Korean cuisine is filled with delicious dishes, but none are more popular than Korean BBQ. Over the last decade, this method of grilling beef, pork, and chicken has become a worldwide hit. Want to know why? Here’s the low-down on this barbecue sensation.
From ancient Korea to the modern world
Bulgogi (불고기, barbecued beef), the trademark dish of Korean BBQ, has origins dating all the way back to ancient times. Its earliest form was a marinated pork dish called maekjeok (맥적). While maekjeok was forgotten for a long time when Korea turned to Buddhism, foreign influences in the 13th century brought back a taste for meat, reviving barbecue to its former glory. Bulgogi really took off in the 1920s when beef became more commercialised and easier to access, and by the 1990s it had become known as the most popular dish in Korea.
Since then, expats have taken their much-loved Korean BBQ cuisine to every corner of the world, including here in Singapore. Alongside bulgogi, popular Korean BBQ delights include dak galbi (갈비, spicy chicken) and dwaeji bulgogi (돼지 불고기, a pork-based form of bulgogi). With something for everyone at these restaurants, it’s no surprise foodies can’t get enough of this cuisine.
Enjoying Korean BBQ the traditional way
There are many delicious forms of barbecue all over the world, but what really makes Korean BBQ so popular is its marinade. The thin slices and small chunks of meat are coated in mouth-watering sauces before they’re grilled. Some dishes like bulgogi are marinated in a soy sauce and sesame oil-based dressing, while the spicy varieties like dak galbi are coated in gochujang, a uniquely fiery paste made from chili and fermented soybeans.
Another thing that sets this cuisine apart is how it’s traditionally eaten. Rather than tucking straight into the meat, do as the Koreans do and turn it into a wrap. Start with your leafy base (commonly perilla or lettuce), add your barbecued meat, and top with a dollop of ssamjang (쌈장), a fermented soybean paste with great umami flavour. Then, all you have to do is wrap it up and enjoy it in one scrumptious mouthful.
Where to try Korean BBQ
Since Korean BBQ is so popular, you can find it at numerous Korean restaurants across Singapore. Ajumma’s serves beef, chicken, and pork bulgogi, and even a bulgogi stew. For tender, hot dak galbi that scintillates your taste buds, try Yoogane.
And, when ordering your BBQ, don’t forget to try the banchan (반찬, side dishes) too! From classic kimchi (김치) to japchae glass noodles (잡채) to chewy shredded squid, these extras can really enhance your meal.