Photo: Brothers Korean BBQ
While Barbecue generally refers to outdoor cooking of food (meat, fish, vegetables etc) over high heat, Korean BBQ locally known as gogi-gui is a popular method of grilling the meat right at the dinner table.
Korean BBQ restaurants have charcoal, gas or portable grills built into the tables. Various marinated meats like bulgogi and kalbi are grilled on the table itself and eaten along with various side dishes called banchan, like kimchi.
There are several way in which these meat dishes can be prepared, they can be marinated and non marinated as well. Bulgogi is the most representative form of Korean BBQ. It is usually prepared by marinating thin slices of beef. Galbi happens to be the second most popular dish of Korean BBQ, it consists of short ribs of beef, pork or chicken marinated in a sweet and savory sauce.
These meat dishes are served raw before the customers and are later grilled on the table.
Korean BBQ is rather straight forward and consists of meats, side dishes, rice, and even soups. These four pillars of Korean BBQ expand endlessly to allow for thousands of different styles/variations around the world. Koreatown, Los Angeles alone has over 100 Korean BBQ restaurants.
The foremost thing to keep in mind while ordering at a Korean BBQ restaurant is the type of meat that you want to order, let the server know whether you want pork, beef or chicken. Another important thing is to decide the way you want the meat to be served, whether you want a chicken barbecue or pork ribs or beef tongue etc (the list is endless).
The most amazing thing about Korean restaurants is the variety of side dishes that they offer alongside a meal, these side dishes are known as banchan. Small plates of banchan which are light and not too greasy will help to boost your appetite.
At Korean BBQ restaurants banchan will always be served before the main course meal, these are meant to be eaten during the meal and not just eaten as appetizers.
Some common side dishes offered at Korean BBQ restaurants
Gim is one of the popular side dishes offered at Korean restaurants, it is a thin paper like dried laver or seaweed which is usually eaten with rice. It is rich in calcium, vitamins and carotenes, packed with mineral salts and iron the dish goes well with rice and grilled meat.
Tossed in both sweet and sour flavors, the dish is a popular Korean side dish. It is usually made spicy with chili flakes and red pepper. Various other seasonings like garlic and saewoojeot are also added. The final product is a crunchy side dish that will keep you asking for more.
Diced carefully and seasoned with shrimp fish sauce this dish goes very well with meat dishes such as bulgogi and galbi. Sometimes hobak bokkeum is also topped with sesame seeds.
Kimchi is a staple Korean cuisine served as a side dish with almost every Korean main course meal. It typically includes napa cabbage and Korean radishes that are generally seasoned with ginger, garlic and chili powder. This satisfyingly spiced and sour cabbage makes a great complement with all the grilled meats.
At most restaurants the server will ask you want to grill the meat yourself but since they are experts at this, the task of grilling must be left of them.
The servers know exactly when to flip the meat and when the meat is completely cooked, this would bring out the best flavors of Korean BBQ.
Some tips if you are grilling it yourself
So now that you have a better understandi9ng of Korean BBQ head out to a nice Korean BBQ restaurant and enjoy a fantastic bbq meal with a variety of side dishes and soju.
Soju also known as Korean rice wine is a popular drink amongst Koreans as they love to compliment their food with alcohol. Soju is a distilled liquor similar to vodka, which has 20% alcohol. According to a popular Korean custom you should never pour yourself a drink of soju, instead an older member of the group would hand you a shot glass , which should be accepted with both hands to show respect towards the senior
Another traditional Korean alcoholic drink is Makgeolli. Makgeolli is a Korean alcoholic beverage that is milky, off-white, and lightly sparkling rice wine that is slightly viscous with a sweet, tangy, and bitter taste. The sediments in Makgeolli give it a cloudy appearance.