I have been a huge fan of Korean BBQ ever since my first experience three years ago at San Soo Gab San, a Chicago favorite among my friends. Known for it's sassy waiters and late night hours, I have enjoyed a hand full of meals at this hole in the wall...the only thing keeping me from frequenting it more often is its far North location on Western Ave. As you sit around a table with a grill placed at it's center, a minimum of two waitresses bring out a myriad of side dishes to nibble on, including potato salads, crispy glass noodles, pickled black beans and vegetables to name a few. The fun of this style of BBQ is the interactive experience of cooking your main entree yourself over the hot flames. Typically you wrap your entree (usually some form of marinated beef, pork, octopus or squid) with rice and sriracha in a lettuce leaf which you eat with your hands. So tasty! Always up to a culinary adventure, when my friend Chanel suggested we host a Korean BBQ dinner at her house, I was more than excited.
Our day began with a trip to Joong Boo market at 3333 N. Kimball Ave. A gem of a grocery store surprisingly close to my house, I was blown away by their amazing selection of fresh fish, produce, sesame oils, vinegars, srirachas, coconut milks and cooking supplies all at ridiculously affordable prices. We acquired all of the items necessary to create beef and tofu Korean BBQ as well as some of our favorite side dishes.
My job was to toast and grind sesame seeds to a powder. At first they smelled like burnt popcorn and I thought I had toasted them a little too long but, Chanel assured me that they were supposed to smell like that. I then ground them with a mortar and pestle until they were a nice powder. She then added them to a marinade of garlic, pear apple, ginger, rice wine vinegar, sugar, green onion, and soy sauce for the the thinly sliced tenderloin we would later grill on the make-shift bbq.
For our side dishes we sauteed some bean sprouts in a spicy sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Chanel sauteed some enoki mushrooms in sesame oil, and we put together some bowls of kimchee, chilled octopus salad, spicy shredded dried squid, and seaweed salad that we purchased from the deli at the market. We then steamed some rice and put out the plate of lettuce. We completed our meal with an assortment of mochi candies in cute little packages.
The meal was a huge success! More than anything, I am excited to go back to Joong Boo market to puruse the aisles, pick up a Japanese mandolin for slicing vegetables, and sample more items from the deli.