Korean BBQ is a delicious thing. I’ve been twice, and I’ve nearly gotten through a meal without the waitresses laughing at me for doing something wrong. Saturday afternoon we went to Honey Pig in Annandale, where the cook the meat at your table in a fun meat-filled party.
Some rules for Korean BBQ:
(There were surprisingly few blog posts about this, but this one was most helpful and to the point.)
1. The Banchan (side dish appetizers) are always free, and come with the meal. You will usually get Kimchi, pickled slivers of veggies (both hot and mild), raw garlic, and a chili paste. A lot of online blogs mentioned bean paste, but I haven’t been served that yet when I’ve gone. Eat these on their own, or adding to the lettuce wraps if you want more spice.
2. The Lettuce. The first time I ate Korean, we were like ‘what is the lettuce for?’ but by the second time we got it down: you wrap the meat in a piece of lettuce (tearing off a bite-sized piece from the larger leaf–not using the entire thing all together), add some onion, garlic, paste, and sauce to it, then wrap it up and toss it in your mouth.
3. The Grill. There might be a language barrier when you go to these places, but trust your server not to serve you raw meat–they don’t want health code violations. My second visit we ordered pork belly, which was grilled in large strips, and weren’t sure if we should be eating it in entirety or not. I went to grab one, but before I knew it the server had it back in the pot, saying ‘not done’…Eventually they will come by with scissors and clip the meat into smaller pieces—that is a good sign that it’s ready to eat, but you can always confirm by asking them.
4. The order. Everything is served for the group, so decide beforehand what you want to eat together–because chances are each dish will be served one-by-one on the grill. Unless you have some serious carnivores in your group, I wouldn’t recommend ordering one-per-person. Saturday, we were in a group of 4, and three dishes would have easily sufficed.
What to Order:
Yaki Mandu (dumplings) These can be served fried or steamed. A fantastic way to start, and something familiar that newcomers will recognize.
Bulgogi (marinated beef) The safest, most generic meat. It cooks quickly, so had this first. Served with onions and garlic.
Samgyeopsal Gui (Pork Belly) Think of it as really thick bacon. This took longer to to cook, but was really rich and delicious.
–I hear spare ribs are also a solid bet, but I haven’t tried them yet, so I’ll leave that for you to decide.
–For more adventurous eaters, I ordered Baby Octopus, but Squid is also an option, and I might try that next time–the octopus was extremely chewy, although I did love the heads. (The rest of my crew were less impressed).
In the end, I definitely recommend experimenting. Honey Pig was a great place for newcomers, so start there–but Annandale is full of delicious hole-in-the-wall places (my first attempt was another excellent choice) to explore. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t mind when you do something wrong–in the end you are eating a delicious meal, no matter how you do it. Although be warned, we went for lunch on Saturday—and I’m still not hungry 24 hours later.