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For the Love of Galbi

Never refuse a Korean barbecue.

No matter how annoyed I might be towards the inviting company, I can’t say no.

I love Galbi. It’s meaty but refreshing (thanks to the veggies that go into the wrap). From a Paleo standpoint, I wouldn’t be surprised if Korean cavemen used to eat something similar (minus fermented soybean paste). From a trying-to-save-money-but-still-eat-decently standpoint, its a good deal since you get several side dishes and a fruit dessert (in the typical Korean restaurant fashion). Several of the side dishes are vegetables or sprouts. If I could eat something everyday, it would be this.

The closest Galbi fix I’ve found is Ye Dang, recommended by a friend’s Korean friend. You know what they say: If people from the nationality eat there, it must be good.

This Korean-owned restaurant along Meralco Avenue (near Metrowalk) has been in the business for seven years.  At 8:45pm, it’s a room full of customers (though not in picture below) with a faint smoke in the air and the smell of grilled meat. In case you’re not sure what to order, the wood-panelled walls have photographs of Korean dishes, and the usual Korean soju poster with a pretty actress. Each table is made of wood, with a round grill in the middle. Metal exhausts, which look like silver trunks, stretch down from the ceiling to absorb the smell (although my dress smells slightly of smoke, but I don’t mind).

The meal began with an abundance of banchan (side dishes). My favorites are Kong Namul (bean sprout salad, esp with the giant sprouts. Not pictured below.), Watercress Namul (seasoned vegetable side dish), spinach/seaweed in vinegar-ey seasoning (not pictured below), the baby potatoes in sticky sweet soy glaze, fried (and steamed?) tofu, and the ones with sweet potato (not pictured below).

For the barbecue, my family ordered two sets of Galbi (sweet beef ribs), and one Dak-Gui (chicken). Margie, our server, was fairly accommodating with refilling our appetizers and my dad’s jokes. The beef galbi is prepared as a long strip, which they unroll from the bone on the hot grill. When it’s nearly cooked, they cut it into 1.5in rectangles. While it cooked, we grilled the garlic.

The Dak-Gui took a bit longer to cook, but still delicious. Down to the bone.

If you haven’t tried Galbi before, the servers are more than happy to teach you.

Basically, you need to cook the meat. When it’s done, get a lettuce or shiso leaf (my favorite) or both, dip the meat into the ssamjang (fermented bean paste + red pepper paste sauce), barbecue sauce (or is it some kind of oil with salt?), put it on the leaf, add garlic slices, and eat it. In another restaurant, they had picked white radish sliced so thinly, they’re like translucent little moons. When added a sweet & sour, refreshing taste to the wrap. Or you can get creative and add other stuff. Sometimes I add bean sprout, some of the kimchi-ized tofu, and other things from the banchan. My cousin adds cabbage kimchi (she even grills them first). There are endless combinations to try. I was too busy stuffing myself, I forgot to take pictures. It’ an automatic reflex to stuff the hand-held wrap into my mouth as quickly as possible and relish it for a couple of seconds. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Another favorite Korean dish is Dolsot Bibimbap (vegetable rice hash). It has my beloved sprouts, mushrooms, other veggies, and a raw egg. Mix them all together into one delicious mess. If you let it stay in the bowl a bit, tutong (crispy rice?) forms around the bottom and these are absolutely delicious.

Others

  • Dessert: fresh pineapple
  • If you taste something different in the water, its a hint of pandan.
  • My family shamelessly asks for side dish refills. I don’t know the cultural opinion of this, but if anything, it’s a compliment on how delicious the food is. We love Korean food.
  • It deserves reiterating: I can eat this EVERY DAY.

After dinner, we walked to the nearby Korean grocery and brought home some loot:

  • A bag of fresh shiso leaves (I might try making this again tomorrow, with shiso finally)
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Roasted barley tea.

The store also sold fresh lotus pod slices (which are pretty, and delicious in soup), other produce, rice, hygiene products (napkins and shampoo) and lots of Korean ice cream (which I also almost never refuse).

All in all, a good day and a good dinner with some of the most lovable/annoying/crazy-fying people in the world.

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