Yesterday was my son’s birthday, and in our family that usually means going to our favorite Korean BBQ restaurant for a special meal. Called yakiniku, Korean BBQ is a popular dish with Japanese families, who eat it about as often as Americans will enjoy Chinese or Thai. At the restaurant you order what kind of meat you want — kalbi beef, chicken, pork, plus vegetables — and then everyone fries it up over the fire located in the center of the table, taking pieces off and eating them as they cook. It’s a fun social way for everyone to eat together, but you have to be good with the chopsticks, or someone else will steal the piece of meat you had your eye on. Japanese believe you can tell a lot about a person from their blood type, and it’s not rare for Korean BBQ meals to turn into conversations about this phenomenon, with my wife saying, “Look at the way Peter hoards the pieces of meat near him. That’s standard behavior for a person with B-type blood.”
Of course, the Japanese adapt Korean BBQ to their own tastes somewhat, adding a delicious sauce for dipping the meat in that Koreans don’t use, and when we ask “real” Korean establishments if they have any, they just yell at us about how Korea invented kimchee and not Japan. Also, in Korean BBQ establishments in Korea or the U.S., the meat is usually cooked by a restaurant employee rather than the customers themselves.
Japanese love to eat yakiniku, or Korean BBQ.