Thursday, May 5, 2011

You've Got to Get Down to Korean Barbecue

I LOVE Korean food, it's cheap and delicious and surprisingly available throughout Korea (the only other options in Buan are pizza, fried chicken and 'Italian' food.) By far my favourite Korean eating activity is Korean Barbecue.  

Korean Barbecue was actually one of the first things we ate in Korea. I remember freaking out about it as I wanted to make a good impression and I hadn't eaten meat for 12 years at that point. We've written before about the 'process' of eating Korean food - see Bibimbap and Dakgalbi - and barbecue has steps too. 

First, choose your meat. There's usually two types of meat on the menu - Galbi (marinated pork or beef short ribs) or Samgyeopsal (pork belly) and a variety of banchan (side dishes) including lettuce or sesame leaves. I prefer galbi as it's less fatty and more delicious. 

Normally you'd order your meat off the menu but this edition of Karori to Korea comes to you from King Kong Meat Town in Yeongtong, Suwon. Meat Town is a meat buffet where for 14,000 won ($16.50) you can eat your fill of galbi, samgyeopsal, beef and burgers. At a regular barbecue restaurant, galbi is about 9,000 won ($11) for one serve of meat and your banchan, and there are galbi restaurants all over Korea.

Here's the buffet :

Once your meat arrives, load up the grill. There will be a chimney either suspended from the ceiling or attached to the table to funnel the smoke away. The ones in Meat Town can't handle all the grilling going on, and the restaurant is usually full of smoke by the time we leave. The grills are sometimes gas powered but usually the staff will bring in a metal bowl full of hot coals and change it about halfway through your meal.

In the spare bits of the grill, chuck on some kimchi, garlic and onions if they're available. Koreans usually eat galbi with raw garlic (good for your health!) but grilled garlic (and grilled kimchi) is too delicious to pass up.

Heather is modelling a giant piece of kimchi. You can see the banchan and sauces in the back.
The staff will supply you with some tongs and a pair of scissors - amazing bbq tools! Once your meat is cooked, simply snip it into bite-sized pieces and start making your own galbi parcels. 

Second step is choosing a leaf and some meat. Hold your lettuce in one hand and put some meat in the middle, like so:

Next, add your sauces and banchan. There's usually two sauces available - ssamjang, a spicy red sauce and gireumjang which is a mix of sesame oil and salt. Gireumjang is more of a dipping sauce and I like my food spicy so I usually eat the ssamjang. 

You can add anything you want from the banchan dishes. A little bit of onion, a few slices of garlic, some bean sprouts, some pickled turnip. It all depends on what's on the table and how big your lettuce leaf is. 

Finally, you need to wrap it all up into a ball, and shove the whole thing in your mouth. Masshiseyo! 

Washed down with some soju and beer, Korean Barbecue is definitely my favourite way to spend a Friday night in Korea. 

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