Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Korean's Summer Barbecue Recipe

The Korean strives to be a reasonable, even-keeled person, but he cannot help himself in one particular area: Korean food. When it comes to Korean food, the Korean will be more unreasonable than a tiger sports dad attending a peewee football game. He will be totally biased, irrational and obnoxious. He will utterly disregard the reasonable preference of everyone else. He will lose his shit and wantonly issue death threats to anyone who gives a bad recipe.

The most recent recipient of the Korean's rage is Mark Bittman, who presented this "Korean" recipe to the New York Times. Now, the Korean actually likes Mark Bittman's work, as Mr. Bittman presents great insights on food and food culture. Mr. Bittman also gave a clear disclaimer: "I will not (and cannot) claim that every element of this menu is legitimately Korean." And please, read the paragraph above just one more time -- the Korean is not a rational person when it comes to Korean food. He is a crazy raving lunatic. You don't have to listen to him.

Having said all that...

GO DIE IN A FIRE, MARK BITTMAN. Boston lettuce leaves for ssam? Why not eat sandpaper instead? And gochujang for ssam too? What are you, 10 years old? And who told you that there is such Korean food as "grilled scallion salad" and "Korean potato salad"? Where did you get your recipe from, David Chang?

And the greatest, most unforgivable sin of all -- soy sauce in kimchi. What the fuck. WHAT. THE. FUCK. The Korean nearly had a heart attack just reading that. Thanks asshole, soon all the trendy restaurants will serve soy sauce cabbage and call it kimchi (but pronouncing it "keem-shee".) Go to hell and die.

And the idiots who commented on the article about how gochujang (chili bean paste) is never made with beans, fuck you too. Gochujang is made with beans. Have you even seen a meju, dipshit? That's the fermented block of ground beans, from which doenjang, gochujang and ganjang are made. It also looks like your face -- ugly. Shut the fuck up if you don't know what you're talking about.


Ok. Alright. Even amid this irrationality, the Korean still has enough sense to think: if you don't like something, don't just criticize -- offer an improved suggestion. So here are the Korean's suggested recipe for a real deal, backyard Korean barbecue.

The recipes, after the jump.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

Here is the Korean's suggested Korean barbecue spread -- meat, a side dish, a nice chilled soup to wash it down, and a summery dessert.

L.A. Galbi  [L.A. 갈비]

Beef short ribs, cut horizontally
Soy sauce
Minced garlic
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Grated onion

- Soak the short ribs in cold water for at least 30 minutes, up to 1.5 hour. This lets out the blood from the beef and allows for a better marinade. Keep changing water until no more blood comes out, then drain.

- Make the marinade. Pour a few cups of soy sauce in the bowl. Taste, and remember that baseline. Add sugar until the marinade becomes significantly sweet. (Usually achieved at around 1/4 part of sugar for every one part of soy sauce.) Add minced garlic, about half to 2/3 of the amount of sugar. Add grated onion, in approximately the same amount as the minced garlic. Add some measure of sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and cut scallion, adjusting to taste. (Note: This marinade will take some trial and error, but each ingredient may be adjusted depending on personal taste. Just remember that the actual meat will be much less salty/sweet/etc. than the marinade.)

- Add grated kiwi to the marinade -- no more than 1/2 kiwi per pound of beef. Kiwi makes the beef soft, but too much kiwi ruins the texture.

- In a large bowl, put a layer of ribs. Use a spoon to apply the marinade, and add another layer of meat on top. Apply the marinade again, repeat. Marinade in the refrigerator between two to 24 hours.

- Grill, preferably on charcoal. Grill well-done, with slight char on the outside. Start with the meat on the bottom of the marinade bowl, as the liquid marinade sinks to the bottom.

- Note: the meat actually does not have to be the ribs, but that is the meat of choice for Korean Americans. The marinade works equally well with brisket or chicken, for example. In fact, as the name suggests, L.A. galbi is a distinctively Korean American dish, as Korean Americans popularized the use of short ribs instead of whole ribs as Koreans in Korea do.

Scallion Salad [파무침/파절이]

Scallion and/or Korean leek
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Hot pepper powder (gochugaru)

- Julienne the scallion and/or leek thinly and around two inches in length.
- Make the dressing. Two parts soy sauce, three parts vinegar, one part gochugaru, quarter part sugar. (Use a spoon to measure.) Just a splash of sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds.
- Toss with the cut scallion/leek, serve with galbi.

