This is the etiquette to remember when eating Korean barbecue

If you go to a Korean barbecue restaurant, you can expect to sit at a table with a built-in grill and cook your own meats, which have been pre-marinated and all ready to grill. You can also expect to be served banchan, a variety of common side dishes meant to be enjoyed with main courses. Side dishes may include seasoned bean sprouts known as kongnamul, spicy pickled cabbage known as baechu kimchi, pickled radish known as danmuji, or different types of edible seaweed.

Overall, it’s an immersive and delicious dining experience. But if you’re new to Korean barbecue, you may have an important question: Are there any etiquette rules you need to know? To find out, Tasting Table spoke with an expert: John Bach, executive chef and founder of Seoul Food KBBQ Catering in Los Angeles. In short, the answer is yes: you need to keep a few etiquette rules in mind. For starters, eating with your hands is unacceptable, for most.

When asked if one could forgo utensils and eat with bare hands, Bach replied: “According to my mother, absolutely not. The reasoning comes down to general Korean culture. Exceptions are ssam vegetables (Korean lettuce wraps) or bone-in ribs. Otherwise, pick up those chopsticks! Bach continued: “Koreans take pride in their etiquette and eating just about anything else with your hands is considered uncivilized. (This is still my mother speaking).” Now that we’ve covered one very important detail, what else do you need to know?

Read more: Regional Barbecue Styles in the United States

Sharing Banchan dishes comes with rules

Range of banchan dishes – Chelsea00/Shutterstock

John Bach acknowledged that non-Koreans may be hesitant to share communal banchan dishes with everyone at the table, but explained that it is an integral part of the experience. He said: “For Koreans, a meal itself is considered an intimate (occasion) shared almost exclusively with close colleagues, friends and family. This intimacy manifests itself when everyone at the table completely agrees to dip all their spoons in the dish. same soup bowl. However, he admits that sharing can easily get “pretty crude” without a few rules.

So there are two key things to keep in mind. First, don’t be picky. Bach said: “Don’t throw away all the banchan or meat with your chopsticks in search of a better piece. Try to touch your chopsticks only with the piece you are going to eat.” Second, keep it clean. Bach explained, “Do not under any circumstances leave a trace of what was on your spoon in the soup or any shared dish that requires the use of your spoon. » This includes grains of rice left in soup or streaks of kimchi on potato salad.

He continued: “Just make sure your spoon is free of debris or stains before you (accidentally) scoop up an entire dish.” Of course, accidents happen – just be sure to scoop up whatever’s left with your spoon. If you need help remembering, Bach has a tip. He concluded: “Remember this Arapaho Native American proverb: “Take only what you need and leave the land (banchan) as you found it. » »

Be proactive and concise when interacting with your server

Korean barbecue table overview

Korean BBQ Table Overview – Phongsak Ketjamrat/Shutterstock

Since guests prepare their own food at the table, interaction with the server is more minimal than you might be used to at other restaurants. In fact, they may not check the table very often. John Bach explained, “Korean restaurants are typically staffed with a minimal staff of waiters who are constantly filling tiny dishes of banchan for multiple tables, so you’ll often see them briskly walking past you without ever checking to see how you’re doing.” , but they will always answer if you ask.”

To get their attention, all you have to do is greet, make eye contact, or politely say “excuse me.” When talking to a server, make sure you take advantage of their attention when you have it. Bach says, “An unspoken etiquette when you have their attention is to try (and) ask them for as many items as you need at one time instead of asking for something new (each time) they come back .

Additionally, there may be a bell at the table intended to attract the waiters’ attention – Bach insists that you shouldn’t feel weird about using the bell. He says: “It’s there so they can be efficient with their service and you can leave a happy customer.” »

Read the original article on the tasting table.

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