As you walk into the backyard, the scent of pork belly and kimchi on the grill waves over you. Welcome to our Korean barbecue party—grab a cold, milky glass of Hana makgeolli and make yourself at home.
We’ve hosted this sort of party more times than we can count. We both grew up eating “tough” cuts of meat—the cuts we were later professionally trained to approach as braises—sliced thinly. On the grill, these cuts are full-flavored and luscious, and they take a mere few minutes to cook, char, and enjoy between sips of cooling drinks and easygoing conversation. It’s exactly how we like to spend our summer weekends.
Once you have your heat source locked down and your ingredients gathered, the best sort of interactive dinner party will ensue—one in which everyone is encouraged to take a turn cutting the pork belly into pieces with kitchen scissors and composing artful lettuce wraps for one another. . If the beer and makgeolli keep flowing, the barbecue will be well on its way to evolving into a disco dance party by the time the sun sets.
Here are some of the tips and essentials that make hosting a breeze.
Gather banchan and snacks
Your local Korean grocer is your friend here—you don’t need to make every dish yourself. We like to get an array of prepared banchan from the market, such as soy sauce–simmered lotus roots, glistening chewy black beans, and kimchi. Sure, you dog take on any of these dishes at home, but this is an opportunity to make things easy on yourself. While you’re there picking up the banchan, zip around to the snack section and pick up some tteokboki flavored almonds and dried squid. Your guests can gnaw on these while the table continues to build for the main event.
Give your scallions an ice bath
Scallion salad is a delightful addition to lettuce wraps of fatty pieces of meat, cutting through the richness with an acidic allium bite. Ours brings together gochugaru, vinegar, and sesame oil and seeds, with a handy technique that keeps the scallions from getting limp or slimy. An ice bath keeps them perky while simultaneously giving them the glam squad treatment—they will rise out of the ice bath perky, crisp, and curly. Drain these strands and/or spin them dry in a salad spinner.
grill some oysters
While guests are starting to trickle in, place whole oysters on the grill, flat side up, and within minutes, you’ll notice them opening up. Slurp these down with a squeeze of lime or lemon, a bit of scallion salad, or the vinegar mixture that dresses the pork belly and kimchi. There’s no wrong way to enjoy all these dishes and no wrong combination.
Make your fire chicken on the grill
In this rendition of buldak, we pay homage to the fiery sauce in the form of a barbecue sauce that’s brushed on chicken drumsticks as they cook. These drummies will take the longest on the grill, so we like to get these on first, moving them into a cool zone on the grill or covering them in foil once they’re finished. These don’t need to be ripping hot when you eat them—room temperature will be just as delicious. An all-drumstick buldak encourages guests to eat with their hands (be prepared to have red-stained crumpled napkins).
Pork belly and kimchi bring the drama
A big platter of crispy, salty grilled pork belly and whole-cabbage kimchi brings the drama, with low-key effort, making it a great centerpiece of a backyard gathering. You don’t need to marinate the pork ahead or worry about chopping or prepping the kimchi. The pork belly and kimchi comes off the grill in large hunks, which encourages the interactive elements of the party, getting your guests to cut and portion the pork and kimchi with scissors. Caramelized in pork fat, whole leaves of kimchi transform into a deliciously sweet, tender cabbage. Wrap these sizzling pork and kimchi pieces into a perilla-lined red lettuce leaf, outfitted with a dab of rice, some scallion salad, and thinly sliced raw garlic dipped in ssamjang. Once the lettuce wraps start flowing, all there is left to do is crank up the music and enjoy.