The Korean BBQ staple of Kalbi cannot be missed. When compared to short ribs prepared in the European way (slowly braised in liquid), short ribs prepared in the Korean form (thinly sliced) are ideal for speedy grilling. Find out the steps to making these at home.
What Is Kalbi?
Also spelled galbi, are grilled beef short ribs from Korea. Although beef is most commonly associated with galbi, porcine short ribs may also be referred to by this term. In Korean cuisine, kalbi belongs to the category of grilled dishes known as GUI.
Kalbi may refer to unseasoned or marinated ribs. Like bulgogi sauce, the galbi marinade includes sweet and piquant flavors. In contrast to bulgogi, kalbi places less emphasis on gochujang, the fermented chile condiment that appears in numerous other Korean dishes. Serve galbi with ssamjang, a spicy dipping condiment, to add a hint of spice.
Tips for Making Galbi
Kalbi is quick-cooking and full of flavor—here’s what to know before tackling this favorite cut.
Ask for “LA-style” or “flanken-style” short ribs. You can find short ribs prepared in the Korean style at Korean markets and most Asian grocery stores, but if you don’t have access to either, any high-quality butcher shop should be able to carve them for you. The narrow profile of these beef ribs is achieved by slicing the rib bones (or Western-style slices such as the rib eye) crosswise. On one side of each segment is a thin cross-section of bone. The narrower incision lets the meat absorb the marinade and cook more effectively.
For a quicker marinating time, make small incisions in the meat. You can marinate kalbi for as little as 30 minutes or as much as 24 hours. To expedite the process, carve small slits into the meat to enable the marinade to penetrate. If you wish to prepare the marinade ahead of time, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Use a tabletop grill. Many Korean BBQ restaurants serve kalbi raw, enabling patrons to grill the ribs themselves on griddles placed in the center of the table. In addition to being a genuinely pleasurable communal dining experience, it enables the meat to be basted with additional marinade as it roasts.
How to Serve Kalbi
Serve kalbi as a main course or as one component of a larger spread. Either way, have a pair of kitchen shears at the table for easy deboning.
In a lettuce wrap: Kalbi is best served wrapped in fresh, crisp lettuce leaves (or similarly leafy vegetables) with a piece of steamed rice and ssamjang, a fiery dipping sauce made from fermented soybean paste, chili paste, and aromatics.
Over rice: If you do not have lettuce on hand, kalbi goes well with steamed rice. To accompany, toss a few fresh cucumber slices with rice vinegar, salt, and sesame seeds.
With side dishes: Serve the kalbi with a variety of banchan, including kimchi, pickles, or potatoes that have been soy-braised.
Homemade Kalbi Recipe
1 cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
¼ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3–4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 Asian pear, cored and diced, or 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2½ pounds LA- or flanken-style short ribs
4 cups steamed rice, to serve
8 butter lettuce leaves, to serve
1 cup ssamjang, to serve
Kimchi, to serve
Note: The total time does not include 1 hour of inactive time.
1. In a high-speed blender, add the soy sauce, mirin, water, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and pear, and blend until smooth.
2. Add the scallions, sesame seeds, and pepper and pulse to mix.
3. Place the ribs in a single layer in a baking dish or in a big freezer bag.
4. Cover the ribs with marinade and seal the dish tightly with a lid or plastic wrap (or zip up the freezer bag).
5. Let the ribs marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
6. Preheat a gas grill to high heat or a broiler setting in the oven when ready to cook. Place a wire roasting rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the oven for preheating.
7. Using tongs, lay the ribs in a single layer on the grill (or wire rack), allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Close the grill top or oven, and cook for about 4 minutes.
8. Open the grill or oven, brush the ribs with excess marinade, and flip the ribs. Brush the second side of the ribs with marinade, and close the grill or oven once more.
9. Cook the ribs for another 4–5 minutes, until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone.
10. Serve kalbi immediately, with steamed rice, ssamjang, lettuce, and kimchi.