Yakiniku - is it Korean or Japanese BBQ?  Why are there Korean dishes in the menu when Yakiniku means “grilled meat” in Japanese?

Kanichikan Yakiniku (KNK) and Gyutaro

When the crave for Japanese food sets in, what will be the first dish that come to your mind?  Is it sushi, sashimi or tempura?  But are these the dishes that Japanese eat at lunch time?  Or is sushi a usual family dinner spread?  

Japanese food is a whole lot more than just sushi, sashimi and tempura.  When you eat out in Japan, there is always simple comfort food which are tasty and delicious.  Just like fast food in the West, Japan also has their fare share of fast but often nutritious and mouth-watering food.  You can get a satisfying BBQ meal just by walking into any restaurant in the streets of Japan. 

At JYZ Group, which operates Kannichikan Yakiniku Restaurants and the newly opened pork-free Gyutaro Yakiniku Restaurant, they offer a dining experience that is authentically what a Japanese would stop by, have a meal and then get back to work.  It is the simplistic nutritional take on comfort food that everyone can afford, light for the pocket but also satisfy the gastronomic yearnings of Japanese food-lovers.

But when we mention “Yakiniku”, you may ask: is it Korean or Japanese BBQ?  Why are there Korean dishes in the menu when yakiniku means “grilled meat” in Japanese?

YC Leow, the brainchild of the authentic Japanese BBQ and the Master Chef of JYZ  Group of Restaurants, emphasized enthusiastically, “Many people who first came across some yakiniku restaurants would immediately raise a question: is this a Korean BBQ restaurant?  Or is this a restaurant that serves Korean and Japanese food?  Lets just remember this, whether you are at Kannichikan Yakiniku Restaurants in Penang or Kuala Lumpur, or you choose our pork-free Gyutaro Yakiniku Restaurant, we are authentic Japanese BBQ restaurants serving the right way to eat grilled meat as would a Japanese in Japan.”

Yakiniku, Japanese BBQ, has a long history.  It goes back to the origins of grilling meat on flames.    Japanese grill meat culture began some time after WWII, and the culture of grilling meat was introduced to the Japanese by the Koreans.  

Historically, Korean BBQ started the times when the Mongols invaded Korea.  The troops from Mongolia cooked their meat over a fire.  The Koreans like the taste of the meat and with their respect of their royal families, introduced this ‘premium’ cooking method in the palace.  This imperial treat was specially prepared sumptuously for the distinguished guests.

When Japanese colonised Korea during WWII, some of the Korean imperial cooks were left in the streets.  They began to grill their food and this method of cooking caught the attention of the Japanese guards.  When more Japanese tasted the chargrilled meat, the more they loved it.  Over the years, the way to eat the grilled meat was adapted to local preferences.  Each culture making their own meat tastier. 

Illustrating the preferences further, Leow, who also concocts the Gyutaro signature sauces, stressed that the Japanese people like their food to taste fresh.  Even the sauces are not used to overpower the taste of the meat.   For the Japanese, the meat is so fresh that they don’t marinate the meat before grilling.  The Koreans, on the other hand, marinate and prepare the meat before putting them on the grill. 

As for Japanese BBQ, the meat is not even salted, or dipped in any sauces.  The Japanese prefers to rub a small amount of sauce on the meat just minutes before putting the meat on the grill.  The marinates are mildly flavored as they would want their meat to be fresh and retain their natural juices and taste.

Japanese prefers meat to be sliced into smaller pieces before grilling.  In Korean-style BBQ, they usually use big chunky meat to grill.  After it is cooked, Koreans will cut the meat into smaller pieces to serve.

In Korean-style BBQ, usually the grilling process is done by the waiters.  Japanese BBQ, on the other hand, let customers grill the meat themselves.  In Gyutaro, when customers require some help to grill the meat, they can always ask their friendly waiters to grill the meat for them.  When diners grill the meat themselves, they will determine how well the meat is to be cooked, have fun with the grilling process and enjoy the company while they take time for a good hearty conversation.

In JYZ Group, our belief is that every BBQ meal must be joyful and happy, always leaving you with a smile to remember a very good time …