HealthyPosted on 17.12.2013

Healthy Korean Takeaways – Grilled Korean Pork Belly vs. Chicken Bulgogi

Grilled Korean Pork Belly Slices (Samgyeopsal Gui)
Grilled dishes are generally low in fat and among the healthiest on the menu, so what put this one in my ‘naughty’ slot this week? One word – belly.

Pork belly is high in fat. On the plus side, as it melts, the fat stops the meat from drying out and keeps it lovely and moist while the meat is cooking. Fat is also where you’ll find much of the flavour in meat. But on the downside (nutritionally speaking) animal fats are not only high in calories (more than twice the calories found in carbohydrates or protein), they’re high in the saturated fats that increase our risk of heart problems.

Naughty, but who could say no to that? (source)

To make Korean barbecued pork belly, the meat is massaged with a tasty marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, onion and garlic, and left to absorb the flavours before being grilled. Sometimes it’s served with a dipping sauce full of similar flavours – soybean paste, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar – with chilli for a bit of a kick, and sesame seeds for crunch.

But all that sugar and salt content (from the soy sauce) make this dish less than healthy, so keep this one for very, very occasional treats only!

Barbecued Chicken (Chicken Bulgogi)
Now this is how a grilled dish should be done. At least, if you’re wanting to do it healthily!

Chicken Bulgogi is a nice, simple dish, but packed with flavour. And to put it into nutritional perspective, let’s compare it with that grilled pork belly. Same cooking method – just different meats. While a serving of barbecued pork belly weighs in at a hefty 576 calories and 42 grams of fat, the same amount of grilled chicken breast contains only 266 calories and less than a tenth of the fat (just 4 grams). When you compare the saturated fat – that’s the most unhealthy kind – the contrast is even greater. Grilled chicken has less than 13 times less saturates than that fatty pork belly. It all adds up.

Delicious and healthy. The perfect takeaway. (source)

Chicken bulgogi uses those familiar Korean flavours to marinate the chicken and make it extra-flavoursome – soy sauce and sesame oil, palm sugar or honey, chilli flakes and sesame seeds.  As I mentioned, soy sauce is high in salt, and most of us eat too much sugar already, but because this dish so healthy otherwise, it definitely deserves it’s place on the ‘nice’ pedestal.

Have it with some plain boiled rice, or plain (not fried) noodles, with a vegetable side dish, for a guilt-free Korean treat.