6 (Tue) April 2010
Yeontan-Grilled Pork Galbi
-Sindang, Jung, Seoul, Korea-
Another method for cooking galbi is the yeontan (연탄). It’s a cylindrical charcoal briquette with roughly the diameter of a paper towel roll though not quite as tall. In Korea, prior to the proliferation of apartment buildings and gas heating systems during the 1970s, yeontan was mass produced on a national scale and served as the primary if not exclusive source of heat for most homes throughout the country. I can remember a time when my grandmother would place a few lit yeontan under the floorboards when it got cold, actually quite nice for folks who sleep on the floor, as we all did back then. Yeontan is still used in homes, in lower income neighborhoods, that haven’t been retrofitted with gas pipes. It’s also used in some restaurants to cook meat the “old fashioned” way. These places are usually somewhat grungy, intentionally in some cases, to enhance the nostalgia of a time when things were a bit more rough, not so clean and comfortable. Although some diners swear that galbi is best when cooked over yeontan, I suspect that the carbon monoxide has warped their senses. If anything, I’ve found that the cheaply manufactured charcoal has a distinct bitter odor, which is imparted onto the meat. But maybe some people like that.
Anyway, this place was pretty good, yeontan notwithstanding.