Korean BBQ connoisseurs: Please feel free to bypass this post. I am not one of you, and I will be the first to admit that.
That doesn't mean I don't absolutely love Korean food. I SO do. I just needed a little instruction from the server when she set down 4286-or-so dishes on the table at Shik Do Rak Korean BBQ in Irvine.
I have to give myself a little more credit. No, this was not the first time I've had Korean BBQ. I already knew those little plates (see above) were various side dishes you eat prior to or alongside the BBQ, called banchan -- kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), fish cake, seaweed salad, pickled cucumbers, spicy pickled daikon, pickled bean sprouts, etc. Oh, and more pickled things.
But there were other components to the meal that required a step-by-step tutorial. In the past, my family and I would just eat the BBQ meats with steamed rice and ignore these. We are rice eaters and that's how we do. But I wanted to find out what the heck these other things were, finally.
So now, I'll share what I learned from the very patient server:
The lettuce mix. At other Korean BBQ places, you might see a bowl of pajori instead -- a green onion/green garlic salad. But I like the way they do it at Shik Do Rak.
Pickled daikon radish sliced super thin. It's cool and slightly vinegary, and it doesn't overwhelm -- it enhances. Other places might offer leaves of bibb lettuce.
Rice flour sheets/rice paper. But it's not like paper at all. The texture is closer to a wonton wrapper.
The meat. In this case, it is unmarinated deckle, aka chadol baki, aka thinly sliced brisket. There's also short rib, sliced pork belly, and various marinated meats like bulgogi.
Deckle sounds like the name of a Pokémon character.
Here's where the fun begins.
Get the meat going on the grill.
Note that deckle will cook quickly because it's sliced so thin.
Here's what you do with all those components I just laid out.
Step 1: Take one slice of daikon and put it on your plate, and pile on a little of the lettuce mix.
Step 2: Take one of the rice sheets and lay it on top of the lettuce. I like stacking it in this order because the rice paper weighs down the lettuce a bit and makes it less likely to fall apart on you when you try to pick it up later.
Step 3: Grab a piece of meat from the grill. These two standard condiments are usually offered: a spicy chili paste and sesame oil that's got a bit of salt and pepper in it. They're dip-friendly ways to season your meats. So dip as you please.
Step 4: Take your meat and place it on top of the nice little stack you've got goin'. Almost done!
Step 5: Pick it all up, pinching two ends of the daikon together and folding it up like a taco. If you are adept, you can use your chopsticks for this, or you can be like me and say "f-you chopsticks!" in frustration and hunger and just grab the damn thing with your fingers.
Yeeesssh. Come to me...
Needless to say -- Step 6: EAT and repEAT.
You still get steamed rice, but it comes toward the end of your meal, to fill up your belly the rest of the way if it's needed. It does not come at the beginning WITH the meats, though my family usually demands this.
But I so much prefer eating it the other (REAL) way now. When I think about all those times I ignored this method, I am just shocked at myself. And appalled.
Oh, and as if there wasn't already enough going on, they also give you a boiling hot bean curd/miso soup at the end.
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Shik Do Rak
14775 Jeffrey Rd.
P.S. My party and I ordered a combination meal at Shik Do Rak -- there are other things on the menu that may not require so much instruction. Also, Wikipedia's entry on Korean barbecue really helped me with the Korean spelling in this post!