Korea is famous for not only K-pop but also K-food, especially pork belly or Samgyeopsal. It is one of the common dinner menus among Koreans. Usually, after school or work, groups of people gather to go to a barbeque place and have dinner paired with soju or beer. Pork belly barbeque guarantees people a good time.
In LA, NYC or metropolitan cities near Korean neighborhoods have K-barbeque restaurants of all-you-can-eat Korean barbeque. Each customer pays a certain amount of money to enjoy all-you-can-eat Korean-style barbeque. Depending on the course, customers can taste a various range of meat such as pork, beef, and chicken. In K-Drama, barbequing is one of the most frequent scenes. How Samgyopsal became a favorite food of Koreans? What is history does it carry and in what ways we can enjoy Samgyopsal more?
Samgyeopsal is composed of three layers of pork fat and meat (refer to the image above). The term was originally coined as Segyeopsal which means three layers of meat. In fact, “Sam” and “Se” both mean three in Korean.
Beef was relatively more preferred than pork until the Korean government actively carried out pork consumption promotion policies in the early 1980s. In addition, as refrigerators commercialized at the same time, pork became more popular since it was cheaper and easier to store in the fridge than beef. Later, the term of Samgyeopsal was registered as a standard word on the official dictionary in 1994 to imply meat near pork ribs. Going through the 1998 foreign exchange crisis, Samgyeopsal turned into a widespread dinner menu after school and work for Koreans mainly because of its affordable price.
Another theory comes from Japan’s pork consumption. After the Second World War, pork consumption in Japan skyrocketed as more people ate pork cutlets than before. Japan wanted to find appropriate places for pig farms outside of the country because pig farm brings negative impacts to near areas. As a result, Japan decided to designate some portions of Korea’s territory pig farms and fulfill the pork demand. Pork Sirloin or Pork Tenderloin was the only parts Japan needed, so other parts with the fat of pork were consumed by Koreans. Now, the part is the famous food to try out among foreigners who love Korea.
Today, in Korea, there are high-end Samgyeopsal restaurants that can satisfy people with fastidious tastes as well. Pork Omakase, which is a course comprised of chef’s favorites, is a rising star among other expensive and fancy restaurants. For example, there are more than 20 restaurants serving Pork Omakase in Korea.
My personal favorite way to enjoy Samgyeopsal is to wrap a piece of pork belly with marinated Siberian onion or “Myeonginamul”. It gives a sweet and sour flavor and adds a bit of soft texture while the meat is chewy and juicy. The combination of a piece of pork belly wrapped in a Siberian onion can be more delicious when they are dipped into bean flour. It might sound unfamiliar, but this is definitely the best way to enjoy fried pork belly!