Korean Barbecue has definitely become more widely popular lately. Even my non-Asian friends enjoy eating Korean Barbecue which consists of anywhere from chicken to pork to beef (marinated) or non-marinated. My favorite Korean Barbecue tends to be grilled black pork belly (흑돼지 삼겹살), grilled brisket (차돌박이), and marinated short ribs (갈비). I believe each piece of meat goes well with different toppings. Today, I want to introduce you some of my favorite meats, sauces, and toppings that go best with each respective meat. This will be a long post, but it should be a pretty informative introduction to Korean Barbecue so you can enjoy it in your respective households.
When it comes to different meats, you can grill any you'd like. The marinated ones are usually soy sauce based and Koreans tend to eat more beef and pork when it comes to grilling meat (though they love fried and marinated chicken). The most commonly grilled meats are pork belly and brisket. I personally like to eat black pork belly because sometimes, especially if the meat is of lower quality, the fat might release an unpleasant smell on regular pork belly (sometimes people don't notice this, but after years of eating both qualities of meat, I can definitely see a huge difference). I'd definitely recommend going to a butcher and asking for the best quality meat. As for me, I like to go to a local shop that focuses on meat...the meat is more expensive, but since there aren't too many extra "flavors" added to the meat, you want a good quality pork belly that won't smell. When it comes to pork belly, you can either grill thinly sliced or the more thicker sliced meat. I like both. When I'm craving for a slightly crunchy piece of meat, I like to go for the thinly sliced meat. When I want a hearty meat chunk, I tend to grab the thicker slice of pork belly (usually 1/4 inch). Oh, and also as a side note, the pork belly Koreans eat are different from the traditional bacon or pancetta you might have heard of - they are not salted, cured, or smoked. In Korea, adults and the older crowd tend to eat pork belly with soju (소주, a Korean alcohol) so if you enjoy alcohol, feel free to drink it as well. But, a warning, alcohol and pork belly is not the best combination for your liver!
Another piece of meat that I enjoy eating is grilled brisket (차돌박이). It's a rather simple piece of meat and you can't really go wrong with this meat. It's always eaten thinly sliced and it cooks up just as quickly.
For those that don't really enjoy the "meat" flavor, but need the protein in your diet, you can always go with marinated short ribs. These are my second favorite type of meat, with grilled pork belly as my first choice of meat. Marinated short ribs (양념 갈비) is pretty much short ribs marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, sugar, ginger powder, sesame oil, green onions, pureed onions, and pureed fruit (usually Asian pear, apple, or kiwi). It's left to soak in the marinade for a few hours to a day or so. It is the perfect grilled treat. Delicious!
Now that I covered the different meats that I enjoy, I want to share some grilling techniques. It's best grilled on a table gas grill or a table charcoal grill. It's definitely recommended to cook the meat on higher heat so that the meat is nicely seared and the flavor is amazing - if the meat seems to get too dark, turn down the heat. You usually want to start by drizzling some sesame oil onto the grill. A few teaspoons or a tablespoon should do the trick. The sesame oil flavor is prominent in the beef brisket since it has a strong smell to it. If you're not too fond of sesame oil, I'd recommend going with canola oil (or a vegetable oil of your choice). Do not use olive oil since it may smoke.
Usually, brisket is grilled before anything else. The cooking process is very quick since the meat is so thinly sliced. You may or may not want to add salt and pepper. I personally don't add salt and pepper because the side dishes compensate for the recommended sodium intake. I don't recommend you cook the brisket until too dark because the meat will become more tough but if you like the seared flavor, I believe you should go with a longer cooking time. Pork belly is grilled after brisket and it is definitely grilled for a longer period of time (make sure the pork belly is cooked thoroughly before consuming). You do not need to add oil for the pork belly since the fat on the pork is enough to compensate for the oil needed. You can grill marinated short ribs alongside the pork belly as well (but do add canola oil on the marinated short rib side if you plan to do this). You can also grill some kimchi (김치), fermented spicy cabbage, below the pork belly since the fat rendered from the pork will add a nice flavor to the kimchi. For grilling kimchi, I recommend you go with a spicy cabbage that's not fresh and has been fermented for some time (the sour the better). Serve the meat while it's nice and hot :D
The possibilities for side dishes are definitely endless. Here, I'll just recommend a few that I personally enjoy.
1. Mushroom and onions: I simply grill onions and king oyster mushrooms together in a pan with some sesame oil. After sprinkling with salt & pepper, I allow it to cook so that the onion retains a subtly crunchy texture. The onions become sweet and the sesame oil adds a depth of flavor to the mushrooms.
2. Thinly sliced onions: You definitely may want some thinly sliced onions (make sure they are VERY thin) alongside your meat. You can eat this with pork, marinated short ribs, or any meat of choice.
3. Thinly sliced garlic: Garlic is definitely recommended (especially when eating pork belly). It gets rid of the unwanted smell of the meat.
4. Greens: This consists of lettuce, perilla leaves, korean peppers, cucumbers. The lettuce and perilla leaves are perfect for wrapping around your meat and the korean peppers/cucumbers are great for dipping in hot pepper paste sauce (고추장) or in soybean paste sauce (쌈장).
5. Pajori (Green Onion Salad) or Lettuce Salad: This is pretty much thinly sliced green onions or lettuce tossed in a soy sauce based dressing.
6. Rice Paper (떡보쌈): Rice paper has become more and more popular these days to eat with it. It's a great substitute for rice and it's perfect for wrapping around your meat.
1. Hot Pepper Paste Sauce (고추장 or 초고추장): Hot pepper paste, straight from the packaging, or mixed with vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
2. Soybean Paste Sauce (쌈장): I personally noticed that non-Koreans do not like this sauce as much as Koreans too. It's pretty much Soybean Paste (된장) mixed with some Hot Pepper Paste (고추장), garlic, sugar, sesame oil.
3. Sesame Oil Sauce: Sesame Oil Sauce consists of sesame oil, salt, and pepper. It's usually a dipping sauce used for the brisket.
4. Sriracha Sauce: Sriracha sauce, garlic, chili sauce, fish sauce, and some sugar. This is pretty much a Vietnamese-inspired sauce that I've tried several times at a restaurant (it's relatively new compared to the traditional sauces to the Korean Barbecue field).
4. Jalapeno Soy Sauce: This is pretty much my favorite sauce. It consists of hot pepper flakes, jalapeno, soy sauce, and vinegar. It's a great dip for the meat, and it's very simple to make. You can also add the thinly sliced onions that I recommended in the "Side Dishes" and let it sit there for a few minutes so it can quickly marinade. It tastes delicious!
Today, I will be sharing my recipe for this quick Jalapeno Soy Sauce.
Jalapeno Soy Sauce
2~3 medium to large sized jalapenos (if you prefer more spicy flavors, feel free to add more)
2 scallions or green onions
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of apple vinegar
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
Thinly slice the jalapenos.
Thinly slice the green onions. Place the jalapenos and green onions in container. Add hot pepper flakes
Add soy sauce and apple vinegar and mix together. Seal the container and allow it to sit in the refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
I hope you found this post informative and hope you make some Korean Barbecue at home! Enjoy everyone~