Korean food isn't just frickin' delicious, it's also heaps of fun to eat. There's nothing like getting a group of friends together at a Korean joint and ordering a whole bunch of the stuff off the menu to share. You might not recognise everything that gets laid out on the table in front of you, but half the fun is identifying all the side dishes and picking your favourites.
One major perk to this cuisine is that there are enough choices to keep everyone happy. If you're health conscious, there are oodles of tasty soups and vegetable options that you can scoff without feeling guilty, but if guilty is what you're after there are plenty of shamelessly debauched dishes as well. In the same way, spice lovers will find there is no real upper limit to the amount of zing in some Korean meals, but those who are not into the whole sweaty euphoria-pain thing are covered as well.
Here are some of the basics you will find on just about every Korean menu to get you started on your journey of discovery:
Kimchi: This spicy pickled vegetable dish is ubiquitous in Korean food. It is served as a side dish, but also added to other recipes to give them more kick.
Mandu: Korean dumplings are up there with the best in Asian cuisine.
Bi Bim Bab: A classic dish and one of the most popular in Korean food. Basically, it's steamed rice with a whole mess of ingredients (of your choice) mixed in, usually topped with a fried egg.
Chiggae: There are too many soups to pick out one in particular, but common themes are intense flavours, spiciness and tofu.
BBQ: As I fall into the shamelessly debauched category mentioned above, this is my favourite part of Korean food. You order whichever type of meat you prefer then get to cook it up on a hot plate in the middle of your table. Cut the meat up with the scissors, flip it with the tongs, then put it on a piece of lettuce with a few bits of kimchi, rice, garlic and whatever other side dishes you want. Wrap it into a ball then gobble the lot. Wash down with a shot of Soju. Repeat. (Warning: Things will get messy.)
Some varieties of meat you'll find on the BBQ:
Bulgogi: Marinated pork. Amazingly flavoursome.
Sam Kyop Sal: A cut of pork with the fat left on. A kind of uber-bacon.
Galbi: Beef short ribs. Tender and, again, amazing.
Now that's you've got the key dishes sorted, here are a handful of Brisbane's best Korean restaurants to order them in:
Maru | City
Not the cheapest Korean joint around (though it works out okay if you've got a group of people), but if you want the full BBQ experience, these guys do the whole kit and caboodle, and they do it well. Order one of the meat combos, making sure to ask for the side dishes, and some lettuce (it costs $5 for the lettuce bowl, but it's just not the same without it) and a bottle of Soju. It's sensational.
Where: 157 Elizabeth St.
Phone: (07) 3012 9912
Tobaki | Sunnybank
All-you-can-eat for $25. What more do you need to know? This is no-frills Korean at its best.
Where: u8/158 Gowan Rd
Phone: (07) 3345 9994
Hong Depot | West End
A fun and easy option in the heart of West End, Hong Depot uses quality ingredients and has a nice range of choices. Their BBQ is tasty, and can be cooked on your own table, but you won't get the entire array of extras with the meat so it's not quite the full experience. These guys are experts at Bi Bim Bap, though, and have a wide range of that dish on the menu.
Where: 193 Melbourne St.
Phone: (07) 3846 1443
Madtongsan II | City
There are a whole host of Korean restaurants along Elizabeth Street and, like Maru, Madtongsan II (Madtongsan I is just around the corner, but a bit smaller, and Madtongsan III is in Eight Mile Plains) offers up an authentic experience. Be prepared to line up for a table, but it's worth it.
Where: 85 Elizabeth St.
Phone: (07) 3003 1881
Image credit: Pinterest