Korean BBQ restaurants have been slowly popping up across the country for quite some time now, welcomed into the open arms by those already familiar with the flavours that delight and tempt the senses, however, given not much more than a sideways glance from those who are yet to experience the mouth-watering experience.
Korean barbecue refers to the Korean method of roasting and grilling meats such as beef, pork and chicken, often prepared at the table right in front of those about to eat it, on a gas or charcoal grill that has been built into the tabletop. Where this isn’t possible, a portable stove is often also used, though it doesn’t feel quite as special as the more traditional inbuilt style setting. Grabbing the nearest utensil and joining in cooking at the table encourages a sense of community, whether being introduced to friends of friends for the first time or getting back in touch with family after a week spent living separate lives at school and work. It also avoids the hassle often experienced by that one fussy eater (there’s always one!) This person can simply cook their own portion of food exactly how they like it, with no complaints or complicated orders needed.
The most common type of Korean barbecue is Bulgogi, where thin slices of beef are marinated in a number of tasty condiments such as soy sauce, sugar, oil, garlic and pepper, slowly soaking into the meat for an evenly dispersed level of deliciousness throughout. Other common meats include pork belly, short rib, beef tongue, brisket and squid, though the possibilities for barbecuing your favourite meats in Korean style are endless.
Often, these tender meats are wrapped up in fresh lettuce leaves or other types of wraps like nori and steamed cabbage leaves, then combined with tasty sides to make a delicious mouthful. This means you can keep every bite interesting and different from the last, combining new flavours and ingredients every time. Banchan, the name for small sides, invokes images of kimchi in all shapes and sizes such as radish, cucumber and cabbage. Other sides may include pickles, fermented soybeans and sautéed spinach.
There is much fun to be had in the culinary adventure of Korean BBQ, whether trying it DIY in your own home, perhaps over a camper burner, or heading to the nearest Korean BBQ restaurant. Here are some quick tips on how to dine out at a Korean BBQ restaurant for the first time:
- Some restaurants are a la carte, but often they are all-you-can-eat. When you want more ingredients to cook, there’s a button to press at the table to alert your waiter you are ready for more.
- Korean BBQ is a communal experience, so best not to go alone or it will more than likely be very expensive. Live by the saying ‘the more, the merrier’ and you’re in for a fun time.
- There are usually raw and marinated meats presented to diners. Seasoned visitors know that raw meats cook faster, so if you are hungry, try these first, then move onto the marinated meats. It also means you won’t be mixing the raw meats with any marinade leftover on the hotplate.
- Keep the drinks flowing, make sure the glasses of people around you are full, but traditionally, it is frowned upon to pour your own.
- When finishing a meal, you must absolutely head to the closest karaoke bar.
By Julie Johnson.