when people say they love korean food, this is what they’re talking about.
slabs of sliced beef short ribs marinated and grilled to perfection, with a healthy bit of char, typically served with rice and fixins and wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with a smear of korean hot sauce.
as as the summer winds down, and grilling season starts to make way for soup season, i wanted to share this recipe that brings so much joy to my life. such garlicky, sweet, salty, smoky joy.
even the most “ethnic”-averse tastebuds tend to love galbi. it’s that good.
it also happens to be pretty easy, with simple ingredients. the real challenge, however, is in the marinade ingredient proportions. too much soy sauce, and it’s too salty. too little sugar and it’s just missing a bit of somethingsomething. the trick here is the same as with the braised brother of this dish known as galbi jjim:
usually, 1 part = 1 cup for me, but if i find i need more marinade, i just increase all 3 ingredients accordingly.
now let me be clear. this secret formula is my aunt’s secret formula, and it is FOOL.FREAKING.PROOF. there have been so many times when i’ve been lured by the scent of grilling beef in a restaurant or in someone’s home, only to be let down by the flavor. but this recipe does not fail. ever.
in fact, while you could sub out sugar for honey, fruit, juice, or even sprite or jam, i don’t love the risk of messing up the ratio, so in 99.9% of cases, i just use plain jane white granulated sugar. (i used maple syrup in my galbi jjim recipe, i know, i know)
if you think it seems like a lot of sugar, too much sugar…. you’re wrong.
just give it a try.
galbi aka korean bbq beef short ribs
makes enough for about 6-8 normal appetites, or 3-4 really hungry people who can eat a lot, i.e. me
ingredients you need:
- approx. 3-4 lbs beef short ribs that are sliced against the grain & bone, if it’s not boneless (sometimes i see this in american grocery stores labeled as “korean style” or “korean cut” or “kalbi” or “galbi.” apparently they could also be called “flanken cut” although i’ve never seen that myself. i buy the big pack of boneless beef short ribs at costco that are thick-cut, and then just slice each thick cut into two thinner slices.)
- 1 onion, sliced into half-moons
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 scallion stalk, chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (you can usually find a small bottle of this in any grocery store’s ethnic food aisle)
- a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds (also typically in the ethnic aisle)
additional ingredients/fixins you might want for serving:
- red lettuce leaves or romaine leaves for wrapping
- cooked white rice
- chopped scallions
- ssam jang, also known as a korean spicy bean paste/sauce, which adds a punch of flavor to korean lettuce-wrapped bites of bbq meat. i also like to use this as a dip for plain slices of cucumber, lettuce leaves, baby carrots… while this sounds like a really obscure thing to get a hold of, i’ve bought it from my local wegmans. it looks like this, unrefrigerated in the asian food section, and i store it in the fridge after opening.
- kimchi (it’s ok, even if you don’t like kimchi, you will still like galbi, and i will forgive you.)
- quick-pickled veggies like cucumbers or chayote squash or radishes
ingredients i sometimes see as galbi fixins in other people’s recipes that strike me as just plain wrong:
i mean, i’m all for creative freedom, so you do you… but i just can’t.
what you do:
marinate your meat the night before. this way, you’ll get the maximum effect of flavor.
to start, rinse off your galbi meat or let it soak in water, just to let out some of the blood and get rid of any bone bits if you’re using bone-in slices.
place the meat, onion slices, minced garlic and chopped scallions in a big baking dish or other container/ziploc bag. (i find a big baking dish easiest). pour sugar over the meat slices, then add the soy sauce, water and sesame oil.
massage it all together to get the ingredients combined. (the main thing i try to do is to get the sugar on all sides of the meat)
sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
cover with plastic wrap and/or foil (or seal your ziploc bag) and place in the refrigerator overnight.
the next day, when the meat is good and marinated, fire up your grill and cook the slices for a few minutes on each side over medium high heat to get a good char on the outside, then turn the heat down, cover the grill and let it go a few minutes longer until it’s to your preferred level of doneness. if this seems imprecise, it’s because cooking galbi is a little like cooking steak. you might prefer it with a pink middle, or you might prefer it fully cooked. personally, i like my steak medium but my galbi well done with crispy edges.
grilling offers the best results, but if you can cook this on the stove or under a broiler. i highly recommend starting with high heat to get a good caramelized sear before cooking it through.
serve with lettuce leaves, rice, chopped scallions and ssam jang. or just eat it plain off the grill.