At the very core of Korean culture is the concept of jeong. While there is no word in English that fully captures the weight of this simple yet significant word, its essence can be roughly translated into deep love, affection, and attachment. It is common for Koreans to express their jeong through the act of making, serving, and sharing food – particularly through Korean barbecue.In this article, I will be giving an insider's look at an intimate home-cooked Korean barbecue feast that my roommate's parents lovingly prepared for a pack of hungry college students – all as their way of encouraging us during midterm season.
Samgyeopsal, one of the most popular Korean barbecue dishes, was arguably the shining star of the feast.
Thick slices of marbled, fatty pork belly were seasoned with salt and pepper, then liberally grilled over an open fire.
As for side dishes, miniature jeon (fish pancakes) were served. These savory bites are essentially fish and vegetables coated with egg batter, lightly pan-fried in oil until the outside slightly crusts to a golden brown.
They were perfectly complemented by heaping spoonfuls of piping hot rice, a staple for Korean households and especially feasts.
Another side dish was tteokbokki, soft rice and fish cakes stir-fried with gochujang, a sweet and spicy red chili sauce.
Of course, no Korean-American barbecue feast could be complete without a big pot of kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), and that's exactly what my roommate's mother generously prepared from scratch.
Aloe vera drinks
To quell our tongues from all the spiciness overload, my roommate's parents also thoughtfully brought mango- and kiwi-flavored aloe vera drinks.
Korean persimmons and grapes
As for dessert, two types of Korean fruit were served – persimmons and grapes. Korean persimmons are mildly sweet and have a hard flesh, while Korean grapes have a slimy and saccharinely flesh. These were the perfect ending notes to a feast of spicy and savory goodness.
All in all, this Korean barbecue feast was truly the ultimate gesture of jeong, and succeeded in charging and fueling us to face our midterms victoriously.