Joshua kantarges w O4 Cy Wn Izz4 unsplash

Playing with fire

This summer take your barbecue global and get fired up by some of the unique styles and flavours of flame-cooking around the world

American

In brief
Wild flames, bourbon-spiked sauces, smoked briskets and meat that falls off the bone – when it comes to barbecue, America delivers. This is to be expected from the nation that birthed modern barbecue culture as we know it in this country, with juicy stacked burgers, thick New York-style steaks and Maine grilled lobster. Flavour profiles vary state-to-state, but the trademark cooking style is for tougher cuts of meat to be slow-smoked until tender. Over time, four prominent areas (Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and Carolina) adapted distinctive smoking styles, sauces and dishes, but all tied together by slow-smoking methods, using indirect heat and local woods.

Key ingredients
Texan cowboys put beef on the culinary map, while Carolina and Memphis tend to emphasise pork, and everything is as super-sized as you’d expect, with flavours that don’t hold back. As for the thick, sweet sauce associated with barbecues? Specific origins are controversial but many pinpoint Kansas City as the birthplace.

Specific dishes
Tender-crisp briskets take residency in the Lone Star State, where they are dry-rubbed in an aromatic blend of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder and served with a smoky, sticky sauce on the side. Pork ribs, either dry-rubbed or wet-rubbed, are the go-to in Memphis and cherry or apple woods are commonly used here to bring a subtle sweetness to the grill. Accredited to steamboat chef Henry Perry, who flogged smoked meats in Kansas City back streets in the early 20th century, the Kansan barbecue style comes with an ‘everything goes’ approach – brisket tips, mutton and smoked beans all finding a place on the grill and charred well, thanks to a brown sugar and paprika rub. Delicate pulled pork, whole hogs smoked for upwards of 20 hours, mac and cheese, and roasted corn on the cob? You must be in Carolina. Here, the meat is commonly brushed, dipped or mopped in a vinegar-based sauce.

How to do it
Slow and low is the mantra to remember when it comes to an American-style barbecue. You’ll need three elements for the perfect sizzle – meat, wood smoke and a good marinade. For the traditional grill, hot smoking is common practice but you can speed up the process by getting the smoker up to a higher temperature of around 120C for two hours. For smoky porkribs, abide by the 3:2:1 rule: for the first three hours, smokeon the grill; then cook wrapped in foil for the next two hours; and, finally, unwrap and cook for another hour.

Where to try it
Homesick for the smoked meats of Kansas City, chef Michael Gratz set up Prairie Fire beneath the arches of London’s Wood Lane. Linking a passion for beers and barbecue, there’s craft on tap and fall-off-the-bone brisket, slow-smoked for 16 hours over oak wood.

DSCF6440 Edit 636510395943626673

Travel Details

prairiefirebbq.com

Argentinian

In brief
Asado to Argentina is like smoke to fire. Running deep in the country’s DNA, traced back to gauchos and the wild cattle from the fertile pampas plains, it has become a symbol of national pride. Asado refers to both the cooking practice and the original succulent rib dish, but you’ll find every cut of beef used (a nose- to-tail policy sees little waste) – first salted, then smoked for up to 20 hours on a scalding hot parrilla (grill). Most parrillas are fuelled by quebracho, hardwood, selected by the asador (grill master) and meat is sloped on a 45-degree angle to allow for a generous stream of fat to penetrate along the body of the meat for maximum flavour. The asado is as much a social event as it is a gastronomic one, long-lasting and paired with plenty of malbec.

Key ingredients
Although beef is the main attraction, you’ll find chicken, pork, chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage) sizzling above the flames. To accompany the meat feast, sides are kept simple with verdant salads, salsa criolla (chopped tomato, peppers and onions) and the infamous chimichurri – a condiment made with a generous amount of chopped herbs and garlic and a sprinkling of chilli flakes with a splash of lemon or vinegar for acidity. And to soak up the leftovers, there are crusty bread rolls aplenty.

Specific dishes
It’s all about the meat: melting tira de asado (short rib), vacio (flank), entraña (skirt), ribeye steaks and moreish bife de chorizo (sirloin) – the list is endless, all slow-smoked and washed down with the bread, chimichurri and inky malbec. Or sample paper-thin cuts of flank, rolled up and stuff with red peppers and hard-boiled eggs, known as matambre. For appetisers, morcilla and chorizo are presented along with cheese and golden empanadas on a board. Grilled aubergine and red peppers complement salads, and dishes of provoleta, melted cheese drizzled in olive oil, should not be missed.

