With International Prostate Cancer month just around the corner – September is here already? – the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is kicking off their BIG AUSSIE BARBIE campaign on August 29th! Now I may be stuck inside a one bedroom apartment with no balcony, but I think it would be great to get some inspiration going by making this week BARBECUE WEEK, where we celebrate everything that’s smoky and slow-cooked to tender deliciousness.
From what I can see, there’s just about a practice in every culture that involves smoke, meat, and salt. It’s easy to see how this delicious practice would come about – I’m sure when fire was discovered it was a simple next step to add meat to the mix! Each culture has their own variation, and that mostly gets expressed in the marinade and spice mixes used on the meats.
Bar-B-Q – America
Now say it again in a Southern accent! Go on, you know you want to.
I know that the variations of BBQ within America itself could fill a whole blog, but in this case, I think it’s safe to say that generally speaking, it involves hardwood, and a spiced, sweet-ish sauce that finishes the meal. According to my passive knowledge gained almost entirely from marathoning TV show BBQ Pitmasters, barbecue competitions happen all round the year, all over the country, and there are people who take competition barbecue so seriously it becomes a lifestyle! Pro-tip: make sure to look for bite in the texture of the meat – it should be tender, but not so much that it falls apart.
Braai – South African
The beauty of Braai comes from the unique spice mix that’s used to flavour the meat. Boasting food that’s termed “rainbow cuisine”, South Africa uses a myriad of international influences to colour their barbecue. A typical barbecue spice mix can include allspice, cloves, coriander, celery, and a variety of other flavours.
Try boerewors – an African farmer’s meat sausage containing a mixture of beef, lamb or pork, and spices, and typically rolled up into the snail-like shape. (As pictured above).
Churrasco – Brazil
Churrasco is a popularly exported Brazillian style of barbecue that involves large hunks of meat pushed onto sword-like skewers, drenched in handfuls of sea salt, and cooked over open flames and smoking coals. In Brazil, it’s not uncommon to see whole animals butterflied, seasoned, and placed strategically around a fire to ensure maximum tenderness and smoke.
It is typically served with chimmichurri – a tangy herb, oil and vinegar mixture – and a variety of sides, that can include plantains, stewed black beans, rice and salads.
If you’d like to try some churrasco for yourself, try these places in Sydney!
02 9286 3733
1-25 Harbour St Darling Quarter
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9360 6070
60-70 William St
Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011
BahBQ Brazilian Grill
02 9966 8203
35 Albany St
Crows Nest, NSW 2065
Asado – Argentina
From what I understand, asado is very similar to churrasco, except that it seems to refer more commonly to home-held barbecue parties.
Not that it’s taken any less seriously.
Splayed animals slow roasting from the early hours of the morning are a common sight for serious home cooks, and the condiments vary immensely. Like churrasco, asado doesn’t usually have fancy marinades or spice mixes – they are wholly reliant on good meat, and good salt.
Gogigui – Korea
Smoky Korean BBQ houses have become a norm in Sydney, and it’s easy to see why they’re so popular! In these restaurants, each table is installed with a grill or hot plate – usually with a pit of real smouldering coals – on which you can cook your seasoned meats to your own liking. The table is also often filled with banchan – Korean side dishes that accompany each meal.
A typical marinated meat for a gogigui is bulgogi – wafer-thin slices of beef sits in a mixture of soy, onion, cooking wine, sugar, and pear or apple purée. This then gets cooked at the table, and enjoyed over rice, or ssam – wrapped in a large fresh salad leaf with sauce or other toppings.
Yaki – Japan
I most closely associate Yaki with Yakitori – little pieces of chicken on thin skewers, traditionally cooked over a charcoal barbecue. Dishes grilled in this manner are usually classed as kushiyaki – because yakitori strictly refers to grilled chicken skewers. The prepared skewers are also usually grilled over Binchotan – translated to mean white charcoal – which produces a ‘cleaner’ and more delicate finish to the dish, unlike the harsh smokey notes that are produced by regular charcoal.
Pangang – Singapore and Malaysia
Pangang literally translates to “barbecue”, and in Singapore, this usually involves the fragrant banana leaves. From Otak otak – spiced fish paste wrapped in banana leaves and barbecued – to Satay, to sting ray (pictured above), we love using all the aromatics at our disposal. I’ve actually learnt from a friend’s mother to use a smashed end of lemongrass as a brush, to brush on lemon/garlic/coriander butter onto marinated chicken wings while they were being barbecued over charcoal. How’s that for a flavour explosion?
Tandoor – India
Tandoor actually refers to this earthen oven, pictured above. Due to its specific design – it’s narrower at the top than the bottom, causing a vortex of air that creates the flow that is needed – this subterranean oven can reach temperatures of about 500C! Flat breads like naan are often cooked straight on the side of the tandoor, while marinated meats are often threaded onto massive skewers, and lowered carefully into the tandoor.
With amazing sunshine and beaches, you can be sure that Greece has a history of doing barbecue right. Souvlaki refers to skewers of marinated meat or vegetables that get barbecued over smouldering coals, and is often eaten with pita – a flat bread. They also have great spit-roasted animals that are, I’m told, a given at any family function. And anyone who would take the effort to spit-roast a whole animal for their family deserves a salute from me.
Good Ol’ Barbie – Australia
I think Australian’s have come a long way from the stereotype of ‘throwing shrimp on the barbie’. From the comforting – and often greasy – weekend sausage sizzle to raise money for charity, to the more gourmet efforts of some families in their own backyard, Australia has all the elements conducive to cultivating great outdoor cooking – sun, surf, and fantastic meat. And trust me, I’ve been to many places in the world where the quality and flavour of the meat doesn’t seem to compare to something that I can get at a local butcher in Australia.
So how about you? How do you like your barbecue?
If you’re inspired to hold your own Big Aussie Barbie to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, just pop over to www.bigaussiebarbie.com.au to sign up!
The header picture of this post is sourced from Snapshooter46