Korean Barbeque

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Bulgogi, also known as Korean Barbeque, is one of the most fun and delicious aspects of Korean cuisine. Very thin slices of beef are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, rice wine, sugar, and scallions. Then each person cooks the meat on a grill that's often built into the table. It's served with white rice and lots of little side dishes of pickled vegetables such as cucumber and turnip, seaweed, fish and kimchee.
Kimchee is napa cabbage that has been pickled or fermented in a thin, hot, red pepper sauce. It's eaten with nearly every meal. In the fall in many parts of Korea, families buy the cabbage by the cartload, and for several days the women prepare the kimchi that will be used all winter. In the olden days, it was stored in giant pots that were buried in the earth.
The Bulgogii marinade is probably my very favorite meat marinade. You can use it on almost any cut of meat that's appropriate for grilling, and it's quick and easy to prepare, so it's ideal for the summer season. Simply marinate the meat, refrigerated for at least 1/2 hour, and grill or broil when you're ready.
1 pound rib eye steak, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 bunch green onions, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
2. Add the sliced meat, toss to coat thoroughly, and let marinate 1/2 hour in the refrigerator.
3. Cook the beef over a small hibachi, or you can spread the ingredients over a large broiling pan. Broil until brown on one side. Turn with tongs to brown the other side.
4. Serve with rice
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The citizens of north Alabama can rightly brag about our barbeque. Now don't get me wrong, there are numerous underachievers, shortcut takers, and even those who pre-boil their ribs and butts -- a hot place in hell I am sure awaits them. Growing up in Cullman, Alabama, the home of Johnny's Barbeque, and just a bit downwind from the legendary Bob Gibson's in Decatur, I was practically weaned on long- and slow-cooked pork shoulders. The sweet hickory smoke would linger on our clothes on Sundays after stopping by for a few pounds of barbeque, a bucket of barbequed beans, some slaw, and a round of Grapicos, Buffalo Rock ginger ale, or Orange Crush sodas. Johnny's would occasionally catch on fire, the old cement block building so impregnated with pork grease and smoke it would just combust and a whole batch of pork would be sacrificed to the gods of the pit. Tragically they have now moved across the street to a new modern kind of antiseptic-smelling building where the air-freshener mocks my childhood memories, but they still do a respectable job of cooking.
My dad, often working at the Decatur tuberculosis sanitarium, used to swing by Gibson's and invariably bring home a gallon or more of their Brunswick stew, yellow with corn and chicken and chock-full of summer vegetables, and a few halves of barbequed chicken with Gibson's legendary and highly unusual "white sauce." This white sauce was so unconventional it would often spark feuds as to whether it deserved to be on the same table with the more traditional red, sweet, vinegary barbeque sauce. To me it was a no-brainer -- with smoky chicken it was a big winner. Occasionally some of their super-sweet pies, topped with heaps of meringue or sweet whipped cream, would accompany my dad home -- my favorite was the butterscotch.

Closer to home is the fabulous Full Moon Bar-B-Que located here on the south side of town, just up from the housing projects and perfuming our side of town. When you walk in Full Moon, the Malouf brothers are always there with their big handshakes and genuine welcome. Behind the counter, Pat is the field marshal I'd want to lead my troops if ever I had to fight (her troops often sass back at her only to be bullied into flying right). On every inch of the smoky walls are signed photos of Bear Bryant and the glory days of Alabama football. Auburn and UAB, not to mention all the Alabama sports heroes of the last 50 years, have plenty of wall space. But you come to Full Moon for the incredible quality of their barbequed pork -- their shoulders are cooked ever so slowly to a charred crust and meltingly tender well-marbled meat inside. Their ribs have legions of fans, as do their chicken and hamburgers, but I have not yet been able to pass up on the "sliced outside with extra-hot chow-chow."

Now this is as good as a barbeque sandwich gets: mounds of crispy hickory-infused pork with just the right sauce -- not sweet -- and given a nice bite by the nuclear orange spicy "chow-chow" slaw. When I asked one of the Malouf brothers how much meat they put on their sandwich -- was it a third of a pound or some other special weight that gives them their generously proportions? -- he said, "Aww, naw, Frank, we just keep putting meat on till the bread don't touch." Now that's some good barbeque advice!