10 Things You May Not Know About Korean Food + a Recipe

pork with kimchi at Yongsusan
pork with kimchi at Yongsusan
B. Hansen

Did you know that L.A.-style galbi is famous in South Korea? If the answer is no, then bone up (what better term) on this and other little known facts about Korean cuisine with a 10-point guide that will make you sound like an expert.

1. L.A.-style galbi (grilled, marinated beef short ribs): In Korea, chefs use a vertical cut of beef that they slice by hand to preserve the texture. Here, the meat is cut horizontally with a slicer, not a knife, and usually has two or three small bones in the center. Korean Americans have adopted the local, cheaper cut, although it produces less tender galbi. It has even made its way to Korea, where LA galbi is regarded as a cool western innovation.

2. Anju: Anju is the Korean word for bar food, and it's lighter and healthier than nachos, fries, onion rings and their ilk. Korean bar noshers eat such things as chicken skewers with veggies, fried mung bean pancakes, egg-battered zucchini or fish, pork wrapped in fresh leaves with kimchi and other small bites that offer more sustenance than grease.

chicken skewers at Yongsusan
chicken skewers at Yongsusan
B. Hansen

3. Makgeolli (maguli): High-powered cocktails may be popular, but Korea's makgeolli is the safer way to go, because its alcohol content is below 7 per cent. Made from fermented steamed rice, barley or wheat, makgeolli is creamy, with a touch of sweetness. You can buy it in Korean markets here.

4. Banchan (panchan): If you judge a restaurant by the number of these side dishes it serves, you're right. The amount is a status symbol in Korean culture. A king would have been served at least 100. Dinner with the boss requires no less than five, and with future in-laws, seven or more. So turn up your nose at places that offer only a paltry two or three side dishes.

5. Bibimbap: What is the most popular Korean dish? Among westerners, barbecued meats. Among Koreans, the hot rice mixture called bibimbap. From humble origins as a catch-all for leftover vegetables, it has become a top dish in its own right.

6. Geotjeori kimchi: You think that kimchi is really complicated and has to ferment for months before it's ready to eat? Not so. Geotjeori kimchi takes only 10 minutes. It's a dressing composed of kimchi seasonings that you toss with salad greens. See the recipe, from Chef Kiyong Jang of Yongsusan in Koreatown.



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