BBQs Around the World
Every country has its own traditions and cuisine, and when it comes to barbecuing, every nation has its own style. Though many regional variations of barbecuing exist, there is one shared commonality no matter which side of the globe you’re on: a barbecue is a time for bringing people together and sharing the joy of eating.
Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, which means “to cook in an underground oven”. The kālua pig (Hawaiian puaʻa kālua) is commonly served at luau feasts, seasoned with sea salt and green onions, wrapped in Ti plant leaves and slow smoked. In ancient Hawaii, Ti plant leaves were thought to hold spiritual power. To this day, many Hawaiians plant Ti near their homes to bring good luck.
How to: Extremely hot rocks are placed in a hole approximately 6 feet in diameter and 1 foot in depth. Kiawe or guava wood are typically used as they both burn long and hot. The pit is then lined with vegetation such as banana leaves. The salted pig is placed inside and covered with more banana leaves to preserve the heat and flavor. Afterwards, it is covered with burlap and soil, and left to steam all day, until ready to serve.
A tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking many types of Indian and Afghan foods such as tandoori chicken, chicken tikka and bread varieties like tandoori roti and naan. Tandoori is marinated meat cooked over an intense fire in a tandoor. The marinade is usually yogurt based, combined with a variety of spices including ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cayenne pepper, and garam masala. The meats are then basted in the thick marinade and left for several hours before being placed in the tandoor.
How to: The tandoor is either dug into the ground or built into an enclosure and a hot charcoal or wooden fire is made, so that the heat only escapes through the top. Temperatures in a tandoor can approach over 480°C (900°F), and it is common for tandoor ovens to remain lit for long periods of time to maintain the high cooking temperature. The meats are then lowered into the oven on long metal skewers and left to cook in the smoky hot tandoor.
The traditional barbecue of South Africa, the braai was actually the cooking method of the Dutch pioneers who hunted fresh meat and cooked it on an open fire. “Braai” is the Afrikaans word for barbecue. Though the method of food preparation is very similar to a barbecue, there are specific traditions and social norms around a braai.
Braai purists insist the meat be cooked on an open wood fire. One man will be the designated braaier (chef). The men gather outdoors around the fire while the women prepare the salads and deserts in the kitchen.
How to: Wood produces long lasting coals and though the use of charcoal has increased, an authentic braai requires wood. The making of the fire is an important tradition. It is a skill that is passed down from father to son – how to pile wood, where to place the kindling and knowing when the fire is ready, which apparently is done by counting how long you can leave your hand above the coals before needing to yank it away. Anything below 8 seconds is usually considered too hot. The fire is started hours before cooking. A great deal of wood can be used in these hours, while men bond over the fire pit, telling stories and drinking lager. Meat for a braai is exposed to the direct heat of the coals and grilling begins once the flames have died down. The grid is usually placed about 100mm (about 4 inches) above the coals, depending on the cut of meat.
A real Mongolian barbecue isn’t what you’ll find at your typical Mongolian grill restaurant (which is actually Taiwanese in origin). Actually, Khorkhog is the traditional Mongolian barbecue dish, reserved for honored guests and special occasions.
How to: Similar to a Western meat and potatoes type meal, Khorkhog is customarily made with mutton, potatoes and vegetables. About ten to twenty fist-sized river stones are first heated in a fire, then placed with the ingredients in a cooking pot. Not just any cooking pot though – metal milk jugs are the traditional choice. The vegetables are placed on the top layer. Spices and salt are added. Finally, water is poured in to make a stew and the pot is closed tight. The heat of the stones and the steam cook the meat inside. The stones can take up to an hour and a half to cook the meat properly. The stones will eventually turn black from the heat and fat absorbed from the mutton.
Once the food in the pot is cooked, the liquid is put into a cup and drunk like soup. The cook will hand out the khorkhog, usually eaten with ones fingers and once the rocks have cooled down, it is said to be beneficial to one’s health to hold the stones.
One of the most popular types of cuisine in the Philippines, Latin America and Spain is the lechón (roasted suckling pig). The lechón is served at big outdoor festivals, during the holiday season, and other special occasions.
How to: The pig is placed on a large stick and slow cooked on a pit filled with flaming charcoal. All sides of the lechón are roasted for several hours and the fat is brushed on to the pig in order to keep the meat moist and the skin crunchy. Lechón can be served with sauce, plum sauce or vinegar.