With culinary fads like the carrot hot dog or whatever bacon-wrapped fill-in-the-blank coming and going, it becomes apparent that when it comes to food, simplicity transcends time.
While cauliflower masquerading as a buffalo wing might be tolerable for a bit, the unbeatable combination of cooked meat and rice is hard to pass.
For more than two thousand years, withstanding the test of time, people throughout the Korean Peninsula have been preparing the meat of livestock over fire, served alongside a bed of steaming rice.
As high-end Asian barbecue chains like Gyukaku emerge across the globe, one West Valley City establishment called Myung Ga surfaces as a great option for Korean barbecue.
Upon being seated, the server brought out a series of small side dishes meant to prime the palette. Those dishes consisted of spicy pickled cucumbers, kimchi, bean sprouts, sesame seasoned broccoli and sweet soy sauce-soaked potatoes, all touching on an array of flavors from sweet, spicy and sour, to umami.
Leisurely sipping a chilled Asahi beer, the orders for one bulgogi (the direct translation is “fire meat”) and bibimbap (“mixed rice”) were in.
Within minutes, the smell of onions, cooked beef and the caramelized marinade wandered over to our table, a figurative train whistle before our next stop at flavor town. After a few minutes, both dishes appeared, served on scalding-hot stone dishes with a trail of steam following the server.
The bulgogi consisted of thin slices of beef marinated in soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil, and it came served atop a pile of sliced white onions with a steaming bowl of sticky, short-grain rice on the side.
Placing a few strips of beef on the bowl of rice, I dug in.
The savory marinade from the beef, balanced out by the starchy “canvas” of white rice, was virtually impossible to pull away from. I ordered two more bowls of rice.
Meanwhile, the bibimbap, served in a dolsot (a stone bowl that retains heat), was a hearty mix of filling flavors. The bibimbap was a more complete iteration of the bulgogi as it came with a bed of steamed rice topped with sliced beef, sautéed vegetables, chili sauce and a fried egg.
However, the two dishes truly differ in the use of a dolsot. The dolsot, continuing to cook the rice as its contents are being eaten, also enhances the white rice’s adherent qualities while cooking the rice at the very bottom of the bowl to a golden crisp.
With plates and dolsots completely cleared, beers empty and stomachs full, it was time to settle the bill.
For two full-sized dishes, two soups, two beers and side dishes, a visit to most Korean barbecue spots would easily exceed $60. While it still isn’t exactly cheap, Myung Ga charged a total of around $40 excluding gratuities. A justifiable price, in my opinion.
If you’re looking to try something new or happen to be on the hunt for Korean barbecue, check out Myung Ga at 3353 S Decker Lake Drive in West Valley City.