February 2014, -2ºC in Seoul. There’s nothing better to warm you up than put your hands around the red-hot charcoal of a Korean barbecue. Tough…I’d have it all year round to be honest anyway!
If you’re in Korea, look out for the special tables that have room for a grill to be placed on it, push the doors and enjoy the experience. One could say that a lot of Asian food is “weird” (duck tongues, red ants eggs, pungent fermented fish, etc.), not appetizing at all or has an odd smell. However, a Korean barbecue is completely the opposite, simply delicious and fun, everyone should have tried at least once. After having it once, you’ll just want to go back again soon anyway!
How does it work? Order the cut of meat you fancy grilling. There is usually quite a variety of item, from the slices of pork tongue to the famous beef marinated Bulgogi. There are several recipes to make a bulgogi marinade but it usually contains soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, ginger, scallions, onions and some pear or pineapple juice. Some restaurants will also offer top quality meat from a very special breed of pig or cow, those cuts would usually be served plain.
That’s it! It is more or less what you need to do when you go to a Korean barbecue restaurant. Order a few side dishes of mixed rice or spring onion pancakes and within a couple of minutes your table will be covered with many little plates: a basket of lettuce leaves and aromatic herbs like shiso, whole picked garlic cloves, Gochujang (chili bean sauce), salt and sesame oil, etc. Usually, a waiter will be helping out to grill, cut the meat into bite size pieces and make an example of how to wrap the meat, herbs, seasonings and lettuce into small packages (ssäm).
The result is an amazingly juicy and tasty. It’s a mouthful of mix textures exploding in your mouth. Go with a group of friends, talk, cook and eat at the same time, have some chilled beer and some spicy kimchi of course; you’ll have a fun and delicious diner.
Nowadays the Korean gastronomy is getting so popular throughout the world that you can probably find a Korean restaurant near your town, are you ready to wrap?