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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Project Food Blog Round 2: Classic Korean BBQ

The second round of Project Food Blog asks bloggers to step out of their comfort zone and cook a classic dish from another culture.  Having never traveled there or attempted to cook any of their cuisine, I felt a desire to take my talents to Asia where Jeremy Wells, author of the blog Faire Les Courses, helped me narrow that down to Korean Barbecue.  I've never eaten Korean BBQ before despite writing about the food and drinks of both North Korea and South Korea in my World Cup series, so I knew this would most certainly be a challenge.  Still, I figured that with my love and talents for American barbeque, I'd be up to this task!

Oriental Food on Lee Drive in Baton Rouge, La
I started by doing a little research on Korean BBQ by browsing other food blogs and doing some Internet searches.  I quickly decided that I'd try to make some galbi, or beef short ribs.  In Korean, galbi literally translates into "rib".  Most Korean ribs are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and sometimes fruit like Korean pear.  To make my galbi, I first had to do a little grocery shopping around Baton Rouge, Louisiana to find the right ingredients.

Stop number one took me to a store that is aptly named Oriental Food.  One great thing about exploring the underbelly of Baton Rouge is that this city really offers an outstanding collection of specialty stores from various ethnic and national cuisines.  Oriental Food is actually owned by a Korean family so their selection of sauces and authentic spices was pretty impressive.  After a few recommendations from the owner, I left Oriental Food with some Korean soy sauce, sesame oil, a couple Asian pears, and some kimchi.  More on that later.

Oriental Food's Selection of Sauces
After buying the essential Asian ingredients the time had come to procure some beef.  I took off to Hi-Nabor, a local grocery store with an above average selection of freshly butchered meats.  I wound up buying some beef spare ribs and a few pounds of boneless beef short ribs.  Since I've never cooked Korean-style ribs before I thought it might be good to try a couple different cuts to play around with on the grill.




Ingredients used in the Korean BBQ Marinade








When I got home I created my marinade.  After reading several different galbi recipes I took a stab at making my own sauce in which to soak the meat.  I first collected all the ingredients that I needed.  I used the soy sauce, sesame oil, and Korean pear that I got at Oriental Food.  Added to those items were some garlic, brown sugar, onion, and black pepper.  I finely chopped up most of the onion, the whole pear, and about 2/3 of the garlic bulb and added that mixture to a blend of the other ingredients.  After combining everything together, I poured the marinade over the beef.

Boneless beef short ribs and spare ribs in Korean-style marinade

Jay Ducote places the meat on the Monstrosity
Fresh beef on the hot grill
I let the beef marinate overnight and then lit up the grill for an afternoon barbeque on Sunday.  The preferred Korean method is to grill galbi over charcoal, so that's exactly what I did.  Using the wonderful Third Row Monstrosity barbeque pit, I prepared the grill and placed the meat over the hot coals.  Knowing that beef doesn't take long to cook, and being a fan of medium-rare temperatures, I knew it wouldn't take too long to cook the galbi over the sizzling coals.

Korean-style beef spare ribs
The spare ribs turned out to be ridiculously flavorful.  The combination of soy and pear came through the most and was followed by the tastes of the sesame oil and garlic.  I'm definitely going to play around with this idea a little more and try to get some bolder flavors by perhaps making a barbeque sauce that would complement the marinade.  Even still, I deemed this first attempt at Korean ribs to be a great success.

Korean Kimchi
I also took the liberty of picking up some kimchi while at Oriental Food.  Kimchi is a Korean staple that is basically fermented cabbage with a red pepper sauce.  There are a bunch of different variations on kimchi throughout South Korea, and this one tasted pretty darn good.  It is typically served as a side dish with almost any meal, so naturally I used it to help dress my galbi.  I sliced up the boneless short ribs in order to make lettuce wraps.  With some thinly sliced beef cooked to an ideal temperature and the addition of a little kimchi in the lettuce wrap, this Korean BBQ ended up satisfying quite a few hungry appetites!  I really enjoyed playing around with some new flavors and exotic ingredients.  Hopefully this Project Food Blog journey will continue so I can try a few more new recipes!

Korean galbi and kimchi on a leaf of lettuce

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