Vegetable Wrap [쌈]

Red leaf lettuce
Sesame leaves
Garlic cloves, cut thinly.
Long hot green peppers, thinly cut diagonally
Ssamjang [쌈장] - buy it from a Korean market
L.A. Galbi
Scallion salad

This is actually not a separate dish, but a manner of eating meat. Grab either a red leaf lettuce leaf or sesame leaf (or both layered together, as the Korean likes to do,) and place on top the meat, scallion salad, garlic cloves, cut peppers and ssamjang. The cut garlic gloves may be cooked on the grill also, if you prefer cooked garlic over raw ones. Make a small bowl with aluminum foil, place the cut garlic gloves and put it on top of the grill. Make a small wrap with the leaf. Eat.

Chilled Cucumber Soup [오이냉국]

Red pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
Soy sauce
Minced garlic

- Chill cucumber in the refrigerator. Once chilled, julienne it thinly and around two inches in length. Place in a clear bowl.
- Using a spoon, add one part soy sauce, one-half part minced garlic, one-third part sugar. Toss with cucumber.
- Mix cold water with: one part sugar, five parts vinegar, half part salt. Adjust to taste. Go for tangy and slightly sweet.
- Pour the cold water mixture over cucumber.
- Float a dash of gochugaru and toasted sesame seeds. Thinly cut red pepper diagonally and add.
- Add ice and serve.

Chilled Watermelon Punch [수박화채]


- Cut a chilled watermelon in half.
- Using an ice cream scoop, hollow the half watermelon by making round balls of watermelon flesh. Save the watermelon balls in a separate dish.
- Use the knife to take out the remaining watermelon flesh until the half watermelon becomes a hollow bowl. Cut the bottom tip such that the shell can be used as a dish.
- Pour out the watermelon juice in a separate container.
- Puree or grate the leftover watermelon flesh and mix with the watermelon juice.
- Boil equal parts of water and sugar in a pot to make slightly viscous syrup. Chill the syrup.
- Add the watermelon balls in the hollow watermelon shell. Pour watermelon juice/puree mixture. Add the chilled syrup, adjusting to taste. Add a pinch of salt.
- Add ice to the mixture and serve. 
- Note: a punch bowl works just as well as a half shell watermelon.

Enjoy, and let the Korean know how they turned out.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. I prefer to replace sugar with ground 배 (if they're not eye-popping expensive) for the LA 갈비. But that's because I'm a 배 enthusiast (which has become an expensive characteristics in the States).

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Yeah, you can replace Kiwi with a number of other fruits. Apples do a good job too (just don't... toss in an orange). I think Kiwi and Korean pear are the best though. Just use whatever you have. It's not super important.

    If you have diabetes and worried about sugar content like my dad (but why the hell would he do BBQ and all that if he's worried about just sugar?) you can use honey in your marinate too. The end product actually ends up looking better cuz the sauce burns slightly to dark brown. I personally think it tastes slightly better.

  4. I quite like trying Korean fusion foods. More and more of these restaurants are beginning to pop up in the LA area, started by the Kogi truck craze I'm assuming. But I've learned to stop expecting anything that even remotely tastes like authentic Korean food and just go for the experience. Still, some great food out there. Kalbi Burgers are mindblowingly awesome. No other hamburger compares, and I've tried them all.

    It's also funny how Korean food is beginning to pop up in the most random places. I went to this hot dog place in Pasadena with a buddy of mine recently. One of the specials was Sweet Potato kimchee fries. My friend, who is Hispanic and loves real kimchee, was complaining about how they should make it more authentic, lol.

  5. Love your approach and refusal to submit to the bastardisation of timeless Korean food. ☺

  6. The only thing I don't take issue with in the Bittman piece is the kochujjhang. I don't particularly like dwaengjjang, so even ssamjjang not particularly good to me. With galbi or samgyeopsal, I typically go sans any condiments at all when I eat with ssam.

  7. Yikes, I didn't realize that using gochujang in a ssam would be so criticized. I used to use it when I didn't have any ssamjang lying around, especially back in college and grad school. I thought it tasted fine. *runs away from the wrath of TK*

  8. Korean food is quite unique with flavours you don't get ... anywhere else that I know of. It'd be a shame if some bastardized version that tastes bleah like most fusion food were allowed to represent it.

    Ok, I might be being hard on fusion food here - done well it can be great - but just don't call it 'Korean'.

