The rapid rise of Korean barbecue

Until recently, most people in the UK could not have named a single Korean dish, but now the popularity of this East Asian cuisine is rising fast.

One Korean staple, the Korean barbecue (aka Samgyupsal), is lighting up the imaginations of restaurant-goers across the nation, drawn to the intense smoky, spicy flavours of lumpwood charcoal grilled meat. Furthermore, the chance to cook up specially selected meat to their own liking on their very own table-top charcoal barbecue makes for one of the most enjoyable features for fans of this signature Korean dish.

Of course, this kind of barbecue can also be enjoyed indoors, whatever the weather.

Some less authentic restaurants use gas for convenience’ sake, but traditional Korean barbecue is always cooked over a charcoal or coal grill, which produces the kind of white-hot, dry heat needed to garner its unique taste and texture.

Samgyupsal aka Korean Barbecue Samgyupsal aka Korean Barbecue

Whether fuelled by lumpwood or briquette charcoal, barbecuing Korean-style adds a resounding depth and smokiness to the pork, beef or chicken, as well as adding a satisfyingly caramelised crust to the surface of seared meat, which takes just a few minutes to cook this way.

The taste alone, though delicious, is not the only special thing about Korean barbecue – much of the attraction is to be found in the theatre of it. While the grill continues to sizzle on centre stage, guests grab a fresh lettuce leaf and add a bitesized hunk of cooked meat, a sprinkling of charred scallions, plus a dollop of sweet and spicy ssamjang sauce, then wrap it up and chow down.

In between barbecue bites, diners can pick from the numerous contrasting delicacies that make up Korean side dishes, known as ban-chan. Amongst little dishes of kimchi, Korea’s ubiquitous sour pickled cabbage, diners will discover fragrant white rice, garlicky marinated bean sprouts, candied lotus root, salty shredded squid and more.

Once the first round of meat has been washed down with a healthy slug of soju - Korean rice wine served neat and cold – the next will almost be ready. So back to the sizzling barbecue it is, to grill and repeat until full.

Korean barbecue spread with marinated beef ribs Korean barbecue spread with marinated beef ribs