Korean BBQ is an experience to be had by all. Although the most popular selections for Korean BBQ are pork and beef, there are vegetarian options for the main course as well. For those of you that have not seen the set up of a Korean BBQ, I’ll explain…
The tables throughout the restaurant are either round or square typically with a ventilation system directly above. A long metallic tube extends to the center of the table from the ceiling to take the smoke from your personal BBQ out of the restaurant. Some establishments are open air, while others occupy a more traditional restaurant space.
Now for the experience…when you are seated you are only expected order the main dish (meat(s) of choice or vegetables) – there are several side dishes, all of which come regardless. These consist of Kimchi (the most popular Korean specialty, of which there are nearly a dozen varieties – mainly a pickled vegetable with chili and fish sauce), pickled onions, pickled carrots, possibly a form of potatoes, garlic cloves (to roast with main dish) spicy chili sauce, and rice. In addition to this, they will bring a plate of lettuce and leaves to wrap everything up in together. Of course, these BBQs all have their own spin on things, but in general you get 4-5 sides dishes and then have the option to add on soups, which are quite nice. Once you order, the real fun begins.
They set up the table, drop in the coals and fire up the grill. Depending on the style of restaurant, you may either be expected to grill the meat yourself or the server will stop by periodically to tend the grill. Once everything is cooking, you just grab whatever looks ready and build yourself a lettuce wrap with all the toppings. If you aren’t interested as all the many flavors get inter-mixed this way, feel free to pick at each thing individually, you’ll likely enjoy yourself either way.
After you’ve gotten your fill of the BBQs, you can try a main staple of S Korea, Bibimbap. This is basically an Asian form of a burrito bowl, if your familiar with those. The base is rice and then depending on which kind of bowl you order, 4 or 5 things will come inside all to be inter-mixed. This dish also comes with sides much like the BBQ. Traditionally they serve many small dishes that can be combined or eaten separate. It’s almost like having tapas at all times, which are typically combined – and in Bibimbap’s case, in one big bowl. For someone that likes many flavors in one meal (me) – you will be in heaven!
It’s a never ending flavor train and the possible combinations are endless 🙂