  9. I just asked my boyfriend who's sitting beside me here what the problem with eating gochujang with ssam is. The response from this 100% Korean who has never lived abroad answers "what's wrong with that? I do it sometimes..."

  10. I totally understand your hyperventillating. I've only lived in Korea for 9 weeks and MY eyes were bugging out at the thought of soy sauce in the KimChi. Our school cook would have a royal conniption fit!!

  11. bum,

    Pear would definitely be preferable, but it's way too expensive. Also, the Korean found that as a meat softener, kiwi is superior.

    Blue and Jo-Anna,

    Using gochujang for ssam is not exactly wrong, but the Korean wouldn't do it if he is holding a barbecue with guests coming over.

  12. If fusion food helps introduce Korean food to new audiences, I say it's a good thing.

    I agree that ideally they maintain the integrity of the food and ingredients, but it's hard to say what is 'wrong' when tweaking the menu to each individual's preferences. You can't get so angry with others that are experimenting with food to their liking.

  13. *has used gochujang for ssam*
    *has enjoyed it*
    *hangs head*

    I have eaten and even made Korean fusion food, although mostly in a "crap, I don't have the right chili pepper, hope this stuff I grew is close enough" way. But also in a "man, steak bibimbap is sort of excellent" kind of way. So I realize that I need a bell to ring to warn TK of my coming so he can avoid my disgusting tendencies.

    But I will wield my pitchfork against the soy sauce in kimchi folk. In fact, I thought of you, TK, when I was watching Jamie Oliver cavalierly say that you could use either soy sauce or fish sauce in a certain dish and "it would be authentic either way". My imprecations were not quite as colorful as yours, but they were heartfelt.

    That said, I am so hungry right now. I know what I'm doing next weekend.

  14. TK, you are awesome. Thank you, thank you for posting these recipes. I really wanted to do ssam at home and had no idea how to do it. Especially knowing the correct lettuce to get!

  15. korean temple food kimchi do use soy sauce but not for regular style.

  16. I think the "Korean Potato Salad" comes from the fact that some restaurants serve this as 반찬. First time I saw it, I almost let out a "wtf is this doing here?"

    On a tangent here: What's with the sudden mass advertising for Visiting Korea across buses and all these Korean food thing commercials that are even coming across CNBC in NYC? Korean Tourism Organization making a big push to draw tourists?

  17. I do have a question about this "soy sayce kimchi" you wrote about. When I was in Korea I bought a Korean recipe book to try and cook some Korean food. This book is "100 Traditional Recipes", edited by The Institute for Traditional Korean Food, and there is inside a "soy sauce kimchi" recipe, that they call "장김치". The description says it used to be a court dish. I have never ever seen such kimchi in Korea, and my Korean friends were totally amazed by the idea. Could it be the same as M. Bittman's? Could it be "older" than spicy kimchi (since red pepper doesn't originate from Korea) and still be very Korean?
    For example, I'm French, and there are many dishes and old vegetables I've never heard about, but they are still French (and some of then getting back into fashion nowadays, at least the veggies - i.e. medieval gardens are back in our old Renaissance castles, even when they was never one there).
    The recipe looks good, but I wouldn't like to say this is a traditional Korean dish if it isn't :)

  18. This is absolutely my favorite post to date. I love it! It's just something about food that drives all the irrationality out of people. But seriously. I love gochujang, but it is not an acceptable replacement for ssamjang. SSAMJANG!!! It's not hard to whip up a simple ssamjang. Just mix gochujang, doenjang, garlic, and green onions and BAM. delicioso~

  19. I heard that Kiwi was a great tenderizer, but my mom is allergic, so I guess I never learned it that way.

  20. Aurore,

    장김치 could be older and more royal (for lack of a better word) than the regular kimchi, but Bittman's suggestion is actually not even 장김치. His recipe says fish sauce and soy sauce can be used interchangeably in kimchi, not that his version of kimchi is made with soy sauce.


    omg The Korean you are awesome!!! I very much enjoyed this post...HAHAHA seriously cracked me up!!! puahahaha...

    "kim-shee" WTF...wow......

  22. Hey Korean, respect your blog but I think you're way off base on this topic.

    I mean, is it authentic to use kiwis as meat softner? Does the potato salad that is ubiquitous in korean restaurants make my dining inauthentic. Should I cry foul when my aunt adds 7-up to her kalbi marinade once in a while?

