Cooking over an open fire is as old as humanity’s mastery of fire itself, dating back some 400,000 years. Each region of the world – and indeed nearly every country – has its own tradition and its own distinctive name for it. Time to travel from braai to churrasco and from bulgogi to binchotan.
South Africa: Do you braai?
Braai means “grill” in Afrikaans, and indeed it is also used as a verb. From gated communities to townships, whether on a barbecue, a wheelbarrow, or a steel drum sawed in half, the “braai master” always draws a crowd. Braaiers rule in this world, and as the saying goes, “Jy krap nie aan ‘n ander man se vuur nie” (“You don’t touch another man’s fire”). The Reverend Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, was known to celebrate National Braai Day on September 24th with a T-bone, his favorite chop because of its resemblance to the African continent. At the Jabulani, you might choose to conclude the day with a flame-broiled dinner served by candlelight.
South America: Asado rhymes with gaucho!
The Spanish term asado means “roast.” It refers both to the cooking technique and the social custom of gathering around the fire. The same practice can be found from Argentina to Bolivia and from Chile to Uruguay to Paraguay. Generally, an animal is stretched across a cross-shaped vertical cooking device for a long, spectacular cooking process. Discover it at La Bamba de Areco, an establishment that carries on the gaucho tradition 120 km / 75 mi from Buenos Aires. At the El Colibri estancia, located in the Cordoba province, you’ll enjoy the ultimate experience. The magazine Lugares hails it as no less than the “best asado in Argentina,” with a selection of 12 types of meat on the menu!
Brazil: A Sunday churrasco
The Portuguese term churrasco means “grilled meat.” The concept is similar to the Argentinean asado (also known as barbacoa, the term that gave rise to “barbecue”). You can enjoy one at a churrascaria – a specialized restaurant –, but it remains a Sunday family tradition above all. Every house has its own outdoor grill. In the churrasco espeto version, the meat is skewered and rotated so that it may be slowly cooked over the embers. At the Primrose restaurant of Saint Andrews Gramado, Chef Nando Becker invites guests to culinary experiences based on the gaucho tradition, featuring a few choice morsels cooked churrasco-style.
Unites States: In the smoke of a cookout
From the plains of the Far West to suburban yards and tailgating parties, the barbecue is a cultural phenomenon in the United States. Meats are grilled, of course; but more distinctive is the slow smoking process. Marinade, sauce and spices are essential in developing the taste of pulled pork, brisket, ribs and hot links (sausages typical of Louisiana). At Blackberry Farm, in the foothills of the aptly named Smoky Mountains, Chef Cassidee Dabney proposes a grilled Wagyu steak with a smoked beet purée. The cowboy lifestyle awaits you at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Executive Chef Josh Drage uses regionally and locally sourced organic ingredients to offer you exceptional dining experiences, including campfire breakfasts which highlight Montana's seasonal bounty.
Japan: Binchotan, imperial charcoal
Binchotan dates back to 17th-century Japan. Its name is a contraction of the manufacturer’s name, Binchuya Chozaimon, and the word tan (“charcoal”). This white charcoal from the dense Ubamegashi oak – a slow-burning wood that offers consistent heat –, was used to heat imperial dishes. Odorless and non-toxic, it was also used to purify water. In the kitchen, it is particularly used for searing without burning, or more traditionally to heat the grill of a rectangular barbecue called a konro, a very sought-after item among Western chefs today. At the Ichou restaurant of the Wasurenosato Gajoen hotel, fish and vegetables are grilled before your eyes.
Republic of Korea: Bulgogi to share
Bulgogi is the Korean word for “grilled meat.” Some claim the method dates as far back as the time of the Goguryo kingdom (currently the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), but its invention is actually relatively recent. Gas-heated griddles are built into the tables of specialized restaurants, and marinated strips of meat are grilled there (soy sauce, sesame oil, hot peppers and garlic). They are then served on a lettuce or sesame leaf (kaetnip) with grilled vegetables, rice and kimchi. At the three-star GAON restaurant, Chef Kim Byoung-jin offers up his own interpretation of bulgogi with a dish using grilled beef striploin, seasoned with a syrup of cereals and soy sauce and served with cabbage dressed in anchovies and powdered hot pepper alongside slices of chestnut and pear. This course is part of the surasang, 12 side dishes served for the king's breakfast and dinner and that inspires the chef’s cuisine. GAON offers different courses for different seasons made with the best local and seasonal ingredients, following the nutritious flow that the nature can provide.