Ten or fifteen years ago, I don’t think the average Windsorite knew much about sushi. Sure, they might have known it was Japanese. They might even have known that it involved raw fish. But I don’t think even the biggest local enthusiasts knew much beyond that. Until recently, more or less the same went for Korean food. You can imagine my surprise recently when I returned from a year in South Korea to find not just one, but two Korean restaurants as well as a grocer! The truth is, Korean food has a lot to offer, for both vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Heading into my second year as a veggie (I converted after my return), I feel a responsibility to others of my inclination to look for new and exciting foods that go beyond your traditional lentils-and-rice fare. But that doesn’t mean alienating our meat-eating friends. Korean food can offer a new twist on old favourites as well as offer exciting new dining experience for all types of food lovers. This doesn’t mean that we have to start with poshin’tang, (dog soup!), staggering amounts of hot pepper or any of the many assortments of fresh seaweed that are daily eaten in near-raw form by your average Korean. Instead, start with the basics. Most Koreans begin the day with a bit of rice and Kim’chi, a fermented form of raw cabbage prepared with red pepper. I personally prefer it cooked barbeque style, but if you’re going to eat Korean, you have to at least try it raw.
Now that you have been properly briefed, you’re all set! The great thing about Korean cuisine is that not only is it delicious but it’s relatively cheap and easy. Doesn’t it seem like three years or so some new and previously undiscovered food miraculously hits North American tables? The truth is, I suspect, that we have slowly come to terms with the idea that hamburgers and macaroni salad are not the penultimate in food design and that we could do well to learn from older (and in some cases, ancient) cultures on how to make things taste good and sustain us properly. Hopefully this article can bring you a little closer to the wisdom and flavour of Asia without having to leave home.Here’s a great recipe my boyfriend and I use regularly – and that gets rave reviews from guests. Although it is actually intended for meat, I use it for veggies and find that it produces some of the best roast eggplant I’ve ever had!
Korean BBQ Marinade – Home Style
- 1 c. soy sauce
- 1/2 c. sesame seed oil
- 1/4 c. water
- 1/2 c. honey
- 8 cloves of garlic or 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 bunch chopped green onions
- 1/4 bunch (about 3 inches) ginger root, minced
- Black pepper
- 1 package Korean BBQ meat, pork or beef OR 1 large Sicilian eggplant, assorted mushrooms, zucchini and/or 1 pkg firm tofu
- Assorted fresh chopped vegetables for grilling; garlic, tomato, onion, etc (whichever you prefer)
- 1-2 heads Romaine lettuce or similar
- 4-6 cups prepared sticky rice
- Sesame oil, salt and pepper for seasoning
- Hot sauces for dipping
Combine all sauce ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Add meat or veggies and ensure good coverage – meat may take longer as it will need to thaw. Wash and separate lettuce leaves (tear any which are excessively long into hand-size pieces). Cover meat and lettuce and chill both in the refrigerator overnight. Using a tabletop element (or sitting near the stove or barbeque), heat a grill or grill pan in a well-ventilated area. Add oil if desired; use chopsticks to distribute meat and/or veggies on pan evenly. Cook to desired doneness, then remove with a separate pair of chopsticks and serve. The BBQ can be consumed in lettuce wraps, a cup of rice or simply dipped in sesame oil seasoning and hot sauce. Enjoy!
Preparation Time: 15 min for marinade and lettuce, 30-40 for grilling and rice. Makes 8-10 servings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren is a “pescatarian” (fish-eater; no other meat) who has traveled most of Europe, North America, and some of Asia. She enjoys running, gardening and dinner parties. Lauren is currently studying consecutive education at the University of Windsor.