, which takes the form of steaks marinated in sesame seed oil. Dahk galbi is basically barbecued chicken. All of the above are nicely drool-worthy, and go well with traditional grilled vegetable foods like mushrooms and pineapple.
On the Side
As difficult as it may be for me to say, diners do not live on meat alone. And I'm not talking about slices of white bread here. Try your bulgogi with its traditional companions, the side dishes called banchan; they include pajori, a green onion salad. And try wrapping the meats in lettuce leaves before downing them.
Whatever variation you prefer, Korean-style grilling is a true culinary experience: simple, yet subtle and tasty. Give Korean barbecue a shot!