Monday, March 23, 2009

Kalbi -- Korean Marinated Short Ribs

I'm not Korean but I LOOOOVE Korean food. Making it completely authentic is a bit of a challenge without that background, but I do have some friends to guide me. One of my favorite dishes is kalbi, marinated sliced short ribs that are sooooo good.

Last summer we had a barbecue, to which my cousin's friend, who's Korean, brought uncooked kalbi. It was grilled on the barbecue along with other meats, but frankly blew everything else away! I begged her for the recipe, wanting to know what went in the marinade, and after much badgering she finally confessed that she didn't make a marinade from scratch; she used Mr. Yoshida's marinade. D'oh.

Well, you can't argue with a good thing. I'd love to know how to make my own authentic marinade for kalbi one day (any of you have tried and true recipes you'd like to share??), but until then, this one does me just fine.

Kalbi is so popular that grocery stores of all types are carrying this cut of meat -- often named some variation of "kalbi" or might say "for Korean BBQ" or "cut flanken style." You definitely don't want the typical large cuts of short ribs (that are good in their own right, for braising usually). These should be strips of beef about 1/2-inch thick, about a foot long, and interspersed with 3-4 bones toward the edges. You can marinade and grill them whole, but I usually slice them into pieces, letting the bones guide me where another piece should start/end. I'm way too lazy to fire up a grill to make these (though I do think they taste better that way), so to make them at home I just heat up a tablespoon or two of canola oil in the wok and cook them that way (they don't take very long). I make sure that the beef is in a single layer, and just turn them at intervals. Depending on how much you have you may need to do this in batches. It also seems fairly typical to serve these with just-cooked onion ... in the last batch toward the end of cooking toss in a small onion sliced on the vertical in with the beef, and stir fry until the onion is just starting to brown, about a minute or two. They shouldn't be completely soft and should still have a nice crunch to them.

So far I have been way too lazy to serve this with a proper Korean banchan offering -- way too many little side dishes to make for just me! -- but I eat this with a large helping of fluffy white rice and prepared kimchi and it's just divine! I initially start out using chopsticks but soon abandon my propriety and just eat the ribs with my fingers, lol.

I posted this to LiveJournal and chumas has shared a kalbi marinade, woot! It goes like this:

Moms Marinade

  • 1 cup of dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup green onions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayanne pepper (I like it firey, less for less heat)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds


  1. Let kalbi soak in marinade for two to three hours, flipping occasionally. Grill or pan fry, serve.
But it seems that Mr. Yoshida's is quite well known and popular, so there's no shame in using it from time to time, right? Right!


Anonymous said...

Heh, it's funny I started thinking, then obsessing about having some kalbi after I typed out moms recipe.
Went to three grocery stores to find the ribs and no dice.
Had to dig out a phonebook and locate a butcher out in the boonies to get a big pile of the ribs.
Cooked them up tonight and there was much snarling and gnawing of bones. :D

Cass said...

Hi! I found your blog through one of your posts in LJ. One of my friends asked an owner of a Korean restaurant here in Hawaii and they said that they also add pureed pear or apple to the marinade. This tenderizes the meat and you won't have to add as much sugar. We barbecued some last week and it was just as good as the restaurant's! :D