Summer has officially begun and perhaps some of you took in
Memorial Day Weekend as the launch to your summer grilling. Grilling is not just an American
pastime. Whether you use propane or
charcoal, a hibachi, smoker or rotisserie, grilling is more than a reason for a
party or family gathering, grilling creates a common denominator between many
cultures. Did you know that?
While the economy is still recovering and you may not have
much money tucked away for an international vacation this summer, don’t feel
like you have to actually travel to experience other cultures. If you are planning to do a STAYCATION – why
not do it in your own backyard, the fun way???
Here at We Solved It, we understand what it means to have to
save money and make cutbacks, but in doing so, doesn’t mean you have to do the
same old boring thing with hot dogs and hamburgers in your backyard creating a
humdrum barbecue gathering. Why not
spice things up and do things differently?
Whether looking at Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan or
Medieval cultures – five elements can be found.
And while many of the elements vary from air, sky, space, salt, wood and
metal – there are three elements which are a constant throughout and they are –
water, earth and then there is fire.
Fire is the element of energy and passion within
people. But it is also the key conductor
of energy… heat. It is this heat that
is known as man’s earliest cook top, the barbecue.
In its earliest form, the barbecue was an open fire and the
heating of stones were used as a barbecue grill top. Raw meats were cooked on sticks over the open
flame; vegetables and more delicate meats of fish were cooked wrapped in leaves
and essentially ‘steamed.’
While there are many grilling techniques, the ultimate
objective of grilling is to achieve a ‘searing’ of whatever is grilled so the
moisture content stays within and the outside is ‘sealed’ with caramelization,
browning the outside to achieve both color and flavor. Methods of barbecuing vary from slow-cooking
and braising to smoking and quick grilling.
Culturally, there are many variations of the barbecue and cooking
techniques depend on marinating times and the cuts of meat utilized in
In Mexico whether it’s carne asada over mesquite, fresh
peppers, corn or tortillas – Mexican cuisine is no stranger to the grill. Recado marinades slathered on chicken, pork,
beef or even seafood make everything tasty.
Siu Mei is the Cantonese barbecue method for Chinese
rotisserie which is a wood-burning rotisserie oven, where the barbecue flavors
come directly from the sauces and the slow-cooking. In mainstream culture, we are most familiar
with Cha Siu (barbecued pork), but other ‘Siu’ dishes include barbecued duck
called Siu Ngaap or Siu Ngo which is barbecued goose.
In South America, the skirt steak never skirts a hot flame
when it has the chance to be seared and charred for the most delicious flavor
and topped with a variety of chimichurri condiments.
Bring on the Greek Souvlaki, rotisserie lamb and everything
you can find at a tavern from gyros, to chops bathed in garlic and lemon,
savory sausages and Kontosouvli for something different on your grill in your
Ping is the grilling barbecue method in the Laotian
culture. Most of the Laotian barbecue is
done at a low temperature and meats are well-seasoned with soy sauce, lots of
garlic, cilantro and ginger but the barbecue method is opposite of American
culture. Instead of a ‘sear’ to make meat juicy, it is to ‘dry out’ the meat
for easier and less-messy consumption by hand.
Dishes include barbecued fish (Ping Pa), chicken (Ping Gai) and beef
Inihaw is the Filipino barbecue method. Grilling includes
the gambit of beef and chicken to mussels (Tahong) and milk fish (Bangus),
which is put in foil and grilled over hot coals. In the Philippines, the traditional pork
“Lechon” is a pig which is grilled over a spit, similarly done like the Kalua
pig in Hawaii. Filipino barbecue sauce
traditionally has crushed garlic and onion in it.
Hibachi is the Japanese barbecue method utilizing a charcoal
or gas flame with open grills and is the most like the traditional American
barbecue grill we use in mainstream culture, only much smaller. Originally, Hibachis were designed in China
as space heaters inside homes and were not designed initially for cooking, but
they do not look like the hibachi grills we know today. They started off as a clay-lined, heatproof
container with coals. Japanese refer to
these as Shichirin.
Mongolian barbecue (Chinese) and Japanese Teppanyaki have a lot in common. This cooking method
involves grilling meats and vegetables on an iron griddle. While the two
cultures have grills varying in size, the method of cooking is fast and furious
for a quick sear on meats and a caramelization of the vegetables. The flat griddle design makes grilling more
similar to wok style cooking in that there are no grates for smaller pieces of
food to fall through.
Yakiniku is the Japanese grilling method of barbecue
incorporating wood charcoals and an open flame.
But it is often associated with Korean barbecuing. The style of cooking is all about cooking in
front of people similar to the traditional Japanese cooking style of sukiyaki,
teppanyaki or Mongolian barbecue, where meat and vegetables are brought to the
table to cook. The meat is often
marinated in sake, sugar, soy sauce and garlic.
The meat is bite sized, rather than a big roast thrown onto a flame or
Yakitori refers only to skewered grilled chicken, not ‘red
meat’ like Yakiniku. It is also bite sized like the Yakiniku, but it is grilled
on grates over charcoal.
Bulgogi is meat that is cooked over an open flame and is a
term used in Korean barbecue. This meat
is marinated in sugar, soy sauce, garlic and sesame and is usually meat
selected from prime cuts, like beef sirloin cut into pieces. Galbi is often mistaken for Korean style
barbecuing as a style or method, but this refers more to an actual dish in
Galbi is a short-rib –
in both Japanese and Korean cuisine, using soy sauce, garlic and sugar.
Whether you are smoking your meats slowly in the tradition
of Spanish and Native American culture with wood or charcoal; baking in an
old-fashioned barbecue pit with hot coals and utilizing the ‘baking’ method of
barbecue like the Romans or grilling quickly like the British – grilling
requires patience, skill, artistry and consciousness of time.
Barbecuing is about the celebration of a meal shared amongst
a group of people. It doesn’t matter
whether you are inside of a restaurant gathered around a table where your meal
is cooked right in front of you; or if you are outside enjoying the great
outdoors and nature – the experience of a barbecue is meant to be shared and
enjoyed. It’s a good time to reflect on
gratitude, where your food comes from, the time and care it takes for food
preparation in cutting, seasoning, marinating, cooking right down to the
plating and savoring of a meal.
Every culture embraces fire and the energy that fire
conducts to produce heat to cook food.
And as fire is ignited to create the energy to fuel such harmonious
celebrations of food and good times for people, it is also a moment to reflect
upon the power of the flame to bring cultures of people together.
Grill up fun times around the world right in your own
backyard for yourself and enjoy the art of barbecuing.
~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It
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