How to do it
The Argentinian grill is renowned for lasting hours, with an assembly line of dishes plated up by the asador. Use hardwood as your fuel and add sprigs of rosemary to the flames for subtle flavouring. Steaks are characteristically dusted with coarse salt flakes and larger cuts are basted in a hot water brine and a scattering of herbs. Gather friends, bring out the chimichurri and bottles of red before tucking in.

Where to try it
Contemporary asado flavours are captured on Zoilo’s monthly-changing menu in London’s Marylebone, where Buenos Aires-born chef patron Diego Jacquet plates up premium steaks off the grill – bife ancho (ribeye) with lashings of chimichurri sauce, and flank served with salsa verde and bone marrow jus. All washed down with a long list of Argentinian wines.

SAA7368 MPT FT

Travel Details

zoilo.co.uk

South African

In brief
If one thing unites South Africans, it’s their love of braai. This style of feast has such cultural significance that Heritage Day, celebrated annually on 24 September, is also referred to as Braai Day. The braai itself is made from a halved steel oil drum with a cross-mesh metal grill placed over crackling local woods. It is, quite simply, the cooking method of choice for any big occasion.

Key ingredients
Lamb, pork, chicken and beef find their home atop the South African grill, although wild boar, ostrich and offal such as skilpadjies (lamb’s liver) and skaapstertjies (lambs’ tail) are commonly seared too. A sweet and aromatic spice mix forms the unique dry rub and basting sauce using smoky paprika, fiery cayenne, warming cumin, nutmeg, coriander, allspice and cracked black pepper. Sweet chutneys and apricot jams are key players too.

Specific dishes
While the braaimaster in charge ignites the flame, guests will savour biltong washed down with beer and full-bodied shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. Lamb chops are marinated in garlic, rosemary and thyme at least an hour before grilling, while lamb sosaties (skewers) are tossed in curry powder and plump apricot jam for a palate contrast. Best loved cuts for steaks include rump, fillet and T-bone, which can either be dry-rubbed with the braai spice blend or basted while grilling. The humble cheese toastie gets an upgrade too – braaibroodjie is a popular side dish involving lashings of butter and sweet chutney. And if you’re near the coast, snoek fish basted in apricot jam is a core flavour combination. In addition to salads, pap (maize porridge) and roosterkoek (grilled dough cakes) are served to balance out the meat bonanza.

How to do it
Make sure your steaks are no less than 20mm thick, and you’ll want them to be at room temperature before flipping on to the flames. You can source traditional South African woods such as rooikran, kameeldoring and sekelbos from letsbraai.co.uk for a really authentic flavour, and stack these upwards like a chimney for maximum oxygen flow. Beginners may opt to keep things simple and allow the meat to do the talking by seasoning steaks on both sides with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and black pepper. The golden rule is 3-5 minutes per side and then allow the flame-flickered fare to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving with sides of braaied buttered potatoes and spiced green beans.

Where to try it
Chef Patrick Williams celebrates his South African roots at Peckham’s Kudu Grill with a contemporary take on traditional braai using seasonal British ingredients. Straight off the open fire, don’t miss the dry-aged T-bone steak with beer-pickled onions and the juicy pork chop paired with sweet and tangy monkey gland sauce.

URU176

Travel Details

kuducollective.com

Caribbean

In brief
With a plethora of sandy shorelines and sapphire seas, the home of Caribbean barbecue is the beach. Fire cooking roots are firmly planted in these islands, tracing back to the indigenous Taíno people, who would grill using wooden racks over fire pits – in fact this is where the word barbecue comes from. A modern iteration saw pits replaced with halved barrels lined with charcoal and today these drums have evolved further as ‘jerk pans’. Across the various islands, a bold fusion of flavours comes together on the sizzling griddle. The most well-known? Jamaican jerk, mastered by slow-smoking over pimento wood, and a dry rub.

Key ingredients
The spice bomb of marinades, jerk is used to smother chicken, pork and seafood. It is made with a combination of warming allspice, cayenne pepper, paprika, hot pepper flakes and cumin, while scotch bonnet peppers dial the heat up further. Spice is balanced by sweet fried dumplings, potato salads and creamy coconut.

