[Updated 15 June 2021]
Everybody loves a good barbecue - it's a style of cooking that exists in every corner of the world. Korean barbecue (also known as K-BBQ), in particular, is an awesome variation of this cooking method. Usually featuring thin cuts of marinated meat and cooked on a grill around which everyone is gathered, it's a communal eating experience that's as social as it is delicious. While Korean barbecue tends to be something we head to the restaurants for, it's actually not that hard to have your own halal Korean barbecue at home! And we're here to give you a full breakdown of how to do it, from gear to meats to other side dishes you'll need.
In restaurants, you'll usually see Korean barbecue being cooked on the spot over a charcoal grill with exhaust vents that help whisk the smoke away. This is probably not a set-up everyone has at home (?) so for the home cook, an electric grill, or hot plate is usually the go-to cooking gear used. There are many variations of such items available nowadays, from those that are just for grilling (like this one from Cornell) or those that come with a steamboat pot (great for hotpot sessions too!).
In terms of hotplates, you'll need a separate pan to heat on top of the hot plate to grill your meats in. Nowadays you can get regular electric hot plates (like this affordable one from Toyomi) or alternatively, induction hot plates - If you're using an induction hot plate, be sure to use pans and utensils suitable for this type of cooking method.
It's worth noting that because we're grilling meats, there will be some smoke - so it's best to do you barbecue in a well-ventilated part of the house, with the windows and/or door open to allow for the air to circulate.
#HHWT Tip: There's nothing stopping you from just cooking your meats on a grill on top of a regular stove in the kitchen! But a large part of K-BBQ is the communal aspect of grilling meats together yourself, plus the meat tastes best when grilled and immediately consumed, rather than just cooking all your meats in one go before serving ?
A traditional Korean barbecue usually has a fantastically large variety of meat cuts that range across beef, chicken and pork. While some cuts are marinated in a yummy marinade like bulgogi or kalbi, others are often grilled as-is to highlight the delicious flavour of the meat (like a good steak!).
It can easily get overwhelming to replicate the variety of the different cuts of meat (even if we are just focusing on halal meat like beef and chicken!), so to keep things simple for your Korean barbecue, we recommend to start off with these three, which are some of the most accessible meats to find:
- Beef bulgogi: This refers to strips of beef that are marinated in a yummy bulgogi sauce. Use sirloin or any other prime cuts of beef (like ribeye or brisket) and slice it very thinly (pro tip: slice it when it's partially frozen so it's easier to get super thin slices!). Whip up and easy bulgogi marinade and let your beef sit in it before grilling - you can prep this the day before too!
- Marinated chicken (dak galbi): This refers to boneless chicken (we recommend chicken thighs!) marinated in a galbi sauce made with gochujang (the fermented chilli paste that's a staple in Korean cooking).
- Steak cuts of beef: You can stop at the two types of meat above, but it's nice to have a plain cut of beef as well for variety! Use a nice steak cut like ribeye which has some marbling (i.e. veins of fat) that gives it juicy tenderness and flavour when grilled.
The above will be enough to have a great K-BBQ feast. If you can get your hands on short ribs, you can also make galbi, another staple in Korean barbecue where the short ribs are prepared in a classic galbi marinade before being grilled (or you can use the same marinade as the one for your bulgogi too!).
For Singaporean readers, you can find halal short ribs online at Adam Halal! We also have a round-up of online suppliers of halal meat in Singapore where you can easily find the meats you need for the above. For Malaysian readers, you can find halal meats in major supermarkets and hypermarkets. Don't forget that you can also grill veggies, mushrooms, tofu and other seafood during your barbecue too.
The go-to condiment for K-BBQ is ssamjang, a sauce made out of Korean fermented soybean paste (doenjang) as well as gochujang. While there are readymade ssamjang sauces available, unfortunately, they're usually not halal (as doenjang and gochujang respectively often contain alcohol as a by-product of the fermentation process to make them). Ssamjang is actually super easy to make (as this recipe from My Korean Kitchen shows!), however, getting your hands on halal doenjang is a bit more challenging. Brands like Top Gourmet and Halal Hanjib make halal doenjang but are currently out of stock - follow them so you get updated for when they're available!
But even if you don't have ssamjang, you can still opt for gochujang or any other of your favourite condiments to have with your barbecue - feel free to think outside the box and use non-conventional condiments like sambal, barbecue sauce or anything else! In addition, the bulgogi and galbi will already be marinated and flavourful anyway ?
To round out your Korean barbecue, here are some other items to get:
- Lettuce leaves - Korean barbecued meats are often eaten by placing the grilled meat into a lettuce leaf that's slathered with sauce (usually the ssamjang sauce) and any other side items (listed below), then wrapping it up then popping that into your mouth. Traditionally perilla leaves are also common, but lettuce leaves are a lot easier to get your hands on!
- Rice - a nice filling carb to balance out your protein and veggies!
- Sliced raw garlic and chilies - for those who like to add some heat and pungency to their wraps
- Kimchi - a staple accompaniment!
- Banchan - Banchan refers to a range of side dishes that are a usual accompaniment in all traditional Korean meals. The variation of banchan you can make are pretty endless but if you're looking for some easy ones to make for your K-BBQ feast, head to our easy Korean recipes article ?
And there you have it! That's pretty much all you need to have your own Korean barbecue feast at home. It's a fun and special meal to have with your family at home, not to mention being super delicious and probably more cost-effective! So you don't have to wait to head out to a Korean barbecue restaurant to get your grilling on, go ahead and get your K-BBQ on at home ?