Yesterday was a national holiday in South Korea- Buddha’s birthday celebration, which takes place on the eighth day of the fourth month (lunar calendar).
Grateful for a day off, my parents and I visited a nearby mountain, Ch’orye-bong (located: Ansim 3(sam).4(sa)-dong, Daegu) to do some hiking.
I had really missed mountains while in Florida since there are no mountains to be found there- only swamps with gators!
It was a beautiful spring day and I enjoyed the serenity of being surrounded by trees, with the only sounds being flowing water from the creek and the chirping of birds.
After the two hour hike, we made our way to get some Korean BBQ!
We went to Jeonwon Charcoal Grill as it was just a 7 minute drive away from the mountain.
The restaurant was not too crowded when we arrived, and we had to take our temperature and sign the book for guests. Every restaurant in Korea has a policy where you need to sign in or use a designated registered QR code.
Korean restaurants are also very strict about not allowing any groups of more than 4 people as is the law at the moment.
Since BBQ needs to be grilled with charcoal at the table, there is only the option to sit indoors. It did get a bit crowded well into dinnertime, but the tables are spread apart. You could also get meat to take out, and they are actually offering discounts for takeout orders!
You order the meat in portions (1 portion is usually enough for 1 person). We ordered 2 portions of marinated pork galbi (쪽갈비) priced at 9500 Korean won (about $9 USD) per portion, 2 portions of plain pork shoulder (생목살 구이) priced at 10,000 Korean won (about $9.5 USD) per portion, and 2 portions of marinated pork shoulder (양념 목살 구이) priced at 9500 Korean won (about $9 USD) per portion.
After you order, someone brings the burning charcoal to fit into the grill at your table, and your table gets filled with delicious banchan (side dishes), which come complimentary to your meal. Some of my favorite banchan that the restaurant had was dotori mook (도토리 묵), a savory dish made of gelatinous jellied acorn powder marinated with a soy sauce based sauce and tossed in mixed veggies, mushroom tangsooyook (버섯 탕수육), and mulkimchi (물김치), a watery version of kimchi that is mild and delicious.
At Korean BBQ, it is tradition to cook your own meat, which may seem daunting to some, but it is part of the fun! Just be careful not to cook the marinated meat on too high heat, as it can easily burn.
Remember to also throw the garlic onto the grill along with the meat so you can get it nice and cooked!
The best part of Korean BBQ is definitely when you get to triumphantly grab the perfectly cooked slice, steaming hot, and place it into your mouth.
There are many ways to eat the meat once it is cooked. You can eat the meat by itself- if you are a ‘purist,’ or you can wrap it in some marinated lettuce.
The plain pork meat tasted best simply dipped into salt.
One of my favorite ways to eat the meat is to make ssam (쌈), which is when you layer lettuce, meat, onion, garlic and some ssam sauce (쌈장) to create a beautiful wrap to shove into your mouth!
After eating some meat, we ordered some rice and noodles.
My parents got the Gondeure namul bap (곤드레밥), which is a stone pot rice steamed with Indian thistle.
There is a specific way to eat this rice dish: Scoop all of the rice into another bowl and fill the empty stone pot with rice water that they give you in a kettle. Then, cover the stone pot and once you finish your meal, you will have nurungji (누룽지), which is crispy rice crust that is very grainy and delicious.
As for the rice that you scooped out, you can eat it with the dwenjangjjigae (soybean paste stew) that they serve it with, and marinated herbs (나물), as well as other banchan.
I got the mulnaengmyeon (물냉면), which is a chilled buck wheat noodle dish with meat broth, sliced pickled daikon radish, sliced pear, a hard boiled egg, and mulkimchi.
You can add mustard/wasabi sauce and vinegar to your liking.
This dish is perfect for the summer, as it has chunks of ice floating in it, and pairs so well with the cooked meat. One of my favorite food combinations ever!
I was beyond full after this meal and had massive food coma, but had absolutely no regrets!
Location: 625-6 Sinseo-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu