No one will ask you how you like your meat cooked at a yakiniku restaurant. Plates of sliced raw meat are brought to your table and you cook it yourself on a mini BBQ built into your table! How fun!
Yakiniku means “grilled meat.” Last Friday we went to a Korean style yakiniku restaurant with two of our students, 9 year old Yu, 7 year old Mana, and their mother Yuki.
We sat on thin cushions on a hard wood floor around a low table, and listened intently to see if we could catch what Yuki was ordering from the menu. Unfortunately we couldn’t catch any of the words because there was a table of loud, drunk business women beside us kanpai-ing every 10 seconds. Or maybe it was because we hadn’t learned the names for various organs. First, we encountered an appetizer of sliced raw liver drizzled with sesame oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds and sliced onion. The taste was okay, but we weren’t fans of the melty texture. Luckily, Yu was really into the raw liver, so I kept sneaking her bites. She enthusiastically thanked me.
After we had pushed aside our appetizer we were ready for something grilled! What better way to start then …a steak? Nope. A plate of sliced tongue! After it was grilled it was actually quite tender and delicious, and tasted like beef, at least that’s what I kept telling myself.
We were happy when two plates of thinly sliced beef were brought to our table. Finally, something familiar. After they were cooked, we plucked the grilled pieces off the grill with our chopsticks and dipped them in a small dish of spicy sauce. In the meantime, various side dishes arrived at our already crowded table, like beef tartare with raw egg yolk. You’re supposed to mix the two together with your chopsticks before eating.
And some spicy fermented cucumbers and cabbage (of course known as kimuchi).
At the end of our meal, when we were completely stuffed, I gave Yu a chance to show off her English skills. When I first had her as a student she was 7 years old and spent the entire 50 minute lesson under the table kicking and screaming. Since then she’s done a complete 180, and she is one of my favorite students: