Some of my happiest and favourite memories from the three years I lived in Korea revolve around eating samgyeopsal (삼겹살, barbecued pork belly slices). I could probably tell you stories for hours. ^^ So you can imagine how excited I was when the Korean food that got the most votes for episode 5 of Canadian Doenjang was samgyeopsal!
Not only is samgyeopsal delicious and fun to eat but it was over meals of samgyeopsal with Korean friends or coworkers that I learned much about what I know about Korean culture. While eating the yummy meat, I learned not only how to eat it but also a lot about Korean drinking culture because it’s almost unheard of to eat samgyeopsal without drinking, usually soju (소주, a distilled alcohol traditionally made from rice) but sometimes with beer (or beer and soju).
In addition to being an interesting classroom, eating samgyeopsal with coworkers helped cement friendships that are still strong today, more than 5 years later. So if someone invites you out for samgyeopsal, go! But it’s also easy to make yourself and is a popular dish to eat/grill while camping or picnicking. Want to know how? Watch our video and then read the recipe. And as always, if you make it, let us know what you thought!
Samgyeopsal – The Recipe
While I have eaten seasoned samgyeopsal before, generally it’s grilled plain. The recipe below is for the basic version of the dish. But don’t worry, there is still lots of flavour!
- pork belly
- 1 bunch of lettuce, washed and drained
- 2 dozens of perilla leaves, washed and drained
- 2 carrots, cut into bite size sticks
- 12 cloves garlic, sliced
- oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced in ½ cm slices
- 1 English cucumber, cut into bite size sticks
- 6 green chili peppers (the mildly hot ones)
Pa muchim (파무침, green onion salad)
- 2 bunches green onions, white and light green part, very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
Ssamjang (쌈장, a thick spicy condiment for meat)
- 1/3 cup doenjang (된장, fermented soy bean paste)
- 1/4 cup gochujang (고추장, hot pepper paste)
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
Prepare the extras first.
1. Make the ssamjang. It’s easy, just combine all ssamjang ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and set aside. Serve in tiny individual dishes.
2. Make green onion salad. Soak shredded green onion in cold water for 5 minutes and drain. Distribute evening into small bowls. In a separate bowl, combine the green onion salad sauce ingredients. Mix well and add to the green onions. Set on table.
3. Prepare your veggies and put the lettuce, perilla leaves, and carrots (cucumbers and chili peppers too, if you are using them) on a serving plate. Put the mushrooms, garlic (and onion) on a separate plate as you will be cooking them. Put some kimchi into a serving bowl (for grilling and eating).
Now it’s time to BBQ your samgyeopsal! You can cook this on a frying pan but a grill plate is best.
1. Turn on your grill to medium-high and wait a couple of minutes for your grill plate to warm up.
2. Add the samgyeopsal to the top of the grill plate and the mushrooms, garlic, kimchi and other veggies to the bottom (the oil/fat from the meat helps them cook and makes them tastier). If you’re not using a non-stick grill, rub a piece of samgyeopsal over it to give it a coat of fat/oil so nothing sticks.
3. After a few minutes, turn them over when the bottom gets mostly cooked. Grill a little longer and then use your kitchen scissors to cut into bite-sized pieces (I cut mine smaller than most but it’s a judgement call). Continue cooking until done to desired state – some like it more crispy, some less.
4. Eat as you cook the rest. I generally turn the grill down a little at this point so I can eat and not overcook/burn the rest. Enjoy!
5. Serve with rice, ssamjang, kimchi, veggies and lettuce. And of course, any banchan (반찬, side dishes) you like.
Curious about how to eat samgyeopsal?
It’s time for the fun part, eating! Grab a piece of lettuce or a perilla leaf and add a piece of cooked samgyeopsal. Add some or all of the following – ssamjang, garlic, kimchi, green onion salad, rice, pickled radish – to your lettuce & meat. Fold it up into a bundle and stick the whole thing in your mouth. Don’t try to eat it in bites, it doesn’t work well.
I prefer to eat it wrapped in a perilla leaf (over lettuce) but I vary the add-ons with every bite-sized wrap. Experiment and find the combo you like best! And as we said, it’s most commonly eaten with soju.
Have you tried samgyeopsal? Where did you first eat it? Any interesting stories? You know we’d love to hear about it so please leave a comment below.
Episode 6’s Korean phrases
- 파무침- Green onion salad
- 소주 있어요? – Do you have soju?
- 소주 없어요. – I don’t have soju.
- 건배! – Cheers!
And of course, don’t forget to vote for what you want next in episode 6! It’s our summer noodle episode and I make a killer bibim guksu (hint, hint!).