A Brief History of Korean Barbecue


During the past decade Korean Barbecue went from being something consumed by Korean immigrants and their descendants exclusively to something that can be found and is beloved in nearly all American cities. Many in America are wondering how and why ‘K-BBQ’ became so popular in recent years and many others are also wondering why this aspect of Korean cuisine has become popular in America of all places. 

I believe that Korean Barbecue has become so popular in America because of the unique experience that the customer has at a Korean restaurant like Seo Ra Beol. Hardly any other restaurants have their customers cook their own food and also order as much of that food as they like. 

Having a communal dinner is a rarity in America due to several reasons but it is undeniable that Americans love being able to eat together in a social environment. Before we can understand why Korean Barbecue became so popular in America, we must first understand the history of Korean Barbecue.

The 1965 immigration act removed restrictions on Asians visiting the United States; the country witnessed an increase in the Korean population. Most Americans were already used to Chinese and Japanese food and decided to be adventurous by trying Korean food.The popularity of Korean street food led to many people becoming curious about what else Korean cuisine had to offer. This growing acceptance of Korean food led to Korean restaurants opening up all over the country serving delicious food to people who might never have experienced Korean food before.

The food found in Korean Barbecue was inevitably going to become popular in the United States, it just had to be discovered first. Americans have a deep love for meat and for trying what is exotic. While a dish named bulgogi might sound unappealing to some, seeing that bulgogi is in fact makes them more comfortable eating it because they know that they can find similarly marinated beef in American cuisine. 

While the flavors of the meat may be exotic, the most foreign aspect of Korean Barbecue is the Banchan. Kimchi (fermented vegetables, most notably cabbage), cheongpomuk (mung bean jelly), and eomukbokkeum (fried fish-cake), are all dishes that overwhelm the senses and keep bringing people back to try again. (Thrillist).


“The Rise of Korean Cuisine.” South Coast Repertory, www.scr.org/get-connected/south-coast-repertorys-stories/south-coast-repertory’s-stories/2019/10/18/the-rise-of-korean-cuisine.