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Tuesday

The Way to Eat BBQ

  
League of Extraordinary Reviewers from the Carrollton Police Department experience Korean friends and family style dining at SSAM Korean Grill. None of these Carrollton officials had ever tried a Korean diner. We are about to fix that!
It’s the Law! Carrolton Police Officials Derick Miller (Assistant Chief), Pat Nail (Finance), Rex Redden (Chief), Jolene DeVito (Public Information Officer), John Singleton (Jail Commander), and local real estate broker Young Sung hosted by The Way Development Group (Kevin, Richard, and John). the founders and management of the Asian Center of Carrollton anchored by DFW’s first H-Mart.

Nestled in the adjoined corners of Denton, Dallas, and Collin Counties and surrounded by 6 other exploding municipalities, Carrollton is a quiet Texas city amid the stars. Carrollton is blooming again. 

BBQ is everywhere! It’s a beautiful thing. Korean Bbq that is.
Around the metro-plex more and more Asian inspired shopping centers are popping up with Pho, Sushi, and BBQ as the lead draw. More recently H-Marts have become a center point for a tour of the Orient and its distinctively different ways to feast.
We’ve been used to Chinese cuisine for a while now. When I was growing up in the Texas panhandle there was one Chinese restaurant in Amarillo and one in Pampa. I am still friends with William Ma, the owner of the Lamplighter in Pampa. Then the introduction of Beni Hana and Vietnamese Pho houses also started attracting more non-Asian regulars.
A lot of credit for legitimizing Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese dining goes to our women and men of the United States Armed Forces. But face it, the DFW community is now known for its worldwide origins and eclectic appetite for flavor voyeurism.
Only a few years ago the visual test of a popular Asian restaurant was, ‘how many Asians were eating there’. Now we are conscious of how many non-Asians are patrons. Red and Yellow, Black and White with a healthy addition of Browns and totally mixed tables of every language and dress are common at your favorite Sushi, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese eateries.
Notably, the Korean cuisine seems to have been the late bloomer in attracting visitors. That is quickly changing.

Here in the heavily Asian influenced DFW we see Korean BBQ everywhere. In fact, there are more BBQ restaurants within a mile radius of Highway 190 (the George Bush) and Old Denton Road than there are in Caldwell County the Texas Capital of BBQ.  Is that a slap on Texas BBQ fans? Are they anything alike?
Yes. And No!
Family and friends style service for Korean BBQ has three basic elements. Fresh assorted meats, rice, and a variety of sides. Most meals begin with a broth and of course, each diner has their own bowl of a bean influenced rice. Large individual plates are not used. Diners don’t fill their plates. Instead, a small side plate and that bowl of rice sit before you and each diner samples the banchan a bite or two at a time.
Out comes the big word for you to know. We call them sides. Koreans say Banchan!

Banchan (Hangul: 반찬; Hanja: 飯饌; lit. "rice/food+sidedish"; English pronunciation: /ˈbɑːntʃɑːn/; also spelled panch'an) refers to small dishes of food served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine.

The next key word is Kimchi. I left you the wiki link that really covers the range of variations.

I was sitting next to Deputy Chief Derick Miller as the various banchan was laid before us. The big man had just been given chopstick 101 lessons by yours truly and made is first attempt by going for the Kimchi. I was hesitant, curious, and totally unprepared for his response.
“OOwee!” got the attention of the entire table. “I love this stuff!” As he reached for more from the small shared bowl he asked if there was enough for everyone. We all laughed at that.

