The Meatwave

Hobak Bokkeum

Hobak Bokkeum View Recipe

When I decided to utilize the grill to make some meatloaf paninis last fall, I wanted to add a grilled side since I was going to have a batch of coals going already. That meatloaf sandwich had a lot of Korean inspiration to it, so I began crafting a side that followed suit. After settling on a grilled zucchini with a spicy sesame oil sauce, I realized that idea was already along the lines of the traditional Korean stir fried zucchini dish called hobak bokkeum. So I then changed course slightly to attempt to adapt that existing recipe to the grill instead.

Grilled Hobak Bokkeum

This dish is very simple, with saeujeot (tiny shrimp), garlic, and zucchini slices sautéed in a mixture of regular and sesame oils, then finished with scallions and sesame seeds. To change this up for the grill, I started first by making a mixture of sesame oil and garlic, and I opted to use fish sauce instead of saeujeot because of personal preference. I was kind of looking forward to a spicy side, so I went ahead and added in gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) too, which I did see in some hobak bokkeum recipes out there, but it's not the norm.

Summer Squash Sandwiches

This dish commonly uses zucchini cut into thin rounds and/or halves to form smaller pieces. That wouldn't do on the grill though because that size would fall through the grates, so I went with my trusty method of cutting the zucchini into half-inch slices on a bias so they would be sufficiently big and thick enough to hold up over the flames.

Grilled Hobak Bokkeum

I then coated the zucchini with oil and gave it a light seasoning of salt before setting the slices over direct heat. I like my zucchini really tender and well browned when I'm grilling it, but that's not what this side calls for, so against my instincts, I let these grill until they were still a little firm in the middle and with only light to medium browning. This only took a couple minutes per side for the slices that were over the hottest parts of the fire, a minute or so more for slices that were in slightly cooler pockets.

Grilled Hobak Bokkeum

Once the zucchini was all done, I placed the slices back in the bowl and quickly added in the sesame oil mixture since I wanted the garlic to get some heat to help take the raw edge off a bit. I added in scallions too before tossing everything to distribute the seasoning and scallions evenly. Then I moved everything into a serving bowl and garnished with sesame seeds.

Grilled Hobak Bokkeum

This ended up being a nice little side and a good accompaniment to the more heavily flavored panini. The mellow touch of the zucchini meant that the trio of the garlic, sesame oil, and fish sauce were all well accounted for in the flavor, but their quantities weren't in such amounts that they really dominated, achieving a good balance with the tender vegetable which had a fire kissed touch to it. I was actually expecting this to be spicier than it was—the gochugaru really just added some background heat—which allowed me to easily imagine what this would taste like without the pepper. While I enjoyed this side with my sandwich, I felt it would be even more welcomed in a Korean barbecue feast, so it may just make another appearance on my table since Korean barbecue is something I get the grill going for at home at least a few times a year.

Print Recipe

Hobak Bokkeum

  • Yield 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon gochugaru (optional)
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices on a bias
  • 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, garlic, fish sauce, and gochugaru (if using). Set aside.
  2. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place zucchini in a large bowl, add in oil, and season lightly with salt. Toss to evenly distribute salt and coat zucchini in oil. Transfer zucchini slices on grill and cook until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is lightly browned and zucchini is crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes more.
  3. Transfer zucchini to back to large bowl, add in sesame oil mixture and scallions, and toss to evenly distribute ingredients. Transfer zucchini to a serving bowl, garnish with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

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