What is Samgyeopsal? | Bokksu Market

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What is Samgyeopsal? Learn About this Korean Delicacy

by Krystina Quintana

One of the most popular dishes in Korea also happens to include the most expensive meat cut in the country. This dish, also known as samgyeopsal, is a delicious pork belly dish. This Korean barbeque pork belly is so prevalent in South Korea that it's said it is eaten about once every four days by the country's residents.

Below, you'll find out what makes this dish so popular and how you can enjoy it at home!

What is Samgyeopsal-gui?

Samgyeopsal translates to three-layered pork. This Korean barbecue meat appears to have three layers of fat and meat, hence its name. Also known as pork belly in Korean, this delicious meat is typically grilled (aka "gui"). By itself, Korean samgyeopsal has a plain, savory flavor. Because of this, it’s served with "Korean BBQ dipping sauces" for a punch of flavor.

When you bite into a piece of Korean grill pork belly, you can expect a juicy, decadent, uber-tender piece of meat that seems to dissolve in your mouth. Paired with a Korean BBQ dipping sauce, you're in for a real treat!

Samgyeopsal pork belly in a lettuce wrap

Types of Samgyeopsal

There are a few different types of samgyeopsal that you can order at a Korean BBQ restaurant; below is a quick guide for the next time you head to this type of restaurant.

Samgyeopsal-gui

This type of samgyeopsal is the typical style you'll see on the menu. This grilled samgyeopsal (Korean food) is made plain or with a small amount of salt. You'll find the cooking method the same as jjukkumi samgyeopsal (grilled octopus). However, there’s one main difference between the two dishes. Samgyeopsal does not traditionally have any spices or seasoning on it. In comparison, jjukkumi samgyeopsal is marinated in a spicy sauce.

Here are a few additional types of Samgyeopsal:

Spicy Samgyupsal

Also known as samgyupsal, this spicy version of the dish is typically made with gochujang (spicy Korean chili paste) and sugar. It offers the perfect balance of sweet and fiery.

Non-Spicy Samgyupsal

While samgyeopsal (also known as samgyupsal) is typically served without seasoning, newer twists on the dish include a samgyeopsal marinade with sauces and spices. Non-spicy versions can be marinated in curry, ginseng, garlic, wine, etc.

Korean Barbecue Pork Belly Recipe

Purchased some Korean pork belly and want to recreate samgyeopsal at home? This quick samgyeopsal recipe will help you make a homemade version of this mouthwatering dish. Here’s how to make samgyeopsal at home.

Samgyeopsal Ingredients

The first step in learning how to grill Korean pork belly is gathering the ingredients. You’ll need the following:

  • Pork belly
  • Ssamjang (spicy dipping sauce)
  • Samgyeopsal side dishes (lettuce, kimchi, etc.)
  • How to Make Samgyeopsal

    Start with the pork belly and thinly slice it. Then, add it to a charcoal grill and cook for a minute or two on each side (until cooked through).

    Next, it’s time to create the ssamjang sauce. This dipping sauce offers the perfect bit of heat and spiciness for samgyeopsal. It’s typically made by combining doenjang (thick fermented soybean paste), gochujang, fresh garlic, onions, sesame oil, and honey (or sugar). Combine the ingredients, and your dipping sauce is ready to go!

    This recipe is so easy; you can make it in only a few minutes! Grab the above ingredients to try making it on your grill!

    How to Make Samgyeopsal Non-spicy?

    If you prefer a less spicy flavor, you can use less gochujang. Or, skip the gochujang and you’ll have a delicious, non-spicy sauce. If you’re leaving out the gochujang, you may want to include more herbs and seasonings for a flavorful dish.

    How to Eat Grilled Pork Belly

    You can’t have samgyeopsal without including side dishes. Samgyeopsal is typically served with simple side dishes. When visiting a restaurant, you can expect samgyeopsal side dishes to consist of lettuce, raw garlic, kimchi, and sliced green onions.

    Samgyeopsal pork belly with assorted banchan

    Prepare these side dishes beforehand, so you can focus on grilling samgyeopsal. The meat is typically sliced reasonably thinly, so it cooks quickly. You won't want to take your attention off the grilling process for too long.

    Tips For Preparing Samgyeopsal

    These tips will help you create the tastiest Korean BBQ dish at home!

  • Slice your samgyeopsal to ¼” before cooking it. Or, see if the butcher can slice it for you at the supermarket. 
  • If you’re slicing the pork belly at home, freeze it for an hour beforehand. This allows you to cut the pork belly much easier. 
  • Preheat your grill to 400F before adding the samgyeopsal; this ensures the meat cooks evenly. 
  • As you’re cooking, be sure to rotate the pork belly often.
  • Do’s + Don’ts

  • Don't marinate the meat for longer than 48 hours, as it can start breaking the meat down.
  • Do choose a marinade that you enjoy. Taste the marinade before adding the meat to you like it. 
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors when creating a marinade. 
  • Don’t cut off the fat from the pork belly – it helps create flavor and keep the meat moist while cooking!
  • Do use a charcoal grill, if possible, as it will add a delicious smoky flavor.
  • Extra Ingredients for Flavor

    Here are a few additional ingredients to provide more flavor to your dish! You can include these ingredients in the marinade or dipping sauce.

  • Fresh garlic
  • Ganjang Korean Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Grated ginger
  • Curry powder
  • Sliced green chili peppers
  • Still on the hunt for more Korean sauces to help make your homemade samgyeopsal flavorful? Check out Bokksu, an online Asian marketplace. You’ll also find noodles that pair well with samgyupsal and snacks to tide you over until your Korean BBQ is ready to eat.


    Author Bio

    Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.
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