Every now and again, we have a bunch of people over for Korean barbecue. By now, I think that everyone we know has been over at least once for the spectacle (if you haven’t, it is either because of a simple oversight, a lack of contact information, or I think that I have likely offended you in some way at some point and I am afraid to talk to you). My wife (who is Korean) is in charge of the event since, well, she is Korean. I will probably get in trouble for this, but when Korean women (that I know) cook, they generally do not want to see the men (that I know) anywhere near the kitchen until it is time for the grilling–then the men take over. I do have a limited sample size of just a few families, but this has been the case 100% of the time. (It could be the particular women and men involved, but that would get me in even more trouble if I suggested that. So let’s just go with the original hypothesis, shall we?)
My wife is no exception. When there is anything but Korean food on the menu, she has no problem letting me
help cook the whole thing. When it involves kimchi, though, it is clear that I need to get scarce, and quick, until it was time to start grilling–then I better be there right away and not a second later. Korean cooking therefore is all about timing. I have been wondering what would happen if I tried to cook something from Momofuko…. Maybe after our boys leave for college (they are 9 and 3 now) I’ll go there, but not now. This night was no different. As my wife sliced, diced, marinated, and pickled, I had one job: make sure the boys did not beat the crap out of each other and don’t go anywhere near the kitchen.
We always invite over a bunch of people (usually 6-10) since I think it is a cosmic law that Korean BBQ can not be made for less than 47 people. Luckily, we are never short of volunteers, although this night we had several last minute cancellations. We scrambled to fill the open slots and somehow ended up with more pals than we had initially.
As a self proclaimed “Wine Guy” I must admit that Korean cuisine has me flummoxed. There is a lot of beef, a lot of sugar, and a lot of heat. There is little doubt in my mind that sparkling wine is one of the better pairings, but I am always looking for a good still wine to do the job. My father-in-law likes big reds along side his bulgogi, so I went that route tonight. Not perfect, but even after more than a decade of Korean food exposure, I am not willing to go the beer route. That would be giving up and well, I have an issue with that (despite my affinity for everything French).
The evening started with my wife’s Haemul Pajeon (Korean Seafood Pancakes–sorry no pictures) and a couple of bottles of our ‘house’ sparking wine. I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of Argyle and it all starts with the Brut.
2006 Argyle Brut: Retail ~$20-25. I paid ~$13. These were some of the last few bottles of the 2006 and they are still rocking (one of these days I am going to hold on to a bottle of Argyle for a decade or so to see how it does). I drink a lot of sparkling wine and this is one of the better domestic efforts out there. Lots of green apple and a hint of citrus, this is a fantastic pairing for anything Asian, particularly my wife’s seafood pancakes. Very Good. 88 points.
Near the end of the sparkling, one of our guests broke out a domestic Gewürztraminer that was just fantastic. Not wanting to gorge my self on the pajoen (well actually I did, but that would leave little room for the galbi) I took a glass of this out with me to grill. Again, based on experience, it seems grilling is best done with a drink in hand. Not sure how many times it is a gewurz, though.
2009 Husch T-Bud Dry Cuvée Gewürztraminer: Retail ~$17. I just looked up the retail price of this wine and I was surprised. It tastes like a wine that could perhaps garner a bit more. On the nose, a bunch of citrus and the characteristic lychee that I associate with gewurz. On the palate, very well balanced with a ton of acidity—this would have done quite well with the pajeon. Very Good to Excellent. 89-90 points.
With such a big crowd, the gewurz did not last long and people inside were still ripping into the pajeon that my wife kept making, anticipating the additional 37 people were going to show up any time. Since this was not my first Korean Barbecue rodeo, I had a bottle of German riesling in the fridge as a backup.
2007 Rudolf Müller Riesling Spätlese: Retail ~$15. I paid $10. This is by no means a blockbuster of a spätlese, it is more of an every day kind of drinker. Nonetheless, I find that basic German wines go well with Korean food. I have never tried a more sophisticated (read expensive) version since I fear that the subtlety that comes along with the elevated status would be lost among the spice. This wine had some nice basic flavors and a bit of sugar that helps cool the spice. Good to Very Good. 86 points.
It took a while, but I finally finished with the grilling–it is tough cooking for 47 people. In addition to the spare ribs from about 7 cows, my wife decided there might not be enough food, so she also made half of a rather large sized sow’s worth of spicy pork—she told me the Korean word I think, but I have no stinking clue what it is—but I do know it had a healthy dose of Gochujang (the spicy Korean red pepper paste). Here are a couple of hastily taken pictures of our labor:
As I mentioned, we were going to try and pair bigger reds with the barbecue and, well, it was not a horrible idea. Still not perfect, but no need to capitulate just yet…
2005 Point Concepcion Cuvee Jalama Syrah: Retail ~$20. I paid $8.99 + Tax. This was one of those deals from the PLCB that make you scratch your head, but don’t stop you from taking advantage. This is really a very nice wine that goes wonderfully with food. It is not a blockbuster like the DuMOL, but it could stand alone if need be. Nice muted berries on the nose with just a hint of leather. It is wonderfully balanced with enough acidity to handle itself against the barrage of flavors in the galbi. Against the spicy pork, though, it was a bit over-matched. Very Good. 88 points.
2003 DuMOL Russian River Syrah: Retail ~$55. I paid $27 at an online auction. I just recently jumped on the DuMOL bandwagon, and it might be a while before I jump off. The last time we were in Sonoma, we were fortunate enough to have a tour of their winemaking facility and taste through several barrels. While I am normally not drawn to the bigger style of wine, I think that DuMOL does a fabulous job. This was no exception. Even though it was pushing 10 years old, this wine was still big and bright with tons of raspberry and blackberry. On the palate, it was rich and unctuous, almost syrupy. The flavors coated the mouth and made you beg for more. Long finish. Perhaps not a great match with the Korean fare, but it definitely held its own. Excellent. 91 points.
2009 Matrix Petite Syrah Bacigalupi: This was brought over by one of our friends and I was quite surprised. Most of the petite syrahs I have had in the past have been rather austere and tannic. Not this one. This was big and fruity from the get-go, with darker fruit than the DuMOL (if that is possible). A very nice wine, but lacked a bit of acidity which did not help it against the Korean spice onslaught. Medium finish. Very Good. 88 points.
So there you have it, just another Korean Barbecue at the Drunken Cyclist’s humble abode. If you have not been invited, but feel you should have been, please let me know. We have never run out of food when we cook Korean….