A few nights ago I suddenly had a craving for Korean barbecue pork belly (samgyeopsal) after watching an episode of Korean drama. Considering that I am currently undergoing a low-carb diet in order to lose a couple of kilograms, watching Korean drama is a bad idea because they love to display these characters having a meal together and I would just salivate heavily in front of the screen.
In fact, when I think about it now I can consider myself as an avid fan of Korean food and it’s all thanks to Korean dramas. Thanks to these dramas I learnt a lot about Korean food and how to best enjoy them, and also a few great etiquettes to be aware of on how to properly have meals with elders.
There are some side effects from watching too many of them though. For starter I used to be so addicted to Korean dramas a few years ago I found myself watching an episode at around 3 am in the morning even though I had to go to work the next day. After a while I realised that it was not healthy at all because I wasted a lot of my free time just watching too many dramas and not having a life, so now I kind of restrict myself to just watch one per month.
I knew that I wasn’t supposed to eat samgyeopsal at the moment because pork belly has a lot of saturated fat and it’s a big no no for anyone undergoing a healthy diet program. However it was hard for me to ignore the craving so I got creative. I switched to grilled king oyster mushrooms instead of grilled pork belly.
King oyster mushroom is a type of Asian mushrooms that is much larger in size than its siblings and can normally be found in Asian groceries. I love all kinds of mushrooms but I think king oyster mushrooms would be the perfect substitute for pork belly because of their springy and meaty texture – they are really juicy when grilled the right way and I love them in sukiyaki as well. Unlike shiitake mushroom that has more umami profile, king oyster mushrooms don’t naturally have much flavour in the flesh so they are perfect to be marinated or mixed with sauces.
The trick to make these grilled king oyster mushrooms taste great and juicy is to marinate them with sauces or coat them generously with sesame oil to infuse the flavour and keep the moisture in before grilling them on high heat. I love to wrap them with lettuce leaves and mixing them with kimchi and Korean dipping sauce ssamjang but other Korean banchan would be great too.
So here you go, my version of Korean barbecue which is healthier and lower in calories. Not to mention these grilled Korean king oyster mushrooms are vegetarian friendly so if you are having a Korean barbecue party and are told that someone in the party is a vegetarian, these king oyster mushrooms would save the day.
- 4 large king oyster mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 head of romaine lettuce leaves
- korean spicy dipping sauce (ssamjang)
- 4 tbsp sesame oil
- fermented kimchi
- thinly sliced garlic (optional)
- thinly sliced green chillies (optional)
- Place king oyster mushrooms in a large mixing bowl and coat mushrooms with sesame oil evenly.
- Put a grill pan on a burner over high heat and grill mushrooms for 3 minutes each side or until the grill marks appear. Serve immediately.
- To eat, place 2 slices of oyster mushrooms into a lettuce wrap. Top with kimchi, spicy dipping sauce, garlic and green chillies and put the whole wrap in your mouth. You can also grill the garlic and green chillies if preferred.