Thursday, May 30, 2013
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 barbecue.

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 backyard. 

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 (Ping Sin).

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 grill. 

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 Korean barbecue.  
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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