Friday, January 30, 2015

Another classic: Korean BBQ

Yesterday, before leaving Incheon, (the city of nearly 3 million people where the international airport is) for the mega city of Seoul, we were treated to another amazingly tasty lunch - the Korean BBQ!  This is one where we cook the food ourselves, giving time for lots of great conversation....the Korean version of the fondue experience.

The icy cold outdoors was traded for the steamy, fragrant warmth of this simple restaurant.  We slipped our shoes off at the door (thank goodness my socks matched, were clean and didn't have holes in them!), and found that heat radiated through the floor -- felt so good, I began to thaw out.  We were taken to our table,  and somehow I got these long legs of mine crossed and tucked in, Korean fashion, to enjoy the meal, seated on floor cushions.

Enjoy this short video, and then read all about it....

What I've found in the restaurants that I've been to here, is that each table has its own butane burner, like this one that I found on Amazon.  But instead of a regular stove top plate, there are interchangeable cooking surfaces.  I think I'm going to buy one when I get home - it's a fun way to enjoy a meal together!  Starting with a blank palette of a dining surface, quicker than a wink, bowls and plates and platters filled with panchans (side dishes), sauces and meats appeared, ready for us to make our own creations.

In a traditional Korean BBQ, meats and side dishes are brought to the table for guests to cook.  On the left of the cook top, there is Kim Chee, green salad with the pink salad dressing, mushrooms for grilling and a salad of carrots, enoki mushrooms and green onions in a chili dressing.  To the right of the cook top is daikon radish in the same flavored Kim Chee sauce, various cuts of raw pork, a bowl of fresh greens: red leaf lettuce and sesame leaves for rolling the grilled meat in, onions in a sweet garlic sauce, radish in water.  Then at each place setting, a bowl of sliced onions, salt, Korean chili paste and raw garlic.  In the center of the cook top is a broth based chili soup with tofu and zucchini.

We had pork to cook at our table.  Our friends at the next table had beef, which you can see in the photo below:  steaks topped with the most beautiful thinly sliced and rolled beef.

The table next to us had all the same "Panchans" (side dishes) but ordered beef instead of pork.  The rolled beef was so thinly sliced that it was like a stained glass window if held up to the light.

The method is to lay the raw meat and mushrooms on the grill, turning until cooked.  You can also grill the garlic for less of a bite, as well as the Napa cabbage Kim Chee.  Once cooked, the meat is cut with scissors into bite-sized portions, then placed on the backside of the red-leafed lettuce or sesame leaf along with any veggies of choice (or not), garlic and the chili pasted.  Roll it up and stuff everything into your mouth in one gigantic bite!

It seems that the most common element in all Korean meals is the 밥 "bap" (rice) and 김치 Kim Chee  - a spicy, fermented cabbage based condiment.  I wasn't a fan for quite a long time, but once I plunged in, I found I was hooked!  Here is a recipe for fresh Kim Chee - more like a salad, and here is a more traditional one for fermented Kim Chee

Then, of course, there's the will ANYONE stand to be next to me after eating all that garlic??  It's seems to be the ground floor ingredient of all things in Korean cuisine.  I have found something that seems to counteract the after effects:  Peppermint Beadlets!  It's mint oil encased in a tiny gel caplet that you bite open and swallow, giving freshness to your mouth, but enters the digestive system to bring relief there as well.  

I've hyperlinked the table top cooker and peppermint to Amazon Smile - a division of Amazon that donates a portion of sales to non-profit organizations.  By signing on, every time thereafter you order from Amazon, the donation will occur automatically: you can shop AND give and the same time!  If you don't already have a favorite charity, please consider selecting Alabaster Ministries, Inc (based in Hawaii).  It is the non-profit my husband and I operate to bless Fatherless and Widows around the world.

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