Monday, February 7, 2011

Galbi (Korean Barbecued Ribs-갈비): Mini-lesson

My friend JEL always says that Husband is one of the best grillers she knows. And I have to say that he is incredibly consistent, very diligent and attentive to what is on the grill. The food comes back perfect. This is not a function of the grill, as ours is a tiny grill with inconsistent heating and totally different temperatures all over the grill. This is in spite of our cheap Home Depot grill; Husband is great at grilling. Of course he has had a ton of practice since one of my favorite things to do is to marinate food and have it grilled, and so in this, Husband and I are great partners. I marinate, he grills.

One without the other is not that wonderful. A wonderfully piece of marinated something is no longer wonderful after it has been burnt. An inconsistent piece of meat that is grilled beautifully may look good but lack flavor and deliciousness. You want both halves and I feel very lucky that my marinades get grilled by an expert.

In addition to being an excellent man behind the grill, Husband has an incredibly discerning and particular palate. The man can and will eat anything (he’s been told that he has a missionary’s stomach) but is also very aware and sensitive to what he is eating. Which means I’m always getting feedback on my food. It’s probably made me a better cook, and in fact, I know it HAS made me a better cook, but I don’t always want to hear that feedback. Husband is completely against fruits in meat marinades as he says it ruins the texture of meat. I have to agree with him that putting any sort of fruit in a marinade, whether it be a kiwi, pear, or pineapple dramatically transform the meat texture to one that is slightly too mushy. The whole fruit in meat phenomenon is probably not going to go away any time soon, but for our family it is not done. Sometimes I find that people put the fruit in because they have been told it makes it taste better but they aren’t really certain if it does. Given the quality of meat available commercially to people these days, the marbling of fat and the already tender nature of meat, it’s not necessary in my opinion. If your meat is super lean (perhaps grass fed? Or if you live in Mongolia?) then a bit of fruit may be necessary, but for most of us in the modern world, such measures are not.

However, there are simple ways to dramatically improve your galbi and none of them are difficult.  Rather all require a bit of meticulousness, but if followed, I assure you will dramatically improve your galbi experience.  (I will also say that more than likely, your local Korean supermarket is NOT doing these things for any pre-marinated galbi that you might buy.)
Galbi (Korean Barbecued Ribs-갈비) 
Serves 6 to 8

3  to 4 lbs Korean short ribs (sliced across the three ribs)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1/2 of an onion, pureed (I use a mini prep food processor.  Bits of chunks are okay.)
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground toasted sesame seed (optional)

Mix sugar, soy sauce, water, sake, sesame oil, onion, black pepper and sesame seed in a large bowl.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside until needed.

Prepare the galbi meat by first trimming off major chunks of fat.  Fat can cause flareups on the grill and makes it much easier to char the meat.  Any external pieces of fat that can be easily cut off, should be cut off.

After trimming some of the fat off, take the tip of your knife and lightly bounce it across the surface of the meat.  This is a simple way to tenderize the meat.  You also increase surface area for the marinade to be absorbed and you are helping the meat to be a bit more tender.
 (note the tiny little slits across the meat)

After trimming fat and tenderizing the meat, carefully rinse each piece of galbi meat in order to get off any bits of bone chips that may have been left on due to the slicing of the meat.  (biting into a bone shard is NOT fun.) 

Taking each piece of galbi meat, dip it individual into the marinade, thoroughly immersing it.  Place it into a storage container.  Marinate for at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Heat grill over medium heat.  Cook each piece of galbi watching carefully for any flareups, taking care it doesn't burn.  Alternatively, line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.  Set your oven for broiler, and get the oven good and hot.  Broil for about 6 minutes (flipping if you want, although I don't think it makes much of a difference).  Serve.

Printable recipe
Absolutely delicious when prepared well.


PnJ said...

Looks delicious! Thank you so much for the recipe. No need to buy pre-made sauce anymore!


The Marcus Family said...

My husband eats bulgogi only if the marinade as asian pear in it. I have seen premades & recipes with it and without it and it never fails, he will only eat the ones with the fruit in it. I guess he enjoys the sweetness it adds to the meat?

Jenny said...

It looks absolutely amazing and my galbi always turns out a wreck... I'll have to try your recipe but does the sake make a big difference? I don't really like to cook with alcohol if I can help it... Thanks in advance!

Joanne Choi said...

@ Marcus Family - could be something in the pear that adds a flavor...I'd propose that you try this one and see if he likes it.

@ Jenny - you can leave the sake out...but it adds an extra dimension of flavor that I think is worth it. It'll still taste very good without.:)

Joy said...

I love galbi. It looks great.

ann said...

Hi Joanne! I've stumbled across your blog late last night and could not part myself away from the computer. I love your blog! I am not Korean but I am very much into Korean cooking lately. I've made galbi at least 5 times but they tend to be a bit tough. Even soaking in Asian pear bits do not help. I am a bit leary about kiwi since soaking meat even 1 extra minute in it will turn the meat mushy. What are your thought on this? Thank you!

Joanne Choi said...

Try the manual tenderizing with the tip of your knife that I propse. It will help. My husband really cannot stand fruit in his marinades but we always end up with really lyimmy kalbi. It shouldn't be mushy and it should have great texture.

Anonymous said...

nice idea..thanks for sharing....


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