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  • Writer's pictureBurnin92 Korean BBQ & Skewers

Intro to Korean BBQ: The Essentials

Barbeque is usually associated with outdoor grilling – but Korean BBQ is a different beast entirely, with grills built right into tables and meats cooked tableside. Here at Burnin92, we go a step further and use only charcoal grills, for that unique smokey taste, perfect char, and deliciously seared meats. Besides the unique tabletop grill, there are a few essential components to every perfect Korean BBQ experience: the meats, the side dishes, and the soups and rice.


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The Meats

Grilling your own meat right at your own table might be a new experience for some, but it’s the standard at most Korean barbecue restaurants. Your server may ask if you would like them to cook your meat for you, but don’t be afraid to take over the tongs and grill your meat yourself! Cooking your own Korean BBQ allows you to control exactly how and when you want your meat cooked, plus you can enjoy your barbeque as soon as you take it off the grill. There is a huge range of Korean BBQ meats, and they can be unseasoned or marinated. Here are some of the most popular types of Korean BBQ meats:


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Kalbi: Sliced short rib, marinated in a sweet and savory sauce.


Bulgogi: Thinly sliced, marinated beef in a savory, slightly sweet sauce.


Samgyupsal: Thick slices of unseasoned pork belly, served with dipping sauces.


Chadol Baegi: Shaved, paper-thin, unseasoned beef brisket. Served with dipping sauces.


Dak Bulgogi: Chicken marinated in a spicy version of bulgogi sauce.


Hanjeongsal: Cuts of pork cheek (jowl); grills up juicy, tender and chewy.




The Side Dishes (Banchan)

No KBBQ table is complete without a spread of delicious side dishes, called banchan. Every KBBQ restaurant has their own selection of banchan, and the possibilities are endless. Here are several types of banchan that you are likely to find at a KBBQ restaurant:


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Kimchi: The quintessential Korean side dish, kimchi is one (or several) of the banchans served with Korean BBQ. Spicy napa cabbage kimchi is the standard; other types of kimchi often served at KBBQs include cubed radish kimchi and cucumber kimchi.


Lettuce: Lettuce leaves (usually romaine) are used to wrap slices of meat; called ssam. A popular way to enjoy ssam is to layer several ingredients onto the lettuce leaf, such as: a small heap of rice, a slice of meat, a dab of ssamjang (essential KBBQ dipping sauce made from fermented soybean and spicy chili pastes), and sliced scallion (pa muchim, below) – or any combination you like!


Pa Muchim: Julienne-sliced scallions seasoned with sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper powder. Adds a fresh, spicy kick to many kinds of grilled meat.


Ssam Mu: Lightly pickled white radish, cut in paper-thin round slices. Ssam mu is mildly tangy and sweet, and similar to lettuce, you can wrap grilled meats in these thin sheets.


Kongnamul Muchim: Seasoned soybean sprouts.


Miyeok Muchim: Seaweed salad.


Jeon: Korean pancake; popular variations include kimchi and seafood.


Japanese-Influenced Sides, like seasoned fish cakes, rolled egg omelets (similar to tamagoyaki).


Western-Influenced Sides, like corn cheese, glazed potatoes, potato salad.




Soups & Rice

Korean soups abound in KBBQ – and rice is forever a staple in Korean cuisine. Though some people prefer to skip the soup in favor of more meat, many enjoy a hot Korean soup or stew as something of a palate cleanser or change of pace from grilled meats.


Dwaenjang Jjigae: Fermented soybean paste soup – somewhat similar to Japanese miso, but more potent and bold in flavor. Often a bit spicy with hunks of firm tofu and sliced squash.


Soondubu Jjigae: Spicy soft tofu soup, often made with your choice of beef, seafood, or vegetables.


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Budae Jjigae: Also known as “Korean Army Soup,” originally concocted from a mixture of army rations during and post the Korean War. Budae jjigae is a spicy, hearty soup made with ingredients like ramen noodles, canned/processed meats (like spam, ham or hot dogs), baked beans, kimchi, a variety of vegetables, and gochujang.


Naeng Myun: Cold buckwheat noodle soup in a light broth, often enjoyed as the finishing bites after a hearty KBBQ meal. A popular variation is bibim naengmyun: a brothless, spicy buckwheat noodle dish.


Rice is a staple of nearly all Korean cuisine, and Korean BBQ is no exception. Rice is a great complement to the bold flavors of KBBQ grilled meats, side dishes and soups.




Bonus: The Drinks

For those who enjoy beverages with their barbeque, here are the most popular drinks to pair with KBBQ!


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Soju: A clear, distilled Korean liquor. Traditionally made from rice, soju can also be made from sweet potato, barley, wheat or tapioca, or a combination of the aforementioned ingredients. It is often compared to vodka due to its neutral flavor.


Light Beer: Korean beer (mekju) tends to skew on the lighter side, and a light, crisp beer pairs very well with hearty KBBQ. Popular variation: SoMek – a mix of soju and mekju, aka a soju bomb.


Korean Wines: Makgeoli (a milky, unfiltered, lightly sparkling rice wine), Bokboonja (a smooth, sweet wine made from Korean black raspberries), Baekseju (a traditional rice wine brewed with ginger and other oriental herbs).




 

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