Rumble box: Korean BBQ vs South African 'braai'

Rumble box: Korean BBQ vs South African 'braai'

In this week's Rumble Box, John Kang and Susan Ramsay are engaged in an argument about Korean BBQ vs South African 'braai'.

Korean BBQ

I gather from my research that braais are supposed to be fun social events. Well, that won't be the case if only the braaier is cooking all the meat. Half the fun of a grill is actually doing the barbecuing yourself.

When we do barbeques in Korea, we all get to cook the meat ourselves and for each other! I'm pretty sure that's more fun and social: cooking the meat together, talking about whether the gogi ("meat") is cooked or not, and having a friendly competition to decide who has cooked the most gogi.

Besides, who'd want to be the braaier? The fellow has to barbeque all the meat alone while sweaty people keep asking for more meat - only to have them return shortly afterwards to complain about how raw or burned it was. Nah, not for me!

Better yet, we do our grills indoors - yes, with air-conditioning, nice comfy chairs, and absolutely no bugs on you and your food. Almost all Korean restaurants have built-in grills, so we don't have to choke ourselves with charcoal smoke when we already have enough pollution.

We also eat healthily! When we have barbeques, we almost always have the gogi with some chilli or bean paste and rice, all wrapped with a big piece of fresh and healthy lettuce or sesame leaves.

Sorry Sue, I just don't see the fun side of holding a blood- and grease-soaked paper plate while chewing on half-raw, cancerous, burned bits of meat - all the while swatting bugs away! I'd rather do things the Korean way.

John Kang

South African 'braai'

Ah John, you young ones think that you can just look up things on the internet and "know" about them. Well, you can't.

A braai, in South Africa, is much more than just a barbeque. It's a custom, a ceremony, a sacred rite that pays homage to our ancestors who took to the wilderness in ox-drawn wagons, with not a microwave in sight. Hearing the sizzle of meat on an open flame, and breathing in that wonderful scent of the grill, is heavenly and guaranteed to work up your appetite.

Braais are rites of passage into manhood for many young South Africans. The responsibility of building the fire is huge. You have to select the right wood and the right fire-starter. Purists will use kindling, but I have to confess that most people in the cities these days don't have access to wood, so they use charcoal or briquettes.

In my culture, men cook the meat - usually because they hunted it in the first place. So all the men gather around the smoky fire, share stories, and see to it that the meat is at its best when it's served. The girls and women all hang out in the kitchen to prepare the side dishes. It's such a lovely time to catch up with friends and family.

Now to the meat itself: While Korean barbeque meat is kind of thin, in South Africa, we eat meat in steak, chop or sausage form. The sausage is a uniquely flavoured curl of meat called boerewors (pronounced boo-ra-vors). All of this is topped off with mysterious monkey gland sauce. So chew on that!

Susan Ramsay

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