Spice up your barbecue with international flavors

Forget the battle over tomato vs. vinegar-based vs. white mayonnaise-based barbecue sauces. Today’s grillers — or barbecuers if you’re not a terminology purist — are borrowing from other cuisines, introducing a world of flavor into their creations.

“I think Korean is one of those flavors that have really crept up on us,” said Kevan Vetter, executive chef for McCormick, the spice company. Vetter said he thinks Korean cuisine has become more popular across the board because, especially in the case of Korean barbecue, it’s a social experience.

“And the flavors are just so rich and savory,” he said. “It’s transitioning into other parts of the menu, and grilling is certainly perfect for that.”

Vetter said in most cases, such cuisines’ use in grilling isn’t a strict application of ingredients and technique.

“When you get out to the grill there’s license for experimentation; people want to have fun,” he said. “Korean is one of those flavors that’s easy-entry. The ingredients are familiar: ginger, soy, garlic, red pepper paste. Then you add an ingredient like kimchee. It’s a way to really get into those flavors.”

McCormick’s kitchens created a Vietnamese-style banh mi burger with sriracha mayo, Vetter said, and Indonesian-style sweet soy and bourbon chicken.

“We take inspiration from the Indonesian flavor profile,” he said, “marrying that with something that’s a little more familiar.”

Brazilian churrascaria is something that’s become a lot more familiar, he said, and one way to reflect it on the grill is with a marinade that’s reminiscent of chimichurri. For a little Japanese flavor, you can experiment with teriyaki shrimp with a seven-spice blend.

Adding Japanese flavors also comes to mind for Erick Melendez, head chef at Zuma at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“I think, at the end of the day, barbecue is the same everywhere,” he said. “You can introduce Japanese flavors to what we do normally here in the states. The flavors can vary from soy to miso.”

Melendez noted that bonito flakes, derived from tuna, are smoked.

“You can actually make a barbecue sauce with bonito flakes,” he said. “I use all the smoke flavor from the bonito to make the sauce and put it over the grill on the short ribs.”

He also uses Japanese binchotan charcoal.

“Bincho is quite interesting,” he said. “Everything in Japan is very well thought out. It lasts much longer than regular charcoal. It’s more consistent; it has better flavor.”

Steven Raichlen, who’s been writing about barbecue for more than 10 years, publishing a number of books including the recent “Barbecue Sauces: Rubs and Marinades,” pointed out that it’s also very expensive.

“It burns very clean,” Raichlen said. “In Japan … first of all, they like the purity, they like the idea that grilled chicken will taste like chicken. I remember a Japanese grillmaster who said with some pride that you get absolutely no flavor from the charcoal.”

Raichlen said he thinks the expansion of grilling into other cuisines is a natural progression.

“We are a great melting-pot culture,” he said. “We always want to experiment with new tastes and new flavors.”

Vetter said he also sees the concept as “taking inspiration from a higher-end cuisine and moving it into something really approachable.

“Ethnic flavors on the grill are really ways for people to explore more, think outside the box. Grilling’s the perfect way to do that.”


1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, stemmed and dried

8 cloves garlic, peeled

3 tablespoons chopped onion

5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, or more to taste

5 tablespoons cold water

1 teaspoon coarse salt (sea or kosher)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil

Finely chop the parsley and garlic in a food processor. Add the onion, vinegar, water, salt, oregano, pepper flakes and black pepper and process in brief bursts until the salt crystals are dissolved. Add the oil in a thin stream. Don’t overprocess; the chimichurri should be fairly coarse. Correct the seasoning, adding salt or vinegar if needed.

Chimichurri is quick to make, so I usually prepare it as I need it. If you do choose to store it, transfer it to a jar, cover and refrigerate. It will keep for several days, but quickly loses its bright green color. Be sure to taste and re-season before serving.

Serve with any type of grilled beef, especially T-bones, rib-eyes, New York strips and other steaks. It also goes great with grilled chicken, pork and sweetbreads.

Makes 2 cups, enough to serve 6 to 8.

Miso barbecue sauce

1 cup white miso, at room temperature

½ cup boiling water, vegetable stock or chicken stock

3 tablespoons sugar

3 large egg yolks, or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sake

3 tablespoons mirin

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

Pour water to a depth of 2 inches in the bottom of a double boiler or saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place the miso and boiling water in the top of the double boiler or in a smaller saucepan and whisk to mix.

Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, egg yolks or mayonnaise, sake, mirin and lemon zest into the miso mixture.

Set the pan with the miso mixture over the simmering water. Cook the miso sauce over the simmering water until thick and creamy, 6 to 10 minutes, whisking steadily. Adjust the heat to keep the water at a simmer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the miso sauce to serving bowls if serving immediately. Or transfer to a large jar, cover and refrigerate. The miso sauce will keep for at least three days.

Note: Miso sauce is the traditional topping for Japanese grilled tofu and eggplant. It’s fantastic on grilled salmon and other fish.

Makes 2 cups, enough to serve 6 to 8.

Recipes from “Barbecue Sauces: Rubs and Marinades,” by Steven Raichlen

Korean bbq burger with grilled kimchi & ginger garlic mayo

For ginger garlic mayo:

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

For the burgers:

1 package Korean barbecue marinade

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1¼ pounds lean ground beef

¼ cup finely chopped onion

4 hamburger rolls

Grilled kimchee (recipe follows)

For the mayo, mix all ingredients in small bowl until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the burgers, mix marinade, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey and vinegar in large bowl until well blended. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing burgers during cooking. Add ground beef and onion to remaining marinade in large bowl; mix well. Shape into 4 patties. For best results, refrigerate patties 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Grill burgers over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes per side or until cooked through (internal temperature of 160 degrees), brushing with reserved marinade while cooking.

Serve burgers on rolls with ginger garlic mayo and grilled kimchee.

Grilled kimchee

¼ head Napa cabbage, sliced lengthwise

1 medium red bell pepper, cored and cut in half lengthwise

1 Asian pear, cored and cut into ½-inch slices

Oil, for brushing

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Brush cabbage, bell pepper and pear slices lightly with oil. Grill over medium heat until lightly charred. Remove from grill. Let cool.

Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients in large bowl until well blended. Coarsely chop cabbage and pears, then cut bell pepper into strips. Add to bowl with dressing mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover.

Serves 4.

Recipes from McCormick

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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