Samgyeopsal 삼겹살 refers to pork belly in Korean, while Samgyeopsal Gui 삼겹살 구이 specifically means grilled pork belly. Typically, unseasoned, plain slices of pork belly are grilled either on a special pan designed to draw away fat (like the one available in my Amazon store) or on a charcoal grill. They are then enjoyed with a variety of condiments and wrapped in ssam (lettuce wraps).
Samgyeopsal always brings a smile to my face as it reminds me of how much I loved this pork belly when I was a kid. I have fond memories of sitting at the table with my entire family of seven on Sundays, playfully yelling across the table, asking for a piece of my precious pork belly.
“Give me the piece with the most ‘Baegye’ 배게!!!”
(Now, mind you, ‘Baegye’ 배게 means pillow.) HAHAHA… Everyone burst into laughter!!
At that time, I couldn’t understand why everyone was laughing, and it made me upset. Why were they teasing me? What did I say??
Then, as I grew older, I realized that I had completely mispronounced the word “Bigye” 비계 (fat) and said “Baegye” (pillow) instead!!! HAHAHA… Well, they sound somewhat similar… Now, I’m sure you can guess… I was not a skinny child.
In the last 20 years, people started preparing wine samgyeopsal after wine became popular and widespread in Korea. Interestingly, it’s not commonly served in restaurants (probably because most wines are imported), but Koreans who enjoy wine started making this dish at home.
Tips to Host the Ultimate Samgyeopsal Party
- When making Samgyeopsal, opt for high-quality pork belly – Koreans generally prefer Black Pigs (Heuk Dweji 흑돼지), especially those from Jeju Island. They are known for being less gamey and having a more chewy texture. In the US, Kurobuta pork is available, which is equivalent to the Wagyu of pork. Berkshire pigs (also black) were further developed in Japan through breeding and are recognized for their tenderness, marbling, and flavor. Additionally, I discovered Mujifuji pork (as seen in my instructions) at my local market, a Canadian premium pork bred from a Large White x Landrace female and a 5th generation Duroc male. Mujifuji is well-regarded for its high marbling score.
- For an extra burst of flavor, use my wine marinade! However, you can also prepare it without it – the classic way.
Recommended Serving Options
Here’s a snapshot from a BBQ picnic we had in our backyard a couple of summers ago. While Kalbi/Galbi is being grilled in the picture, you can use the same setup to grill pork belly. I’ve included this photo and more detailed instructions on how to plan and cook for this feast in my Korean BBQ Dinner cookbook. If you’re already a subscriber to my blog, you should have this cookbook. If not, SUBSCRIBE NOW to get your FREE COPY!!
- Serve with some Ssam vegetables and Ssamjang!
- Accompany with delectable side dishes – it’s best to have at least one from each group:
- Sweet, tangy, and fresh: radish salad, cucumber salad, lettuce salad, and jangahjji pickles.
- Fresh aromatic greens – green onion salad.
- Spicy – green chili pepper janghajji (pickles) or garlic scapes, pickled perilla leaves (kkaetnip jangahjji).
- Experiment with different thickness – some prefer it thin, while others like it thick. There’s no one answer. I enjoy it both ways.
- For thicker pork belly – you can score the meat yourself or buy Beoljip Samgyeopsal 벌집 (Beehive) 삼겹살 if your store sells them. I personally find them tastier because the honeycomb cuts allow the fat to render better while fully absorbing the marinade.
- Dipping Sauce (oil):
- Mix Sesame Oil with Sea Salt (use good quality Korean sea salt or Guerande salt – avoid using rock salts like Himalayan salt or table salt, as they are too salty and lack flavor).
- Notes on Wine Marinade for Samgyeopsal
- Dilute Jangahjji pickle juice with water for the marinade.
Red or White Wine for Samgyeopsal?
I’ve experimented with both red and white wine, and we had a tough time deciding which one we preferred. The red wine marinade has a distinct wine taste, which some may love while others may not. If you’re a red wine enthusiast, I recommend giving it a try.
On the other hand, the white wine marinade may feel subtle, almost as if there’s no marinade, but it produces a smoother taste compared to un-marinated pork and eliminates any lingering porky smell (if any).
For the white wine marinade, I used a dry chardonnay, and for the red, I used a red blend. However, you can also use Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or any other reds you prefer. In essence, you can use any dry red or white wine for this recipe.
If the pork belly is un-scored and thick, I suggest scoring one side of the pork belly (vertically across the fat layers) to facilitate fat rendering during cooking and enhance marinade absorption. However, if it’s not thick, there’s no need to score it.
(OPTIONAL) For a more appealing presentation, you can roll each piece of pork belly with a piece of bay leaf in the middle. Place the scored side facing outward while doing so.
In a bowl, combine pork belly, bay leaves, rosemary, peppercorns, extra virgin olive oil, and WINE!!
Marinate for 2-3 hours or leave it overnight. Remember to turn the pork belly pieces once halfway through. Avoid marinating for longer than 24 hours, especially with red wine, as the wine flavor can become overpowering. If needed, you can dilute the wine with some rice wine if you plan to marinate for an extended period.
(EXTRA) Prepare some veggies to grill with Samgyeopsal – slice onions, king oyster mushrooms, and even potatoes. Check out the Serving Suggestions picture above ⬆️. Additionally, get some ripe cabbage kimchi ready to grill alongside the pork belly – it’s absolutely delicious!
Set up a tabletop grill as shown in the picture above, or pan-fry a few pieces at a time and enjoy them by dipping them in a mixture of sesame oil and salt, alongside rice and kimchi. Alternatively, you can create delightful ssam by layering rice, meat, ssamjang, and pickles!
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- 1.5 lb pork belly (samgyeopsal)
- 1.5 cups wine (red or white)
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns (colored peppercorns work well too)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 5 bay leaves
- 5 sprigs of rosemary
If the samgyeopsal slices are thick, you can optionally score one side of the pork belly slice – across the layers.
In a bowl, combine the samgyeopsal, wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, and rosemary sprigs.
For a more appealing presentation, you can roll each pork belly slice with a bay leaf in the center before adding the marinade.
Marinate for 2-3 hours prior to cooking. If you prefer, you can also let it marinate overnight in the fridge. However, for red wine marinade, refrain from marinating for more than 24 hours.
Grill the samgyeopsal on a frying pan, tabletop grill pan, or outdoor grill.Accompany with ssamjang, ssam vegetables, kimchi, and other condiments! Check out my Serving Suggestions for additional ideas.
- Korean BBQ Grill Pan
- Tabletop Gas Grill
Tips & Notes:
- For a more appealing presentation, roll each pork belly slice with a bay leaf in the center before adding the marinade.
- Use red wine for a more complex flavor. Alternatively, opt for white wine if you prefer a simpler tasting pork belly.
- Freeze any leftover pork belly pieces (after removing from the marinade) and use them later.
- You can also marinate whole thick chunks of pork belly (2 x 2 inches thick cut), grill the outside first, then cut them into slices before grilling each piece.