Specific dishes
Signature jerk leaves no fare unseasoned – chicken (wings, breasts, thighs) dominates the grill, closely followed by pork (ribs, shoulder and chops), but fish (kingfish, snapper), goat, rabbit and shellfish are frequently charred too. Slices of plantain fried in butter inject sweetness to the palate along with pineapples, mangoes and papaya slices tossed in brown sugar and cinnamon. These fruits also form the base of chutneys and relishes but that doesn’t mean they escape the heat – in Trinidad, mango chow, infused with hot sauce, is a common side. Finish your plate with spiced rice punctured with red kidney beans and saltfish fritters.

How to do it
Score any meat and marinate with the fiery spices the day before. Allow to slow-smoke on charcoal for up to three hours by cooking on the grill using indirect heat, and close the lid for that smoky depth of flavour. And don’t forget, rum is essential sipping.

Where to try it
With recipes passed down through generations,Mama’s Jerk in London’s Canary Wharf elevates the backyard barbecue with 24-hour jerk wings, hot pickles and mango mayo.

Shutterstock 85663768

Travel Details

mamasjerk.com

Indonesian

In brief
Translated simply as roasted meat, satay (sate in the native tongue) is Indonesia’s mainstay, listed as a national dish. These tender skewers, charred on a long, thin grill above a pan of coal, are firmly ingrained as a street-food must-have, and you’ll never be far from the sweet aromas of nutmeg and chilli that float through alleyways across the islands as skewers are flipped left, right and centre. Although popular throughout Southeast Asia, Java lays claim to the origins, as this way of cooking is most likely to have landed there via Middle Eastern traders. Aside from juicy skewers, ample fish is plucked straight from the surrounding seas, and vegetarians don’t go unheard, with marinated tofu and green beans taking their place on the grill too.

Key ingredients
A cabinet of homemade condiments form the base of marinades and dipping sauces: garlicky, chilli-fuelled sambal, with its underlying citrus profile of lime and lemongrass, bumbu kacang (peanut sauce, which is often wrongly referred to as satay) and kecap manis, soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar. Earthy, home- produced turmeric is a staple for chargrilled beef, chicken, mutton and goat, giving its signature colour to dishes, and the Indonesian spice mix known as bumbu touches on ginger, galangal and nutmeg.

Specific dishes
The shape-shifting satay takes on hundreds of variations across the archipelago. Most notably, the Balinese sate lilit, using minced meat – usually pork, fish, chicken or beef – combined with coconut shavings, ginger, lemon juice, shallots and garlic. The universal dish sate ayam uses marinated chicken with a dipping pot of bumbu kacang on the side. In central Java, kecap manis shines as a glaze for meat and fish, caramelising in the flame, while in Sumatra sate padang – beef skewers a curry sauce – is favoured. Other key dishes are ayam bakar, in marinated kecap manis chicken thighs scorched over charcoal, and ikan bakar, where locally-caught fish is dipped in spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf parcel on the grill. Take your pick of accompaniments from rice cakes topped with bawang goreng (fried shallots), mango salsa and acar (pickles).

How to do it
Get your marinade and/or dip prepared, then cut your meat of choice into cubes – cuts like thigh and pork shoulder are best – and thread on to bamboo skewers (presoaked in cold water for a few minutes first to prevent burning). A standard barbecue will get the job done if you ensure coals are burning white hot before laying down your satays. Watch the grill closely and turn the skewers frequently to avoid burning, especially if you are marinating with kecap manis as it has a higher sugar content.

Where to try it
Head to Jakarta restaurant in London’s Edgware and pick from satay favourites and other Indonesian staples with plenty of dippable sauces.

Korean

In brief
Wander the streets of Seoul and it is unlikely that Korean barbecue, or gogi-gui as it is locally known, will slip beneath your radar. Having gained popularity globally in recent decades, gogi-gui is different from other barbecue styles in that the cooking is done indoors, table-side around a built-in grill. The central grill sits there smoking away, ready to char succulent strips of crispy pork, beef and chicken as required, and it’s surrounded by a conveyor belt of banchan (pickled vegetable sides). Fermented cabbage and daikon kimchi are on hand to cut through the richness of tender meats, either used to marinate or dunked into small pots of tantalising sauces and pastes.

