Korean BBQ in Coolsville: A Memphis Report

What happens when Korean barbecue goes from suburban strip malls to restaurant rows in cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis? On the latest Gravy, new host (and old SFA director) John T Edge reports from DWJ Korean BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee, where kalbi (grilled beef short ribs) is the money dish.

Looking back to his grad school days, when he wrote a paper about the Italian-inspired Memphis dishes barbecue pizza and barbecue spaghetti, Edge argues that this traditional-seeming barbecue town has long been a hotbed of multicultural experimentation and innovation.

To read about the impact and influence of Asian peoples on the American South, start with this collection, Asian Americans in Dixie, edited by Khyati Y. Joshi and Jigna Desai and published by the University of Illinois Press.

To learn about the evolution — and the state of Korean American food — do what SFA did – buy a copy of Koreatown: A Cookbook, by Deukli Hong and Matt Robard, rich with 100-plus recipes, smart essays, and documentary-style photography.

If you aim to dig deeper into Korean-Southern culinary connections, read Edward Lee’s book: Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen.

That’s me, forking into a plate of barbecue spaghetti at the Bar-B-Q Shop.

To read more deeply about the multicultural roots of Memphis barbecue, here’s an interview with the Frank and Eric Vernon, who carry forward the Brady and Lil’s barbecue spaghetti recipe at the Bar-B-Q Shop. For a take on the Greek side of the Memphis barbecue equation, give a listen to John Vergos, son of Rendezvous founder Charlie Vergos. And, by all means, check out DWJ on Facebook.

Last, if you aim to explore more multicultural barbecue possibilities in Memphis, I heartily recommend the al pastor torta at Taqueria Garibaldi, 5976 Knight Arnold Road. Stuffed with pineapple-marinated and char-grilled pork, that torta tastes like future tense Memphis barbecue.

Music used in this episode includes “Lucky Hans,” and “Hometown Shuffle” by Lobo Loco, “Newlong,” and “Boogy Doggy” by Marceau, and “I Am The One” by Stick Men with Ray Guns.