Korean Barbecue

Galbi, samgyeopsal, moksal — there are so many types of Korean barbecue out there and it can be a little overwhelming for a non-Korean to try to distinguish one from another.  If you’re not a foodie, anyway.  To tell the truth, each cut of meat is delicious in their own right — but in case you’re curious, I went ahead and found out what the difference was.

삼겹살 (samgyeopsal)

This is one of my personal favorites, though it may not suit you if you’re not the biggest fan of salt.  Often likened to super thick strips of bacon, its name literally means ‘three layered flesh’ and it consists of thick, fatty pork belly meat.  Sounds delicious, right?  Well, paired up with soju and some kimchi grilled in the samgyeopsal grease, it’s quite a treat — even if it may not be the healthiest choice.

Special note: there’s also an 오겹살 (ogyeopsal) version — meaning ‘five layered flesh’.  I’m sure you could figure out the difference between the two.

갈비 (galbi)

This is the second most popular barbecue dish.  It consists of short ribs marinated in 간장 (ganjang), which is a Korean soy sauce.  Galbi or 소갈비 (sogalbi) generally refers to beef short ribs, but there’s also 돼지갈비 (dwaeji galbi), which is pork, and 닭갈비 (dalk galbi), which is chicken.  Note that the chicken version, as far as I have experienced, tends to be spicy, though usually you can add cheese to off-set the burn.  It might sound odd, but cheesy dalk galbi is actually quite delicious.

불고기 (bulgogi)

You’re probably familiar with this dish.  Like galbi, it’s marinated in ganjang, but instead of short ribs, these are thin slices of sirloin and other prime cuts of beef.  You can also often a burger version of this dish, though I hear mixed reviews of the ones you find at fast food joints.

목살 (moksal)

The literal meaning of moksal is “neck meat”.  However, this cut of pork is not really from the neck, but more like the upper shoulders near the neck.  It’s not marinated, and is similar to samgyeopsal with regards to taste.

갈매기살 (galmaegisal)

This refers to pork skirt meat, meaning the area between the pig’s liver and midriff.  It’s a heartier cut of meat that apparently resembles beef at least in texture — that is, according to Korea.  Whatever the case, it’s delicious — and a good change-up to the more common galbi and samgyeopsal options.


This is thinly sliced, marbled beef brisket.  It’s not usually marinated, and is a little like a less fatty, beef version of bacon.  It cooks really quickly so if you’re in a rush to eat, it can be a good choice — but it’s not all too filling, so you may want to also order a different cut of meat as well.

등심구이 (deungshim-guui) and 안심구이 (anshim-guui)

Deungshim-guui is sirloin, whereas anshim-guui is tenderloin.  Simply, loins are cuts of meat from the rear back part of the animal — usually used as steak.  Note though, that deungshim-guui and anshim-guui are pork, and not beef.

주물럭 (jumulleok)

Jumulleok is short steak marinated in salt, pepper and sesame oil.  It’s a light marinade and the meat itself is distinguished by its juicy, steak-like texture.

막창 (makchang) and 곱창 (gopchang)

Chang refers to the intestines, and accordingly makchang is a serving of pork or beef large intestines while gopchang consists of small intestines.  While relatively expensive, it’s somewhat of an acquired taste — and while many of my Korean friends love the stuff, I have yet to particularly take a liking to it.  Makchang is high in calcium and also helps quickly break down alcohol so it is a common side dish served with soju.  It is usually pre-boiled or pre-marinated in order to get rid of odd odors and excess fat.  Gopchang, on the other hand, is high in iron content and vitamins — so I suppose you should keep that in mind if you’re feeling anemic.

Now, it goes without saying that this list is not exhaustive.  So to close up, I’ll include a few more vocabulary words that you might find useful while perusing a Korean menu.

  • 오리 (Ori) — Duck
  • 돼지 (Dwaeji) — Pork
  • 소 (So) — Beef
  • 닭 (Dalk) — Chicken

Bon appétit!  Or rather — 맛있게 드세요 (mashikke tuseyo)!

21 thoughts on “Korean Barbecue

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