Monday, February 16, 2009

Kalbi (Korean Grilled Shortribs)

Kalbi, or delectable Korean shortribs, marinated in a sweet-soy marinade and grilled to perfection, are a favorite in my house. I first had kalbi when I lived in Japan and then in NYC with my Japanese co-workers. When we moved out of the City, we occasionally had to brave Route 100 to go eat authentic Korean food in Yonkers.

Shortribs are often prepared in stews or braises, because they are known as a tough and stringy meat. However, Koreans slice it thin and grill it. And its marbled and textured meat is highly flavorful, just like skirt steak. The key is the technique of cutting the short ribs, which I show below. Alternatively, if you have a Korean market nearby, you can buy the kalbi pre-cut.

If you can't get shortribs or find they're not of the right quality, buy pork spare ribs and cut them horizontally (not vertically), so that are three or four bones in each strip.

For four servings, get 3-4 lbs. thick shortribs, as pictured here. Ask your butcher if you're not finding what you want in the case.

Trim any excess fat from the short ribs.

I've started the first cut here, just for the picture.

To make the first cut, stand the short rib on its side and start cutting down as close to the bone as you can. Cut near to the bottom but not all the way through. Cut enough so that you can open the meat like a book.

Open the meat like a book. One side will be the bone side and the other side is the meat side, which is still too thick too grill. Start the second cut on the meat side, as pictured here. Cut evenly through the meat until you can fold this out like a book too.

Here is the meat fully cut through. Now, pound it a little so it is flatter and more even. As you cut the rest of the shortribs, use your judgement whether you need to cut it once, twice, or thrice, depending on the thickness of the shortrib.

When you're done cutting the meat, make the marinade.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup pear juice, 7-up, or Sprite
2 tbs. light brown sugar
2 tbs. rice vinegar
3 scallions, minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs. sesame oil
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Ground pepper to taste

Put meat and marinade in a Ziploc bag and marinate overnight, or at least 3-4 hours, turning occasionally.

Heat grill to high, all burners on. Remove ribs from marinade and dry off with paper towels. Let come to room temperature (15-20 minutes).

Grill 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness, turning once at halfway point in cooking.

Let rest a few minutes and then cut into thin slices. Serve with red lettuce and gochujang, Korean red chili paste. For an individual portion, take a piece of lettuce, smear some gochujang on the lettuce, put some meat in, wrap up, and eat.


Sophie said...

I used to eat these when I was a kid, they are sooo good--I'm saving this recipe and making it soon :). Thanks for sharing!

Ninette Enrique said...

Hey Sophie,

Thanks for checking out my new and first blog. I appreciate it!

Janetta said...


Anonymous said...

You can also use pureed kiwi to tenderize the meat during marinades. Yours looks delicious, I wish I had a grill here to make it too :(