Sunday, July 20, 2008

Galbi Salad

One of our favourite things to do when it was hot in Korea was to hit up an outdoor galbi (grilled meat) place - the best of which were to be found on the infamous "meat street" in Ilsan, where my friends Dave and Jo live.

Meat street is, in the words of my friend Aaron - "like RibFest all the time" - translated it means that if what you want to eat is meat; meat street is the place you must go. Near to the outdoor shopping plaza called La Festa, this street is lined up and down with barbecue houses selling various pieces of pork and beef, to be grilled up by you and your friends, seated around a metal table with a hot grill in the middle. The best places use real charcoal in their grills, and offer a wide variety of panchan to go along with the meat. At the end of the meal, you invariably need to shower to remove the fine coat of pork grease that seems to hang in the air, penetrating your hair, your clothes, and your soul.

The whole meal is a steal, as you need only pay for your meat (which comes in 200g orders), beer, and rice. All side dishes are complimentary, and are refilled at your request. If you're a foreigner, they especially love to refill your kimchi plate if you at all show any love for it. We rarely spent more than $12 a head to fill up on meat, rice, soup, and enough soju to cover the table with a forest of green bottles.

Each of my friends had their own grilled meat quirks. Dave always wanted to stay a little longer and get another bottle of soju, as "it's cheaper here than at the bar..". Jo was a creamy salad aficionado, and knew all the places with the best variety of panchan, since she didn't like meat so much. Peter always wanted to see if anyone will go in for the beef, even though it cost double the pork. Evan always grumbled that we always go out for galbi, and why do we never go for ddalk galbi? Corey liked to cook the slivers of garlic in the tops of the grilling mushrooms, and Dan always tried to beg the staff to bring the rice out at the beginning of the meal, instead of at the end, as traditional. And me? I liked to deconstruct the panchan - like, how exactly do they make this? My favourite panchan is what we like to call "galbi salad" - if it has a Korean name, I'm sure I don't know it. But if you're looking for something that goes really well with barbecued meat, this is the ticket.

Clean and tear one head of red leaf lettuce. To this, add several green onions, shredded or chopped thinly. For the dressing, combine 1 tbsp each of sugar, roasted sesame seeds, Korean chili powder, and white sugar. Mix together with 2 tsp. of soy sauce, 3 tbsp of rice vinegar and 4 tbsp. of sesame oil. Shake vigorously, and toss it together with the salad. Spicy, sweet and crisp, this goes incredibly well with barbecued pork chops or pork belly.

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