Uncover the Origin of Asian BBQ: A Global Comparison

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You know, there’s something about Asian BBQ that’s just so delicious. But where did it come from?

The history of Asian BBQ is quite interesting. It actually originated from the Maek tribe, a nomadic tribe that lived in what is now Korea. They believed that skewering and roasting meat over an open fire was a way to honor their gods. This is the oldest form of BBQ from the Goguryeo area.

Let’s look at the origin of Asian BBQ and how it evolved into the delicious food we know and love today.

What is asian bbq

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The Origin of Asian BBQ

Asian BBQ has a long and rich history that can be traced back to ancient times. Here are some interesting facts about the origins of Asian BBQ:

  • The Maek tribe, a nomadic tribe that lived in what is now known as Korea, is believed to have been the first to create skewers and roast meat over an open fire.
  • The Goguryeo era, which lasted from 37 BC to 668 AD, saw the creation of a dish called “galbi,” which is still a popular Korean BBQ dish today.
  • The ancient Chinese also had their own version of BBQ, which involved roasting meat on spits over an open flame.
  • The Japanese have a style of BBQ called “yakiniku,” which translates to “grilled meat” in English. This style of BBQ is believed to have been influenced by Korean BBQ.

The Evolution of Asian BBQ

Over time, Asian BBQ evolved and became more distinct in different countries. Here are some interesting facts about how Asian BBQ evolved:

  • In Korea, BBQ became more popular during the later eras, and it eventually turned into what is now known as “KBBQ,” or Korean BBQ.
  • In Japan, yakiniku became more popular in the 20th century, and it evolved to include more types of meat and seafood.
  • In China, BBQ is still a popular way of cooking meat, and it has evolved to include different styles and flavors depending on the region.
  • In Southeast Asia, BBQ is often served with tantalizing sauces and spices, and it is a popular street food.

The Spread of Asian BBQ

Asian BBQ didn’t stay confined to Asia. Here are some interesting facts about how Asian BBQ spread to other parts of the world:

  • The Spanish brought the concept of BBQ to the West Indies, where it was adopted by the Taino people. The Taino people raised meat on a grill over an open fire, which they called “barbacoa.”
  • Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer, brought BBQ to North America in the 16th century. He recorded experiencing a feast of wild pig with the Chickasaw people, who cooked the meat over an open fire.
  • BBQ became popular in Europe prior to the invention of the stove, and it was a relatively simple process that involved wood or charcoal and a need for a fancy pit to be dug or a metal grate or rack to be used.
  • In the United States, BBQ evolved into distinct styles depending on the region. Some of the most popular styles include Carolina BBQ, Texas BBQ, Memphis BBQ, and Kansas City BBQ.

Asian BBQ has a rich and fascinating history that has influenced BBQ styles all over the world. Whether you prefer Korean BBQ or Southeast Asian BBQ, there’s no denying that Asian BBQ has left its mark on the world of BBQ.

Types of Asian BBQ

One of the most popular forms of Asian BBQ is skewered meats. These are typically sold on the street and in night markets throughout Southeast Asia. Some of the most preferred meats for skewers include pork, lamb, and seafood. In Japan, chuanr is a popular form of skewered meat, while in Taiwan, dwaeji skewers are enjoyed. Skewers are often grilled over coals and served with a variety of sauces, including teriyaki and satay.

Roasted Meats

Another common form of Asian BBQ is roasted meats. In the Philippines, lechon is a popular dish that consists of a whole roasted pig. In Japan, yakisoba is a familiar dish that includes grilled meat, vegetables, and noodles. In China, roasted meats are often sold in restaurants and street vendors, with char siu being a favorite. Roasted meats are typically cooked over an open flame or in a tandoor oven, with local spices and marinades used to enhance the flavor.

Wrapped Meats

In some areas of Asia, meats are wrapped in foil and cooked over coals. In Japan, yakiniku is a popular dish that includes narrow strips of meat wrapped around vegetables and grilled. In Korea, bulgogi is a dish that includes thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, honey, and chili before being wrapped in foil and grilled. In India, tandoori chicken is a popular dish that is cooked in a tandoor oven and wrapped in foil to keep it moist.