Kimchi is like having salsa and chips at most Mexican eateries. It is always on the table and continuously refillable. The most commonplace banchan include various kimchi’s (cabbage, cucumber, radish), and seasoned vegetables called muchim, like blanched. or steamed greens, or bean sprouts tossed with sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and chili flakes.’
The importance of the meeting over a meal is reflected by how many sides are served. For hundreds of years, the Korean Buddhist culture abstained from eating meats. They created their own unique skill in turning common and hearty root vegetables, grains, and leafy greens into variations seasoned with exotic oils, spices, and peppers. Every edible fruit of the earth becomes dried, steamed, seared, sliced, diced, and pickled tongue teasers.
JB's favorite #15 Dae Ji Bul Go Gi (Spicy Pork) $10.99 for lunch
You'll often find a preference for aluminum chopsticks at the finer Korean tables along with a long handled spoon. A common meal will start with rice and kimchi and maybe a few sprouts, radishes, and some wild green. Each home and every region have their centuries old recipes to preserve their harvest. Just like grandmother Kitson did in Dumas, Texas with all the fruits and vegetables from her backyard garden!
Most of us have an assortment of pickled and preserved condiments in those racks on the refrigerator door. Isn’t that what those shelves were made for? Olives, cucumbers, okra, peppers, carrots, baby corn, and on and on fill those shelves and become accompaniments to our meals
They add texture. They are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, peppery, crisp and crunchy, or blended and fiery like a good ole Texas salsa.
We all add them to our bites to create our favorite combinations that delight each of us differently. Our varied taste lead to plethora of variations that satisfy our individual Umami.
That’s a recent culinary word to recognize the satisfying taste and feel in your mouth that certain foods bring to us. My Umami might be different than yours.
Master chefs talk about how the right combinations compliment and accentuate the pleasure of eating. Much like the sweet and delightful rice of a Sushi compliments the fish and finely julienned vegetables.

SSAM is a Korean word which basically means ‘wrapped in a lettuce’. It is their substitute for breads, tacos, pitas, or tortillas but obviously much healthier.
The diners take their choice of an assortment of leafy greens and add a portion of rice, their choice of thinly sliced char grilled meat with or without marinade, and a bit of one of the choices of banchan. You roll it together and take a bite.
It is no different than fixing your own taco up with avocado, onion, jalapeno, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. Only those items are replaced with literally hundreds of potential Korean style variations. Those choices are distinctively and exclusively Korean.
BBQ’d meats Korean style are grilled on demand. They are not sitting around pre-cooked and ready to be warmed up. They are mostly frozen and then thinly sliced pork, beef, and chicken, with some seafoods like octopus and prawns.
At the table, all those Banchan are spread out in small dishes across the table and everyone creates their own combinations one leaf at a time from the shared selections. I personally experiment with every bite.
There is little in the way of breads or frying in the Korean diet. You find yourself comfortably full with this hearty and healthy diet. 

Building on relationships!
The managing team of The Way Development Group were preparing to renew their community support with 1st Responders of Carrollton for the 2nd year in a row by announcing a scholarship program for 10 graduating children of local police and firefighters.
During the extended luncheon, the officers commented on how the crime rate had continually decreased over the past ten years in a once dilapidated and decaying yet highly visible part of Carrollton. The surrounding area continues to bloom with Asian retail and dining. The economic impact has been significant and the new businesses and revived residences are now noticeable clean and well kept.
As Chief Miller though about it, he remarked that the once crime ridden zone is now considered safe and cooperative. He noted the politeness and cooperative spirit of the new tenants.
Chief Redden and Public Information Officer DeVito expressed a strong interest in promoting a job fair to add more Asian citizens to the Carrollton Police Department. For those 21 and older, police officers can start with salaries above $50,000. Bilingual candidates would be gladly added to the local 1st Responders.
Strengthening  relationships between the police and the local Korean leadership was the reason for this BBQ feast. This kind of shared dining allows for people to take their time and enjoy the company.

Here is what our guest had to say.

JB,

Thank you again for arranging such a wonderful lunch experience!  We here at The Carrollton Police Department are grateful for our Korean community and appreciative of the chance to share a meal with some of its leaders

We didn’t taste a thing we didn’t like today, but here are some of the highlights:

·         Chief Rex Redden’s favorite was the unmarinated ribeye.   While it was delicious ssam-style wrapped in lettuce with the various banchan choices, the meat itself was so delicious he enjoyed eating it straight off the plate.

·         Assistant Chief Derick Miller is still talking about how delicious the kimchi was.

·         Commander John Singleton (who is in charge of our Jail and our Records) loved the ribeye too, but the banchan choice that stood out to him were the radishes… was it called danmuji?  Who knew that pickled radishes could be so delicious!

·         Pat Nail (who is in charge of Police Financial Affairs) loved the flavor and texture of the slaw salad.

·         And MY personal favorites were the japchae glass noodles and the gyeran-jjim steamed egg casserole.  I can’t wait to go back for more!
Japchae Glass Noodles

Thank you again,
Jolene


Jolene DeVito
Police Media Specialist
Carrollton Police Department
Office: (972) 466-9180








- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962.

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