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Obsessed with Korean: The Barbecue

As a country, we seem to be quite smitten with Korean food—and for good reason. It's anything but subtle, boasting intense flavors ranging from fiery to potently garlicky to fermenty-funky to salty-sweet … or some glorious combination of all the above. Here, an exploration of some of the defining dishes from this burgeoning cuisine. 

Barbecued pork at Mapo Jeong Daepo in Seoul. Photo by Lauryn Ishak.

One of the most beloved food traditions of this cuisine is that of Korean barbecue. If you've ever been lucky enough to go to a Korean barbecue restaurant, you know that it's loads of good fun (as well as very delicious). Marinated meat cooks right in front of you on a tabletop grill, and if your server lets you, you get to be in charge of flipping the meat and removing it from the grill when it's done to your taste. It's such a fun hands-on dining experience, with everyone eating communally from the same source.

You can re-create this experience at home, too. I have a tabletop grill that I love, love, love (the version I have, and have had for 12 or so years, isn't available anymore, sadly, but you can find electric, propane, and charcoal tabletop grills on Amazon), and people have a blast when they come over for this type of dinner party; it's just so much fun. If you don't have a tabletop grill, that's OK; you can cook the meat on an outdoor grill or in a wok and serve from platters.

A night of Korean barbecue at my house with my kids, my hubby, and my parents.

To get started, try one of our beef Bulgogi recipes, which involve soaking very thinly sliced beef in a sweet-salty-garlicky marinade. And if you want to spice things up, try our fiery Daeji Bulgogi (Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue). It's customary to wrap a piece of the grilled meat in a green- or red-leaf lettuce leaf with a bit of cooked Korean rice, so be sure to set that out on the table, along with kimchi and any other banchan (little side dishes) you can find up at the Asian market.

Korean Sesame Beef with Lettuce Wraps gives you authentic flavor with a handful of ingredients.

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