Fire up the grill!
Nothing epitomizes summer more than heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and toasting to cool summer vibes with an icy cold beer. While Americans have a strong affection for barbequing, with the heart and soul of our long-standing roasting tradition in the South perfecting the craft of slow-roasting a whole hog, there are other countries around the world who love barbequing as much as we do.
To inspire your summer grillin’ game this year, here are the best BBQ cultures and activities around the world to sink your teeth into.
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Throw a shrimp on the barbie, mate! This stereotype might not be true, Aussies do not eat shrimps but rather prawns, however, as a born and bred Melbourne girl, we do love a great barbie on weekends when the temperature rises. Barbequing in Australia is extremely simplistic, supermarket sausages thrown on a grill and placed on a piece of sliced white bread with a generous squirt of tomato sauce (ketchup for those non-Aussies out there), and fair dinkum you have a great Aussie tradition every kid remembers and craves.
Grill Tip: Head down to Bondi Beach, NSW and any Aussie will invite you for a snag and beer.
Everything in Japan’s cuisine and food culture is deeply complex and refined, even their comfort food—ramen—is seen as a craft, perfected by highly trained ramen masters. So, it should come as no surprise, the Japanese take barbequing to a whole new level in the form of their most popular BBQ—yakitori. Although commonly chicken, you can find any type of protein, vegetable, and offal on a tiny skewer in a yakitori-ya (BBQ shop). If you are in Japan for the Olympics, just follow the smell of smoldering charcoal to find the best and most authentic yakitori in the city.
Grill Tip: Toritama in Shinjuku is known to be the best in Tokyo but it is pricey.
Argentina is surely a carnivore’s paradise in a country where barbecue is seen as their national identity and sacrilege if done incorrectly. Historically, the Gauchos, cowboys of Argentina, brought BBQ culture to life in Argentina in the early 15th century and it still exists today, much to the delight of meat-lovers looking for expertly grilled meat at an affordable price. You do not have to go to the deep southern parts of Argentina, for great tasting steaks because in the capital of Buenos Aires you will find excellent parrillas (steakhouses) on every street and neighborhood. Don Julio is rated as the best but I personally love Canta el Gallo for affordable eats with locals.
Grill Tip: La Cabrera consistently rates as one of the best in the city but be prepared to wait.
Don’t expect just another boring steak if you are invited to a friend’s house for a barbecue in South Africa. When Braai (Afrikaans for barbecue) season starts at the start of the summer, expect beef, lamb, ostrich, and even springbok, a type of antelope on the menu—all heavily salted, spiced, and grilled over charcoal or wood. Braai in South Africa comes with some rules though, if you are invited for a “chop n dop,” bring your own chop (meat) and dop (drinks), but if you are called for a “bring and braai,” you need to bring everything except the fire. Gejuig!
Grill Tip: Kaai for Braai by the water can’t be missed.
Brazilian churrasco might be one of the best barbecue cultures out there with an all-you-can-eat style where doting waiters come to your table and present hungry diners with different cuts of meat. Seen as a long-standing tradition that rivals the asado in Argentina, Brazil might just win the hearts of BBQ-lovers with its complimentary salad bar, but let’s be honest, who has time for salad when there is a rotating meat buffet on offer?
Grill Tip: Head to Churrasco Palace, which opened in 1951 and offers some excellent cuts of meat like Prime Rib in a traditional setting.
French Polynesia (Tahiti)
Forget a ho-hum BBQ when in Tahiti. When the weekend rolls around, families head down to the beach, dig a large hole, and place hot volcanic stones on banana leaf-wrapped shrimp, vegetables, and even whole wild pigs which are roasted for hours before enjoying. Known as Ahima’a, which is normally reserved for celebratory meals in French Polynesia, Ahi means fire and Ma’a means food and is seen as a deeply affectionate family tradition for many Tahitians where the food is always blessed with a prayer before eating and is followed by traditional songs played on a ukulele.
If you do not have Jamaican jerk chicken by the roadside in Jamaica, you may have broken a cardinal rule as a fully-fledged foodie-traveler with a nose for good eats. When it comes to barbecue, Jamaica has one trick up its sleeve, which is Jerk, fiery smoke-roasted meats like pork and chicken, intensified with their unofficial national ingredient, the scotch bonnet chile and other herbs and spices. Best sure to order lots of sides like rice and peas, callaloo, plantains, and a Red Stripe Beer for the full experience.
Grill Tip: No frills, Scotchies in Montego Bay.
Korean BBQ is well known in the U.S. with many great Korean BBQ joints in Manhattan, K-Town in Los Angeles, and also Fort Lee, New Jersey, but if you want authentic gogigui, “meat roast” in Korean, you will surely head straight to Korea for the most authentic and best. Thin slices of meat like brisket and pork ribs, as well as yangnyeom galbi (marinated beef short ribs), are barbecued at the table and eaten with rice and spicy Korean sides like kimchi. Don’t forget Korea’s unofficial national alcoholic drink, soju.
Grill Tip: Maple Tree House might be a chain in Seoul, but sometimes you just need BBQ without trolling the internet for the best.
The Punjabi tandoor, a bell-shaped clay oven, has not changed much in 5,000-years since its inception in Indian households, and Indians are still enjoying this dish where skewers of meat are placed directly in the clay pot ‘oven’ and grilled to smokey perfection. In India, tandoori meats are eaten with pungent and intense curry sauces and rice, but who can pass up a tandoori-fired flatbread?
Grill Tip: Moti Mahal is one of the oldest restaurants in New Delhi.
Crunchy pork crackling skin and juicy fall-off-the-bone meat is seen as the Philippines’ national dish. For the last 130 years, different regions in the Philippines have adapted the lechon, whole roasted pig, but traditionally speaking, no matter where you are the rotisserie-style barbecue consists of a whole roasted pig, rubbed with coconut water, milk, or soy sauce which is then stuffed with local ingredients like lemongrass and batuan fruit, before being roasted over charcoal to get the best pork crackling you will ever have in your life.
Grill Tip: The best is at Car-Car’s Best Lechon, doesn’t the name say it all?
You may instantly think of ceviche and Pisco sours, but you cannot go to Peru and not have their BBQ. Strongly seen as traditional Incan cooking, the pachamanca, “earth pot” in the Quechua language, is a custom passed down by one generation to another. Much like in Tahiti, a large hole is dug in the ground and acts as an oven, and filled with hot stones to cook the ingredients wrapped up tightly in banana leaves and roasted for hours. Incan culture is strongly rooted in tradition and so before tucking in, a ceremonial toast of chicha, Peru’s beer is poured on the ingredients to show respect to the Gods of the Incan people.
Grill Tip: Hotels offer great BBQ in Peru, try SUMAQ Machu Picchu Hotel.