    As good as korean food can be there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the quality of the ingredients. For example, the ban chan in half of the Korean restaurants in Los Angeles are just afterthoughts that people don't even eat. I can't tell you how many times I see 5 or 6 of the ban chans go untouched by the Koean diners.
    I think variations on ingredients can be a wonderful thing evidenced by the new wave Korean chefs here in America and in Korea. I've seen countless cooking shows recently on Korean TV where the chef was using non traditional ingredients and methods.
    As a Korean-American, I find that my palate is different than that of a Korean-Korean or a non Korean.
    What has been interesting to me as a person that has been in the food/restaurant industry for 20yrs is that the most Korean's are still discovering their palate to non-Korean foods. It's not by accident that they don't serve cilantro in the pho houses of Koreatown.
    What is especially irratating is Koreans who talk about authenticity and yet will Koreanize every other ethnic food. Corn on pizza? Nothing more rude and irritating when a Korean guy exclaims, "this isn't authentic" while everyone is enjoying the meal!

    There are many Korean restaurants in the LA area that are inaccessible to the non-Korean and even to a Korean-American like myself. I have no problem with Chefs the likes of David Chang, Rachel Yang, Roy Choi and others who add to the marriage of Korean recipes, the very best ingredients and culinary techniques to execute their dish.
    This is also why I loved Mark Bittman's column because it is plain to see for any rational reader that the column was written from a place of love for Korean bbq. He clearly qualifies what he says in the article by stating that "it is American not to fuss about the origin recipes" and that the "source" for the recipes is Korean. It's also clear that he's not writing the column for Korean-Koreans but for those who are unfamiliar with Korean food. Regardless, his recipes look delicious and I don't find anything odd about using Boston lettuce leaves much like it wouldn't bother me if someone used a kiwi to tenderize the meat.

  23. As jamm mentioned, isn't the use of kiwis 'bastardization' of Korean food just like putting avocado in bibimbap?

    I disagree with your view on Korean food pretty on every point you have made then you are irrational when it comes to Korean food so I guess that makes me rational?

  24. jamm and Ryan,

    As the Korean said in the OP, he is utterly irrational and unamenable to reason when it comes to Korean food. But if you are willing to hear out a deranged lunatic, here is the Korean's thought process.

    First, about the kiwi in the Korean's recipe. Kiwi actually adds nothing in terms of flavor. The amount used is too small to affect the flavor in any way. (Half a kiwi per pound, while there will a cup and a half of soy sauce.) And even in an authentic recipe, the meat is supposed to be tender. Achieving the tenderness in a way that does not affect the flvaor profile should not damage authenticity. The same applies to 7-up, which is basically sugar water with carbonation. Galbi is sugary, so 7-up only changes the delivery mechanism of that sugar.

    These are different from guacamole in a bibimbap -- guacamole irrevocably changes the flavor profile. Same with Boston lettuce for ssam. Red leaf lettuce is softer and more malleable. There is a difference.

    Second, the potato salad -- yes, they make your dining inauthentic. The Korean cannot stand them. They don't belong on a Korean table.

    Third, as to corn on the pizza -- the Korean bitches and whines just as much about that type of things in Korea as he does about Korean food in America. Hopefully that's fair enough.

  25. Haha. That's fair. I never said you were in the wrong. I just said I disagree. The way I look at it is food is like melody. First, there are basic combination of notes that create harmonious sound and then musicians can build on that basic combination to create their own melodies. And harmony is pretty much universal, meaning any normal person, regardless of race, religion, or whatever, can tell what is a harmony and what's not. The resulting melodies will be liked by some and not so much by others. Based on certain common charateristics of those melodies, such as use of certain instruments or certain beats or whatever, you have different genres.

    Same thing with food, there's some basic combination of ingredients and techniques that create edible flavors (textures too but texture, smell, etc all add to the overall flavor). Again flavor is pretty much universal, albeit slightly more subjective than harmony. Then people can create different kinds of food as long as some of these basic combinations are adhered to. The end results will please some people and won't appeal to others. Just like genres, if food has some charateristics that resemble a certain type of cuisine, then that food can probably be identified with that cuisine.

    This means you can put guacamole in bibimbap and that would still be bibimbap. It'd just be bibimbap with guacamole. Now the fact that I don't find this combination to be that appetizing doesn't mean that I won't call it bibimbap. It just means that if it was offered to me I'll tell them to hold the guac.

