Kalbi (Korean) BBQ

Let’s face it, the Koreans know how to cook.  Korean bbq is an absolute treat.  Every time I eat Korean, I try to decipher the food – what’s in there?  How did they make that?  That’s an unusual flavor, what is it?  After about 5 minutes of guessing, I usually give up and give in to the wonderful and ‘exotic’ flavors.  Korean food is also more of an assortment of small sides, rather than a ‘center of the plate’ western meal, which, like tapas, can really amaze diners.

I have worked with Koreans, picked their brains, and have, in fact, managed to get a couple things from them that, when I cook, sing true.  A couple… Out of the thousands of pickled vegetables, cured meats, marinades, sauces, unique productions they do, I have managed to get a couple.  It goes to show you, unless you’re going to really make a study of it, it’s best not to try.

Now, of the Korean food I can in fact make, two work really well and aren’t that hard to make.  In fact, one of them is downright easy, and the flavor is authentic.

Kalbi (Galbi) style ribs is one.  You could call this a Korean ‘national’ dish, probably because it seems to be one of the most popular Korean dishes in the States.  To be authentic, it must be made with either beef short ribs, usually cut extremely thin, or pork ribs.  Kalbi – style, which is what I do, involves taking the same marinade and cooking technique, and applying it to another cut of meat.  Traditionally, the Kalbi is grilled right in front of you, and served with some sort of leafy green, to wrap the meat in, and then dip in their salty spicy black bean sauce.  Once again, who can argue with tradition?

Kimchi is the second Korean dish I make well, and it is a pickled accompaniment to many (most) Korean dishes.  In short, it’s nappa cabbage, marinaded in rice vinegar, fish sauce, thai chiles, garlic, sugar, salt and hot chili sauce.  It’s crunchy, sweet, spicy, slightly acidic, and goes well as a balancing point for some of the other dishes the Koreans serve.  As noted in many of my other posts, balance is key.

Kalbi style Skirt Steak
Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 min
Inactive cook time: 12 – 24 hours


2-3 lb skirt steak, trimmed of large pieces of fat
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup asian pear juice
2 tbsp whiskey
2 tbsp mirim (sweet rice wine)
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp roasted sesame oil
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 knob ginger, chopped

Combine everything together and place in a ziplock bag and refrigerate 12 – 24 hours.

Remove the steaks from the bag, and discard the marinade.  Bring a charcoal grill to VERY high heat.  Make sure grates are clean and well oiled.  Grill, about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  You want the steak to be mid-rare in the thickest part.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Put steak back on the grill for about 20 seconds a side, to reheat (flash) and carve.  Note: when carving skirt steak, cut as thin as possible AGAINST the grain.

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and bias cut scallions.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice, kimchi, lettuces, black bean dipping sauces, hot sauces, and anything else Korean that you might enjoy.


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