Tips from a chef: How to eat Korean barbecue

Tips from a chef: How to eat Korean barbecue

Flip when the meat starts to "cry," get your meat-noodles pairings right and eat yukhoe in the summer
korean barbecue
In the Korean barbecue lexicon, another term for "crying" meat is "sweating" meat. The former sounds better, don't you think?

When we interviewed the Chef Kim Yong Cheol, 42, at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill’s Korean barbecue restaurant Myongwolgwan, we asked him for some gourmet tips on eating Korean barbecue. 

First, says the 18-year Korean cuisine veteran, the key is knowing when to flip the meat. Flipping it too many times results in it being too dry.

The best timing is when the juice starts to bubble subtly on the surface.

“We call this ‘when the meat starts crying,’” says Kim.

Korean barbecueChef Kim Yong Cheol, right, thinks this Korean barbecue is crying just right.

Second, ignore all the sauces. The best condiment for barbecue is salt (for the unmarinated orders, of course). 

“Salt allows you to experience the original taste of the meat, instead of hiding it under sauces,” says Kim. “But this is personal preference of course.”

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Korean barbecueSalt, the condiment of Korean barbecue foodies.
Third, pair the right noodles to the type of meat.

The order at a Korean barbecue restaurant is usually grill and eat only meat for the first round, and then order the shiksa, or “the meal,” as the second course.

The options are usually two types of naeng-myeon (cold noodles) or rice and doenjangjjigae, bean paste stew with a bowl of rice.

Kim recommends eating mul naengmyeon (cold noodles in beef broth) after marinated galbi, and eating bibim naengmyeon (spicy cold noodles) after eating unmarinated gogi (meat, usually referring to beef).

“The subtlety of the mul naengmyeon goes will with the strong flavor of marinated galbi, and the strong spiciness of the bibim naengmyeon offsets the unmarinated gogi,” says Kim.

“The worst possible thing you could do is add the vinegar and mustard to our mul naengmyeon before tasting it. That is such an ignorant move.”

Korean barbecueMarinated Korean barbecue and mul naengmyun: The sacred combination.
The fourth tip is rather surprising: eat yukhoe (Korean beef tartare) in the summer.

“It is widely thought that it is more dangerous to eat raw beef in the summer, but restaurants are actually ridiculously careful because of that very reason, making it actually more safe,” says Kim.

“Only when summer passes, and restaurants become lax, do accidents happen.”

Myungwolgwan, 21 Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul (서울시 광진구 광장동 21); +82 2 450 4595; noon-10 p.m. daily;

More on CNN: Seoul's 5 best Korean barbecue restaurants 

Have some grilling tips of your own? Share in the comments below.