Key ingredients
Always a careful balancing act of sweet and salty flavours, you won’t find a short supply of garlic, ginger or sesame oil at the Korean grill. The stand-outs are beef paired with a soy sauce, rice vinegar and oil marinade, and pork with gochujang (red chilli paste) amps up the spice.

Specific dishes
Gogi-gui is a firecracker of flavours. The popular style bulgogi consists of tender beef strips marinated in a soy sauce-gochujang hybrid and then grilled, but perhaps best-known is sticky galbi, short ribs charred for five minutes on each side until caramelised and succulent. Other highlights include maekjeok, pork marinated in doenjang paste (fermented soybean), which adds a umami depth, and samgyeopsal (crispy pork strips), which are dipped into ssamjang, a Korean barbecue essential made by combining doenjang with gochujang. The parade of banchans almost steals the show – expect pa muchim (crunchy spring onion salad), tangy pickles, bean sprouts and sautéed spinach.

How to do it
You’ll need two key elements – a hot plate and time. Allow any meat to marinate overnight and prepare your vegetables for the banchan the morning of the barbecue. Before you start cooking, you’ll need to prepare the table with your assortment of sides and sauces. When you come to eat, it’s chopsticks at the ready, leaving your other palm free to build a ssam (lettuce leaf wrap) with the likes of crispy pork. Once grilled, glide the pork into the ssamjang sauce and then wrap up in the lettuce to make a mouth-sized bite.

Where to try it
Olle restaurant in Soho takes inspiration from the island of Jeju with a beef-centric menu. Pick from fail-safe bulgogi, premium Wagyu or, for the more daring, ox tongue – both seared to perfection on the tabletop grill.

JEJ7975

Travel Details

ollelondon.com

Middle Eastern

In brief
Originating in Middle Eastern dining, everyone’s beloved kebabs spread like wild fire to the global table and no barbecue is complete without these marinated pieces stacked and grilled above burning charcoal. Legend traces the dish to medieval times, when Persian soldiers threaded their swords with meat and pointed them into open fires. Nowadays, from Turkish grill houses to the Moroccan souks, wafting smoke fills the air as kebabs cook, and you’ll find shish, shawarmas and koftas seasoned, seared and savoured either straight off the skewer or with a moreish wrap.

Key ingredients
Cooked over a bed of glowing coals, lamb is the primary meat, due to Muslim and Jewish restrictions on pork, with chicken falling a close second. Warming spices of saffron, cumin, fenugreek, ras el hanout and za’atar underpin the region’s flavour profile and sweet paprika and turmeric are often used alongside. Other leading roles go to depth-adding, pepper pastes such as harissa or the salty biber salçasi, with garlic and tahini dipping sauces being the usual partners.

Specific dishes
The classic shish is built from melt-in-your-mouth lamb cubes bathed in spices and crisped over the flames. These are commonly served with an array of colourful small plates – tabbouleh, bulgur, grilled halloumi, vegetable pilaf and charred medleys of artichokes, aubergines and tomatoes. The kindred shish taouk (chicken kebab) is prepared with a creamier yoghurt and olive oil marinade with garlic and citrus notes, while the milder urfa kebab features oregano, cumin and sweet paprika. Lamb is also minced – kneaded with spices, parsley and mint and fashioned into a sausage around a stick to create koftas – or a whole lamb may be cooked on the spit as mechoui.

How to do it
Lamb shoulder and leg are the best whole cuts. Up your grill game by rubbing with a medley of Middle Eastern flavours, set your barbecue up with two zones of indirect and direct cooking by placing burning coals to one side, and cook low and slow. Or, for individual chops, make a marinade of yoghurt, cumin and olive oil and use to smother the chops overnight. The next day, cook directly for three minutes on each side until crisp.

Where to try it
Chef Josh Katz’s love of bold flavours and live-fire cooking makes Berber & Q a must-visit in east London. Don’t miss the Moroccan-inspired, slow-cooked lamb mechoui or the signature cauliflower shawarma sprinkled with pomegranates, pine nuts and rose.

IST122

Travel Details

berberandq.com

Get Premium access to all the latest content online

Subscribe and view full print editions online... Subscribe