Korean Spirits: What to Drink at Korean BBQ
Recently, I met up with other IFWTWA (International Food, Wine & Writers Association) members at Star King BBQ in Los Angeles. Luckily, living in L.A., there are many delicious Korean BBQs to choose from, but we decided to meet here because of their unique beef. And I’m glad we did, as it’s the only Korean BBQ to serve Piedmontese beef (cattle originally from Piedmont, Italy, raised naturally in the Midwest, offering an incredible quality of meat).
Here’s a quick go-to guide when you’re deciding what Korean spirits to try next time you find yourself at a Korean restaurant or even in South Korean itself:
Soju is the most widely known of Korean spirits in the U.S. Most brands of soju are made in South Korea. It is traditionally made from rice, wheat, barley. Therefore, it’s a gluten free, a great alternative to vodka for wheat intolerants. Chum-Churum is made of alkali water and tastes better if you shake it (as demonstrated in this sexy Korean commercial), served chilled in a little glass, similar to a saki glass, except with a wider mouth. The two most popular brands of soju in Korea are Chamisul and Chum-Churum.
Korean Rice Sake
Makkoli is an unfiltered rice wine, like the Japanese Nigori sake, and looks milky white in the glass. (But unlike sake it only reaches 6% to 7% alcohol by volume.) Makkoli was originally popular only among farmers in Korea, earning it the nickname nongju — which translates as “farmer’s liquor.” Makkoli is often served in a soup bowl. Kooksoondang Makkoli is readily available at most Korean BBQ restaurants. You can either shake until it’s cloudy or let the sediment settle and just serve the clear portion. Since rice is it’s key ingredient, it’s a wonderful pairing with Korean food as it mutes the spiciness.
Bokbunja ju is a Korean fruit wine made Korean black raspberries called bokbunja. It tastes similar to a fruit liqueur or a port. I like it as an after dinner drink but I can see drinking it during the meal as the sweetness offsets the sour/spice of the meal. Produced by the same distillery as Kooksoondang, Myung jak Bok Bun-ja is a popular brand found at many Korean BBQs.
Star King BBQ, 3807 Wilshire Blvd #120, Los Angeles, CA 90010
The meal was hosted by Star King BBQ, opinions are my own.