Monday, June 11, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.
A huge spread typical of traditional Korean BBQ.
Instagram user Mikaela Meiti Thio
You know the drill. Buy Dad some cool new grilling tool. Pick up some some steaks, corn, and potatoes. Make a salad. Call it a day. Your Father's Day celebration is complete, effortless. But it is the same old routine you've done year after year. This year, why not step it up a notch? How about Korean? Fred Kim, owner of Gambose in Lauderhill, walks us through the traditions of Korean barbecue.
Korean barbecue shares some similarities with American, but it is distinctly divergent. Both focus on the meat, but the the flavor profiles couldn't be further apart. Like American, Korean barbecue can be prepared over propane or charcoal. Rather than slow-cook the meat for hours on end, Koreans use "direct heat to cook the meat quickly," says Kim. "The meat is cooked about an inch over the heat for less than a minute per side." The most popular choices are short ribs, rib eye, and pork.
Korean-style beef rib eye, known as bulgogi, is a good example of traditional Korean fare. According to Kim, it's sliced thin, "thin like a cheese steak." It is marinaded just minutes before cooking. Three minutes tops. "It's important that the meat stands out," says Kim. In terms of marinade, the idea is similar to that of the barbecue sauce in the States. You start with a base, then add ingredients to suit your own tastes. In Korea, the base for any marinade is soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. From there, Koreans often go on to add ginger, honey, kiwi, or pears. Kim lets me know that "kiwi is great for breaking down the fiber in meat." He also tells me about "L.A.-style Korean with 7-Up or Coke; soda is a favorite addition to the sauces." The potential variations seem endless. This seems to be the trend with Korean.
Another popular Korean barbecue dish is galbi, short ribs. As with the mixture of the marinades, for galbi, there are many possibilities. It can be served either on or off the bone, marinated or dry. The nonmarinated galbi is served with salt, pepper, and sesame oil. And again, it's cooked over high heat, quickly.
Korean meals are accompanied by huge spreads of side dishes. "You have to have kimchi," says Kim. Kimchi is the traditional dish of fermented vegetables. Gambose uses napa cabbage, but again there are options. The list of sides goes on and on: pickled cucumbers, coleslaw, potato slaw, sautéed potato with red chilli, mushrooms, and jalapeño. Unlike the all-day American feasts, everything is served at once. According to Kim, "It's all about the yin and the yang. Korean food is all about balance."
He asks if I would like to try a taste. Are you kidding? I wonder. I'm a food writer -- of course I would like to taste! He sits me at one of his charcoal-grill-centered tables. Out come the sides: kimchi, sprouts, pickled cucumbers, fish cakes, zucchini, mung bean jelly, seaweed, pickled radish, soybean paste. With all of the options, it's hard to keep track. Minutes later, he brings out a huge plate of the boneless short ribs. Is he trying to insinuate something? I think. Mind you, I am alone. He cooks the meat and walks me through the traditional approach to eating the meal. Soybean paste, radish, and meat wrapped in lettuce. With the first couple of bites, I realize Kim is right. The meal is delicately balanced. The umami flavors in the meat and soy brilliantly balance out the sweet and acidic elements of the sides. The flavors carefully dance over my taste buds.
Pair that with a nice cold beer and you have yourself a party. That's definitely something Dad would enjoy. In any case, he would definitely be impressed with the massive pile of meat.
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