Summer is fast approaching, and what do we here in the UK usually associate with summer? Aside from a disappointing lack of sunshine, on the rare days the sun does appear, it’s time for a barbeque!
Korean barbeque is a far cry from the burgers and hot dogs that are standard here, as many people know; it’s one of the most well known Korean foods internationally. However, there are many different types, each centred around a specific type of meat. Samgyeopsal is one of the most popular of these. Meaning three-layered pork in Korean, individual layers of fat and meat can be seen before and after they’re set sizzling on the grill. There are also other variety with as many as five layers of fat. The more fat, the better the flavour.
Much like galbi, it’s cooked right in front of you on the grill at the table. Often people will grill the meat themselves, cutting it up as they go, or else servers at the restaurant might prepare the meat for you. It’s a popular meal to share with friends – so popular in fact, that National Samgyeopsal Day is is an officially recognised day!
One difference in the meat here from other barbeque favourites is that isn’t seasoned or marinated. And this is for a good reason, letting the meat really speak for itself. With this dish, the better quality pork belly, the better the taste will be. Of course, it is always accompanied by a variety of sides. Similar to bulgogi, lettuce leaf wraps are an excellent way of eating this meat. Sliced garlic, kimchi, onions and chilli peppers are just a few of the ingredients most often used. All of these can either be grilled alongside the meat or wrapped up raw alongside the cooked meat. Ssamjang is also used as a dipping sauce for samgyeopsal, with classic Korean flavours coming across with its gochujang base.
As with many Korean meals, samgyeopsal is rarely eaten alone – whether that’s in terms of people or the dishes it might be served with. Soups, stews and even naengmyeon are frequent accompaniments to the barbequed meat, and some of it can be mixed with rice to make a bokkeumbap. And of course, soju cannot be forgotten as the perfect accompaniment to the tender, juicy pork belly.
Have you tried samgyeopsal before? Check out the video below to see Maangchi’s guide to recreating the taste at home if you’ve yet to!