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Seoul Food

Discover the lighter side of Korean barbecue.  

If the words “Korean barbecue” conjure up images of meaty meals with 10 of your closest friends and plenty of “soju” (Korean vodka), you’re not alone. Course after course of marinated vegetables, grilled beef, and side dishes are gluttonous occasions that, like Thanksgiving, can only be undertaken once a year.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When my husband and I headed to Arvada’s Dae Gee Korean BBQ (dae gee means “pig” in Korean), we had a plan: Pass on the all-you-can-eat options and share an entrée. Instead of a bill topping $80, we’d keep it under $30. We took a seat at one of the cook-your-own grill-top tables and wondered if we’d have to stop for dessert on the way home to fill up.

Then the server arrived with raw spare ribs and the “banchan” spread—nine small dishes of mashed potatoes, broccoli with sesame oil and garlic, bean curd slathered in a chile paste, various types of kimchi, and more. We nibbled on these items while we watched the spare ribs, sliced thin and through the bone, spit on the grill. Occasionally, I’d flip the browning meat. And just when we’d sampled all of the banchan, the spare ribs were ready.

After we ate the last of the beef, scraped the rice from our bowls, and practically licked the banchan bowls, I realized we’d done it. We hadn’t cleaned out our wallets, and we’d still had a feast. Never mind our initial worry that we’d have to stop off for dessert. 7570 Sheridan Blvd., Arvada, 720-540-0700,


Galbee (marinated beef short ribs) $20.95, plus $5.95 for additional toppings
Pork Bulgogi (sliced pork with BBQ marinade), $15.95
Seafood Pancake, $8.95
Goon Mandu (fried chicken dumpling), $5.95

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Seoul Food

Robust, spicy, and intense, Korean food has long been overlooked in favor of more familiar Chinese and Vietnamese eats. But in recent years, the unprecedented successes of Momofuku restaurants in New York City and the Kogi Korean barbecue taco trucks in Los Angeles have rocketed the cuisine to the top of the trend list. Here in the Mile-High City, the trickle-down has begun, and Denverites are discovering Aurora’s burgeoning Koreatown. Here, a primer on this remarkably diverse cuisine.

If you like…

Ease in with dolsot bibimbap (above), a rice bowl with veggies, a fried egg, and beef or seafood. The dish arrives sizzling in a stone bowl with the rice toasting on the bottom. Or, try duk mandu gook, a cross between wonton and egg drop soup, with pork-and-kimchi dumplings, chewy rice cakes, and vegetables.

Dare to order yukgaejang, a brisket and scallion soup so heady with red chile that it’s guaranteed to clear your sinuses. For soup that’s spicy and soothing, try soondooboo jjigae, a seafood and vegetable stew with soft, creamy hunks of tofu.

Reminiscent of pad thai, jap-chae tangles stir-fried sweet potato noodles (a Korean specialty) with vegetables and strips of beef. Or try mul naeng myun (cold noodle soup), in which a mound of chewy buckwheat noodles in an ice-cold, tangy broth is topped with radish, beef, and slices of Asian pear.

With grills built right into the table, Korean cuisine is a barbecue lover’s dream. Order bulgogi (sliced sirloin) and galbi (short ribs) marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and garlic, and grill them yourself. Both come with lettuce leaves, garlic, green chile slices, and dipping sauce for making wraps.