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Is Korean BBQ Spicy? (Yay or Nay)

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Korean bbq is a popular dish that’s becoming just as trendy among western countries. If you’re interested in trying some original Korean dishes, this one is always a crowd-pleaser.

However, one thing about Korean food is that the cooks usually use hot spices. This may have you wondering if Korean bbq is spicy too?

While there is a slight kick of spice to Korean bbq sauce, it isn’t very spicy. This is why many Koreans recommend Americans who aren’t used to spicy dishes try this meal first. However, there are some Korean bbq meals that do have a more spicy flavor to them.

Are you interested to learn more about what to expect with Korean bbq?

You’re on the right page. Today, we’re going to discuss how spicy Korean bbq is and what you should know before trying this dish.

Keep reading to learn more.

Is Korean BBQ Spicy?

To really answer the question of “is Korean bbq spicy?” we would need to know what you consider spicy. That’s not the only thing that you would need to consider, as the particular food you’re eating with your Korean bbq meal will also determine whether or not it’s spicy.

A traditional Korean bbq rub or bbq sauce will be slightly spicy but have more of a smokey and sweet flavor. Of course, Korean food is spicy, so you can expect nearly any Korean dish you order to have some level of spice to it. 

When making Korean bbq, there will be a choice between different types of marinated meats and non-marinated meats. The majority of these aren’t spicy, but there are sides that are served with Korean bbq that can be spicy.  It’s common to serve Korean bbq with sauces that use chili peppers. However, it’s also important that these sauces have a perfect balance of flavor.

If your tolerance for spicy foods is very low, you may find that some of the spices in the sauce are too hot for you. Luckily, there are some delicious Korean bbq foods that aren’t too spicy. Bulgogi is a very popular sauce served with Korean bbq and it’s not spicy at all. 

What Is Korean BBQ?

Korean BBQ allows people to bring to incorporate the fun of cooking and eating together. When dining out for Korean bbq, there will be a gas or charcoal grill on the tables. If there isn’t one built onto the table, the restaurant will provide a portable bbq stove. These can also be purchased by people who want to make Korean bbq at home.

When you dine out for Korean bbq, it’s typically enjoyed by a group of people. At the table, your company will be served a selection of raw meats and side dishes.

Each person will get to cook their own food while everyone interacts with each other. While Korean bbq is delicious, it’s more about the experience than the food served. 

The meats are always the number one thing that attracts people to Korean bbq, but there are vegetarian options as well. Some of the most popular meats for this meal are pork. beef, and chicken.

However, side dishes are always served in plentiful amounts. The sides will feature a variety of vegetables and rice, but no Korean bbq is complete without kimchi. 

Gochujang is another popular side dish served with Korean bbq, which is a paste made from chili peppers. This side is spicy, so if you have a low tolerance for spices, it is one that you may want to avoid.

While there is no wrong way to eat Korean bbq, one of the most common ways is to put the meat and sides in lettuce and wrap it up. In Korea, this is called a ssam.

What Can I Eat For Korean BBQ That Isn’t Spicy?

Bulgogi is one of the most popular Korean bbq dishes. This is thinly sliced meat in a sweet marinade that includes ingredients like sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger, and more. Most bulgogi is made with pears, however, sweet fruits like pineapple or kiwi can be used as a substitution.  

Jumulleok is a great dish for beef lovers that aren’t used to eating hot spices. This is a short steak that has been marinated in a simple mixture of sesame oil, salt, and pepper. If you dislike beef, jumulleok can also be made with duck meat. 

Galbi is another sweet marinade that’s used for Korean bbq. This is when beef short ribs are marinated in a mixture of brown sugar, onions, soy sauce, mirin, water, and garlic.   

Bibimbap is a great way to try Korean bbq for the first time because you can adjust it to your preference. This involves grilling the meat of choice and then serving it on top of rice with vegetables and an egg. While traditional bibimbap is made with raw egg, modern Korean restaurants serve it with a fried egg.

Is Kimchi Spicy?

It isn’t a Korean bbq unless there’s kimchi. However, if you’re not tolerant of hot and spicy food, you may feel hesitant about trying kimchi. Traditionally, kimchi uses chili flakes, which add heat to the dish. However, there are many different takes on kimchi so you may be able to make one with very minimal spices.

Kimchi is supposed to be a balance of spicy, umami, sour, and sweetened. That being said, if you want to try kimchi and don’t enjoy spicy flavors, there are versions that aren’t spicy at all. Baek kimchi is a great choice for kids and people who can’t handle too much heat in their food. On the other hand, if you love spicy foods, there are also many spicier versions.

Is Korean BBQ Kid-Friendly?

Do you want to introduce your child to more food from different cultures? There are a lot of delicious Korean dishes you may want to try, but they may not be kid-friendly because younger kids can’t stomach spicy foods very well. This is why Korean bbq is one of the best choices for introducing younger children to eating Korean food.

It’s easier to find more choices that they will enjoy and are healthy too. The sauces used in bulgogi and galbi are sweet and savory, which is a popular choice for kids. If there are spicy side dishes, you can almost guarantee there will be a kid-friendly version that you can make which doesn’t have any heat to it. 

Final Thoughts

Is Korean bbq spicy? What people enjoy about Korean bbq is that they can adjust it to their taste preferences. If you enjoy spicy foods, you can have a spicy Korean bbq meal.

However, if you’re feeding children or don’t enjoy spicy foods, you can enjoy Korean bbq without a spicy flavor. There are many options for Korean bbq food.

The center of every Korean bbq is the meat. You can choose between marinated meats and non-marinated meats, to ensure you get what you want.

Bulgogi is one of the most common Korean bbq marinades that doesn’t have a spicy flavor to it. Some of the most popular sides with Korean bbq are kimchi and gochujang. However, both of those sides have some heat to them. 

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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