23 March 2004

Sam Gyeob Sal

Man ....... I've got a demanding group of readers. I slack for a couple of days and I get hell. :o) I love you guys still.

Tonight we'll go for some sam gyeob sal. Sam gyeob sal means three-layered meat, or more simply put, bacon Korean-style. I headed to my regular place, which serves great sam gyeob sal. But for some reason, it was closed last night as well as tonight. So I had to settle for this place, which is my first time.

(note - I'm sorry the photos turned out off-colour. I didn't use the flash to avoid drawing attention.)

This place is kinda kinky, as it's got suction cups exhaust fans hanging from the ceiling. I'm just kidding - these are quite common. These hoses are lowered mechanically once the cooking starts at your table. As you can see, there's the meat grilling slowly over the fire. I'll come to that shortly. Let's go through the many complimentary side dishes first.

Raw baby octopus (nakji) served with vinegared chili sauce and fresh cucumber and carrots.

Large-headed beansprouts (kong na mool) seasoned with chili.

Boiled baby spinach seasoned with sesame seeds and preserved beans (this type of non-spicy vege side dish is collectively referred to as na mool)

Japanese tofu (tubular silky smooth beancurd) topped with vinegared chili sauce, sliced fresh chilis and spring onions.

This is the standard Korean salad of shredded raw cabbage (the carrots & spring onion leaves are just ancillary) in dressing made from vinegar, soya sauce and a heavy dose of wasabe (the tear-inducing Japanese mustard).

Fresh lettuce and onion rings with vinegared chili sauce.

Fresh lettuce leaves, sesame leaves, large onion, straw mushroom and green chili.

This is a must have in any meaty meal. Raw sliced garlic (ma neul) and sam chang (chili paste mixed with preserved bean paste). One thing to note is that Korean garlic is really really pungent. Must be the Korean soil.

A dish of seasoned salt? Well, the meat is served and cooked unsalted. So you dab into this if needed. It's a mixture of coarse salt, black pepper and sesame seed.

This is one serving of sam gyeob sal. KRW7,000. As you can see, it is basically just slabs of bacon meat. No marinade, no salt, no nothing. Therefore, the quality of a sam gyeob sal restaurant rests principally on 2 things - the quality of the meat and the grilling medium (e.g. gas burner vs. charcoal).

This place had a charcoal-flamed grill, which I feel is better than the gas burners. After a couple of minutes, the meat starts to pop and sizzle. Be careful. Notice that the fat from the meat drips into a water-lined gutter underneath.

This is the part where your individual preference and skill comes in. It's all about timing. If you want it well done, leave it to burn to a crisp. If you want it tender, remove from fire to the side.

Cut the meat into manageable bite size with the scissors provided.

When you're happy with the meat, pick up a slice or two and place it on a leaf of fresh lettuce. Add salt if desired, the sam chang, garlic and any of the side dishes. Fold the lettuce over and pop it into your mouth. Now chew. When satisfied, swallow. Repeat steps.

There's no hard and fast rules with the side dishes nor with the meat. Eat it on its own or add it to the lettuce wrap. Anything goes.

This is a serving of go chu jang sam gyeob sal (go chu jang=chili paste). KRW7,000.

Almost done. Turn over.



So do tell. Was it good? I've had better. I'd rate it a 4 out of 10. Next time, I'll go back to my regular place. The pork here is not top grade, and I personally prefer the meat sliced thicker so that it would be crispy on the outside while still tender on the inside. Here it's a little thin for my liking.


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