Barbecue (Yakiniku)

Barbecue – The Oldest Form of Culinary Art

It was probably a million years ago that the Early Man tasted cooked meat, and probably by accident too.  In any case, the first experience with burnt meat was one they wanted to repeat over and over, and so barbecuing and grilling meat (and vegetables) became a habitual part of the human diet.

In the early days, food was probably just thrown into burning wood.  Subsequently, humans realized that food tasted better if held above or to the side of the fire.  Barbecue historian D. Howard L. Taylor opined that the first barbecue tool was a wooden fork to hold the meat over the fire and later, a rack of sticks was built to hold the food about the flames.  In time, the logs were allowed to burn down to coals before meat was placed to cook.

In our part of the world, roasting and broiling seemed to originate from China.  In India, food has been slow-cooked over coals in earthen urns called tandoors for centuries.  Over in Japan, there is the kamado, a ceramic stove.


Origins of the Yakiniku

Many people believe that Yakiniku or Japanese Barbecue has its roots in Mongolian and Korean barbecue.  During the time of Genghis Khan, as the story goes, the soldiers used their swords to cut meat and cooked over on their overturned shields over a large fire; yet another tale tells of Mongol soldiers cooking meat on a heated stone.  

Some sources claim that Japanese yakiniku is from the Mongolian style of grilling mutton. Yakiniku is also influenced by the Korean Bulgogi, a technique of cooking meat over an open flame and became increasingly popular during the 20th century, particularly after the Second World War.

Bulgogi consists of beef, chicken or pork slices, usually cooked by the server at the diners’ table or in the kitchen and served with lettuce, a special sauce and side dishes.  In a Yakiniku restaurant, diners participate in the cooking on a grill that is built into their table! 

Special dipping sauces known as tare compliment the grilled dishes.
In any case, the barbecue is a great way for a fun family outing and bonding; it may even be true to say that “the family that cooks and eats together, stays together”.