Eating at a Korean barbecue restaurant is somewhat exciting with lots of great dishes to try. You get to pick your own non-marinated or marinated slices of chicken, pork, or beef. While you’re waiting for your built-in grills to get ready, you can take a bite or two from the small bowls of side dishes the Korean calls as banchan. Once your meat is done, you can wrap them up in a piece of lettuce and mix in a few banchan. Before you know it, you are practicing the art of “grill, wrap, repeat.” In this article, we are going to give you tips on how to eat Korean barbecue and its side dishes.
Banchan or Side Dishes
The moment you take a seat, the server will place down a bunch of tiny 3bowls that is filled with small portions of food. Apparently, they are side dishes, and they are called banchan in Korean. These side dishes are shared at the table, and they can vary per restaurant. Some of the most common banchan that Korean restaurant offer includes:
- Spicy Fish Cake – these are flat fish cakes that are sprinkled with red pepper flakes.
- Kimchi – These are spicy fermented napa cabbage.
- Radish Kimchi – These are fermented radish, and they are often crunchy, spicy, and a little bit sweet.
- Bean sprouts – This side dish is often served with sesame oil or a light savory sauce.
- Spicy marinated cucumbers – This side dish offers you a refreshing bite along with a spicy kick.
- Seaweed salad – This banchan has a tangy taste with a crisp texture, and they are often eaten to cleanse your palate.
Korean Barbecue Meats
Most Korean barbecue restaurant offers an endless set of meats, but most of them are pork belly or thinly sliced pork or beef that are in different marinades. You can also see other items such as the beef tongue, intestines, and other exotic meats for the more adventurous types of people. Nevertheless, here are some of the most popular meat choices that you can find in a Korean barbecue restaurant.
- Beef Brisket – These are non-marinated and thinly sliced pieces of beef.
- Bulgogi – These are thinly sliced beef that is marinated in sweet soy.
- Samgyupsal – This meat is the pork belly, it can either be plain or marinated in garlic, spicy, red wine, or miso.
- Spicy Pork – These are thinly sliced pork that is marinated in a red pepper sauce,
- Chicken – This Korean barbecue meat is often the chicken thigh that is marinated in garlic or spicy.
- Kalbi – These are beef short ribs that are slightly sweet.
If the banchan and the meat are still not enough, you can also add snacks and soups with your Korean barbecue experience. These are the most common sides that Korean barbecue restaurant offers:
- Dwenjang Jjigae – this is a soybean paste soup that is served hot and bubbly. It often has zucchini, onions, and tofu.
- Soondubu jjigae – This side is a spicy soft tofu soup, and it is often filled with big chunks of tofu that melts in your mouth along with different vegetables.
- Corn Cheese – These are corn kernels that are topped with mozzarella cheese, which gives you a perfectly gooey and addicting side dish.
- Steamed Egg – These eggs are often steamed and served in an earthenware pot like where the soups are served. These are often served hot and as soft as a pillow.
- Lettuce – this side is what you need to make a ssam or a lettuce wrap. All you have to do is wrap the cooked meat with some banchan in the lettuce and stuff it all in your mouth.
- Alcohol – The most popular alcoholic drink that is paired with a Korean barbecue is the soju. It can either be lychee, mango, yogurt, kiwi, or peach flavored.
Some Tips to Remember When Eating Korean Barbecue
- Request the restaurant staff for some grill changes when you need them. This is because the surface of the grill gets too charred, especially if you’re grilling sugary marinades.
- Remember to start with the non-marinated meats such as the pork belly and beef brisket, then move onto the marinated meats.
- Take note that your clothes and hair will most likely end up smelling like a barbecue after you eat. That is why you should plan your Korean barbecue treat accordingly.
We highly suggest that you eat in a large group so that you can try most of the different kinds of soju and meat.