  26. Korean,
    Yes it would be terrible if all Korean food became bastardized in America. But why can't we have both?
    In Hawaii, the most loved dish in Korean restaurants, is a dish called "Meat Jun." You ask for Meat Jun in a Korean restaurant outside of Hawaii and no one knows what you're talking about.
    It is a dish that local Hawaiians are passionate about whenever they are talking about Korean food. I don't particularly care for Meat Jun or Hawaiian style Korean food(too salty) but the locals sure do love it. I cave in once in while because there are a lot of "to go" type Korean establishments here on the island but when I do want something more authentic, I have my go to places.

    I remember long ago at a Chinese restaurant, I had Kung Pao Chicken and it was so delicious I asked the owner what style or region it was from and she laughed and said, "This is American style"

    The point is that every differnt regions and countries have variation on food that caters to the palate of the people in the region. American Pizza which bears little resemblance to the original. Brazilian pizza that sometimes have bananas or chocolate, Malaysian Tom Yung Pizza and as mentioned in previous comment corn or sweet potato in Korean Pizza. And pizza by region, like Chicago deep dish, New York thin crust, and Hawaiian pineapple.

    The market will determine if guacamole in bibimbap will survive that particular restaurant's menu much like the market has determined that there is room for a Korean style taco.

    As far as potato salad on the table, I guess that makes every single K-town bbq restaurants in LA inauthentic.

    And lastly, I would strongly disagree with you that 7-Up/Cola in the marinade does not change the flavor.I can't quite remember which soda she used, I just remember it being terrible. So yes, little alterations can be terrible but I am glad someone experimented with the Korean taco and the Korean Fried Chicken.

  27. My favorite food is Korean. And yes I am of Korean ancestry. And I can still say with straight face that Korean food is the best. I live in LA so I've tried more different kinds of food than average people on the globe and I can honestly say Korean food is THE best, if not one of the best foods.

    It's not as greasy/oily as Chinese/Italian (sorry if I offended you :0 ) and still can be dang good. You want your dinner to be vegetarian? No problem. You don't have to do silly stuff like Tofu Burger. Just scoop out your rice and the side dishes and you are done. You want to eat meat like there's no tomorrow? There's the bulgogi or kalbi or samgyupsal for you.

    Or you like noodles? How about Nangmyun? Gooksoo?

    You want 2 min to prepare an awesome dinner? You got it. Scoop out your rice from the rice pot (which keeps steamed rice 'fresh' for upto 3 days) and bring out the side dish containers from the fridge. You are done. It's tasty AND healthy.

    And yes I agree, using gochujang for ssam is not exactly wrong, but I wouldn't do it if I were holding a barbecue with guests coming over.

    Man Korean, I like your blog even more. As I suffered through Berkeley dorm cafeterias as you probably did in your undergrad years, I appreciate Korean food even more.

  28. Yes it would be terrible if all Korean food became bastardized in America. But why can't we have both?

    Because in the Korean's deranged mind, bastardized Korean food offends the order of the nature in a way that brings about apocalypse.

    The point is that every differnt regions and countries have variation on food that caters to the palate of the people in the region.

    Every different regions and countries have murders. That does not justify committing a murder.

    As far as potato salad on the table, I guess that makes every single K-town bbq restaurants in LA inauthentic.


    And lastly, I would strongly disagree with you that 7-Up/Cola in the marinade does not change the flavor.I can't quite remember which soda she used, I just remember it being terrible.

    There is a big difference between 7-Up and cola. Cola would definitely ruin the marinade, because it has its own flavor that survives the soy sauce. 7-Up does not.

    I am glad someone experimented with the Korean taco and the Korean Fried Chicken.

    Korean taco is an abomination. It is a Frankenstein monster that needs to disappear. BUT Korean fried chicken is actually Korean. Korea always had fried chicken -- it's just that fried chicken and Korean-style "paper frying" (which is, to be sure, China-influenced) got popular recently.

    Allow the Korean to remind you, he is a deranged lunatic when it comes to Korean food and he is unamenable to logic. If you find this entertaining, feel free to go on. But don't expect to persuade the Korean otherwise :)

  29. Comparing murder with food? Wow! That is so unbecoming of someone with your...
    Uh never mind, you really are a deranged lunatic!

  30. BTW,

    I don't mean to cherry pick one post on your blog just to disagree.

    Still love your blog!


Comments are not available on posts older than 60 days.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...