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[Feb./Food] Samgyeopsal et al.

2013-02-25 00:00:00

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  There are tons of samgyeopsal (삼겹살)restaurants throughout Daegu. No one* should visit Korea or Daegu without trying this unique dining experience.


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*Vegetarian?  Don’t eat pork?  See below for some tips- you don’t have to be left out!

Samgyeopsal is basically thick slices of pork belly.  It usually has a lot of fat on it, and often the best samgyeopsal is very fatty. This can be a serious obstacle for some people, including people who aren’t on a diet or picky eaters.  It’s possible to select pieces from the grill that don’t have too much fat, or to trim the fat off with scissors.  Also, you probably won’t eat samgyeopsal every day, which might help you indulge with a little less guilt.

The Ordering Process

When you order samgyeopsal, you usually order per kilo or by the gram.  500 to 800 grams or so is good for two people.  Many restaurants have minimum order requirements, so don’t be surprised if they insist that you order more.  For example, if you try to order two servings for two people, they might tell you to have to order three servings.  Just go with it.

Samgyeopsal restaurants frequently offer other Korean delicacies like dweaji-ggup-dae-gi 돼지 껍데기 (pig skin), mak-chang 막창 (large intestines of a pig), and gop-chang 곱창 (small intestines of a pig).  Mak-chang is a Daegu favorite and is well-loved by people here.  It’s not for everyone, though, and it has a taste not unlike the smell of a pig farm on a hot summer day.  The more soju you drink and the longer you cook it greatly increases your chances of liking it the first time you eat it.  Ggup-dae-gi is another dish that is not for the faint of heart.  It can be served like samgyeopsal and roasted on the grill, or it’s smothered in red-pepper sauce, mixed with onions, and served on a hot stone dish, which is then placed on the grill.

The Grilling Technique

Before the food comes, the server will either turn on the grill, if it’s gas, or put a red-hot briquet into a special place in the table.  Once the cooking surface heats up, you can start cooking the meat.  If it’s your first samgyeopsal experience and you look a little nervous, the server will probably be glad to help you out.  If they’re too busy, here’s a rundown so that you can do it yourself:  Cook the strips of meat for a bit until they’re lightly browned on both sides.  Cut the strips into bite-sized pieces.  If you’re squeamish about eating so much fat, here’s a good opportunity to commit a samgyeopsal sin and trim off some of the excess fat.  Once it looks like it’s cooked thoroughly, it’s time to dig in!  You can put kimchi, cloves of garlic, onions, and mushrooms on the grill as well.

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The Sauces

Samgyeopsal is served with several sauces.  Some restaurants have their own secret sauces.  There’s often a bowl of soy sauce, onions, and wasabi, plus a small dish of ssamjang and another of gireumjang (seasame oil, salt, and black pepper).  Take a lettuce leaf, a dab of ssamjang, a roasted garlic clove, and a bit of onion, roll it up and enjoy.  To get a taste of the meat without all the veggies, dip it into the soy sauce mixture or the gireumjang.

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Vegetarians and Non-Pork Eaters

Vegetarians and people who don’t eat pork do not need to be left out of this unique dining experience.  There are several options.  Usually, restaurants have doenjang jjigae or kimchi jjigaeon the menu (though sometimes these are made with meat- check with your server).  Another great option is janchi guk su, or party soup.  It’s slender noodles in broth with a few veggies thrown in.  Rice is always available, and there are tons of veggies like carrots, lettuce, onions, and garlic.  Vegans can stick to rice and raw vegetables, as most soups contain beef broth or fish sauce.

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