Ordering Galbi (갈비) for the first time

Written by on August 3, 2013 in Lifestyle

Having lunch in Korea with friends or family mostly resembles a small feast and if you are visiting a traditional restaurant in Korea for your first time, it can be overwhelming!
When I’m in Germany and attending university, I mostly grab something to eat with my classmates in the uni cafeteria or just slap a sandwich together when I’m at home. But in Korea, having lunch (or dinner) is an event itself.

When visiting a restaurant in Korea, I’ve made the experience that it is always better to go there in a group (at least two people), especially the amount of delicious side dishes will be easier to finish off if you are not alone.

One of my favorite dishes when I’m out with friends is Galbi (갈비), marinated or raw beef or pork ribs.
Make sure you order correctly, either “so galbi” (소갈비) for beef or “dwaeji galbi” (돼지갈비) for pork!

After placing your order you will get complimentary water and at least three side dishes, usually more.
The amount of the side dishes depend on the restaurant, normally you will get a slightly larger bowl with sauce and leeks, where you can dunk in the meat after grilling it, Kimchi, raw garlic, red hot pepper paste and varieties of lettuce leaves to wrap the meat inside.
And the best?
You can order seconds if you finish the side dishes and you get as much water as you want!
Generally seconds are not being counted into the final bill.

Shortly after the side dishes -feel free to snack on them!- the marinated beef/pork ribs should arrive… together with a pair of scissors!
First time Galbi eaters might get confused about it, but you will need the scissors to cut the meat into dainty pieces after barbecueing them on the embedded table grill.
In some restaurants the waiter or waitress will prepare the meat for you, but I think that the experience of grilling & cutting it by yourself is much more fun, right?
Add the raw garlic onto the grill if you like, dunk the pieces of meat in sauce, wrap it into a lettuce leaf and enjoy!

A tip: ask the waiter/waitress to change the grill wire if the fat from the meat is making it sticky!

About the Author

Dorothea Suh

Dorothea Suh is a PhD student in ethnomusicology and wayfarer. She researches oral traditions of East Asia, loves her violin, Korea and good coffee. You can find her on Twitter as @Novemberbeetle