Barbecued Bugs

While not as common as other forms of Asian BBQ, barbecued bugs are a delicacy in some regions. In Thailand, fried insects are sold as street food, with grasshoppers and crickets being the most popular. In China, scorpions and centipedes are sometimes skewered and grilled. While the idea of eating bugs may be off-putting to some tourists, it is a traditional part of the culinary culture in some areas.

Grilled Vegetables

While meat is the focus of most Asian BBQ, grilled vegetables are also a popular option. In Japan, corn and potato are often grilled and served as a side dish. In Korea, grilled mushrooms and onions are a common addition to a barbecue. In Southeast Asia, grilled eggplant and okra are popular options. Grilled vegetables are typically cooked over coals and seasoned with a variety of spices and sauces.

Western-Style BBQ

In recent years, there has been an insurgence of Western-style BBQ in Asia. Fast food chains like KFC and McDonald’s have introduced BBQ chicken and ribs to their menus, while traditional grocery stores now sell BBQ sauce and marinades. While these forms of BBQ may not be traditional to the region, their popularity is evident in the number of restaurants and chains that have focused on this type of cuisine.

Overall, Asian BBQ is characterized by the intense flavors and different profiles of spices and marinades used in the grilling process. While there are some common characteristics shared among different regions, there are also outliers that employ slight variations in heat and overpowering flavors. The marination process is a common act enhancer, and the saving grace of the end product.

Regional Variations of Asian BBQ

Asian BBQ is a concept that varies vastly from country to country. Each country has its unique signature BBQ style that foreigners may or may not be familiar with. However, one similarity among all Asian BBQ is the marinade or base used to tenderize and flavor the meat.

  • Korean BBQ, for example, consists of incorporating a marinade of soy sauce, garlic, and sugar to the meat to create a sweet and savory flavor.
  • In Japanese BBQ, the marinade is usually a mix of soy sauce, sake, and mirin.
  • Chinese BBQ relies heavily on a black pepper coat to create a bark on the meat.
  • In the southern part of the United States, pitmasters use a rub consisting of turbinado sugar, paprika, and yellow mustard as a binder.

Bastes and Glazes

Another similarity among Asian BBQ is the use of bastes and glazes to protect the meat from drying out and adding acidity to the flavor.

  • In Korean BBQ, the meat is regularly basted with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and pineapple juice.
  • In Japanese BBQ, the meat is dipped in a sweet soy sauce glaze before grilling.
  • In Chinese BBQ, the meat is glazed with a mixture of red wine or cider vinegar and soy sauce.
  • In the southern United States, pitmasters use a glaze made of artisanal or industrial methods, which can vary drastically from place to place.

Cooking Methods

The cooking methods used in Asian BBQ also vary from country to country.

  • In Korean BBQ, the meat is grilled over high heat on a tabletop grill or on an open flame.
  • In Japanese BBQ, the meat is often stir-fried or stewed in a low heat soup.
  • In Chinese BBQ, the meat is often cooked in a bamboo steamer.


The ingredients used in Asian BBQ also vary depending on the country.

  • In Korean BBQ, the meat is often paired with ssamjang, a paste made of soybean paste, chili paste, and garlic.
  • In Japanese BBQ, the meat is often served with a side of plain rice and miso soup.
  • In Chinese BBQ, the meat is often served with a mix of fresh vegetables and stir-fried noodles.

Nutrition and Flavor

Asian BBQ is a great way to lock in nutrition and flavor while having a tasty meal.

  • Korean BBQ is known for its tender and flavorful meat, which is often high in fats.
  • Japanese BBQ is known for its umami flavor, which comes from the use of soy sauce and mirin.
  • Chinese BBQ is known for its crispy skin and juicy meat.

In conclusion, Asian BBQ is a concept that carries the culture and resources of each country. The substances used in marinades, bastes, and glazes vary vastly, making each country’s BBQ unique. Whether you’re a professional pitmaster or a novice cook, incorporating Asian BBQ into your cuisine can potentially create an extremely delicious and expensive meal. So, bon appetit!


So there you have it, the history of Asian BBQ and how it has evolved over the years. It’s a fascinating topic and one that will have you coming back for more.

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Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.