Korean barbecue has been a favorite dining experience for Alex and me since he studied abroad in Seoul during college. At the end of his 6 week session, I met him and Seoul where we spent 4 days exploring the city and enjoying Alex’s favorite Korean foods, drinks and sights.
The first dinner we at in Korea was traditional Korean barbecue – I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t done much research about Korea or Korean foods before I came but I was up to try whatever was served. When in Rome, right?
That night, I fell in love with the Korean people and Korean barbecue.
Since our visit to Korea, we’ve been trying Korean barbecue restaurants where ever we find them: Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Fort Myers and Denver. So far, Denver wins for quality and authenticity, hands down.
For newbies to Korean barbecue, this is your intro to Korean barbecue.
Our favorite Korean barbecue restaurant in Denver is Seoul BBQ. Seoul BBQ is located in an area outside of downtown Denver with a heavy Asian restaurant and market concentration. This was our first tip that we were in the right spot.
The restaurant is clean and service is prompt. Most, if not all, of the waitstaff speak English – I know this is a concern of first time friends: that they won’t be able to communicate with the servers or be able to ask questions. Seoul BBQ servers are very friendly, ready to help and answer questions and get you what you need.
When ordering Korean barbecue, a wide variety of side dishes always accompany your meat. These side dishes vary from restaurant to restaurant but a few staples are at each restaurant, like kimchi. You will always find kimchi in your side dishes as this is a main food in Korea.
This big hubcap looking plate in the middle of the table is the burner. When ordering Korean barbecue, you select the types of meat you’d like to eat and it is brought out to you raw to cook at your table. It’s like a ‘do it yourself’ hibachi grill.
Meats run the gamut of styles, cuts and flavoring. One of our favorites is Sam-gyup-sal – essentially, it’s bacon. It’s the ‘safest’ jump into Korean barbecue if you’re not typically an adventurous eater.
It’s crucial that the meat is cooked all the way through – a bit tender is okay but raw is not. As the meat finishes cooking, we move it to the outside to make room for more meat in the middle. While the meat is cooking, we also add side dishes to warm up on the grill.
After you cook your meats and sides, the fun part begins: Lettuce wraps!
Grab a piece of lettuce from your table, add whatever sides (cooked or raw) and meat you’d like.
I added kimchi, meat, bean sprouts and bean paste (more on that later).
Then roll and enjoy!
One of my favorite additions to my lettuce wraps comes in a little tray – each person receives their own.
Sesame oil + fermented bean paste
MAN is it good. It’s called ‘doenjang’ and is a fermented soybean paste. Not everyone is as big of a fan as me but I love the taste – salty! (note: soybeans/beans are not paleo).
Because Korean barbecue’s foundation is a meat + veggie lettuce wrap, this is a paleo friendly, incredibly filling meal.
I encourage anyone who’s ever thought about Korean food (and those who haven’t!) to give Korean barbecue a try – it’s a fun dinner with a group or with a date. It’s interactive and delicious. And if you’re ever in Denver and need a dining partner, I’ll be right over!