Dining out at a Korean barbecue restaurant is one of the most entertaining and interactive culinary experiences around. First-timers may find it a bit confusing, as there are many different customs and expectations that go along with the experience. Before gathering your group of friends and family for a good Korean meal, take a look at some of the most common foods and practices you’ll likely experience on your venture.
Korean BBQ restaurants usually offer a variety of different meat items on the menu, with many specializing in just one such as pork belly, beef tongue or duck. You’ll choose from marinated and non-marinated cuts all ranging in different qualities and prices. It’s common for parties to order several different meats to share amongst one another. Your server may suggest the meats be cooked separately for optimal flavor.
The Grilling Process
There can be a little discrepancy over who is in charge of the grilling process. Regardless of whether your server grills it for you, or you’re left to man the grill on your own accord, it’s important to keep an eye on your meat to avoid overcooking. In some Korean restaurants, the server may put the meat on the grill for you as a courtesy, but be prepared to be a part of the cooking process as well – it’s one of the best parts of the dining experience.
Wrap it Up
Your server may share bowls of lettuce –most often ssam– that is often used to wrap the meat. It’s highly advised you wrap the beef in the lettuce, while other meats like pork belly are usually not recommended for this technique. Adding sauce and other toppings help to enhance the meat’s flavor and texture.
Complimentary small plates of veggies, kimchi and other foods known as banchan are customary at Korean BBQ restaurants and help to complement your meal. Your server will normally bring these plates out after the meat is done cooking, and these condiments are sharable for the entire table. Unlimited refills are provided, so don’t be afraid to indulge.
One of the best parts of any Korean BBQ experience is the array of drink options. Soju, makgeolli and beer are among the more popular alcoholic beverages of choice. A rule of thumb to remember is never to pour your own drink. In Korean culture, it’s customary for your tablemate to pour your drink for you, and this helps to add to the festive, sharing mood.