Made of beef short ribs, cut into thins strips and marinated with soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, green onions and sugar, kalbi is grilled over a medium-hot flame and best served the way Korean restaurants do: cut into pieces right over the grill, usually with hefty kitchen shears, and then wrapped inside a fresh leaf of lettuce with a finger of steaming white rice, a dollop of spicy red bean paste (gochichang), a few slivers of raw or grilled garlic, and shredded strips of fresh green onion.
YOON FAMILY KALBI
1 1/2 cups lite soy sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
6 large green onions, chopped roughly
4 pounds Korean-style short ribs *
Toasted sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and corn oil in a large mixing bowl. Add garlic and green onion and stir together. Put short ribs into large sealable freezer bag (you may need two). Pour marinade into bag and turn bag over several times to ensure all meat pieces are covered. Refrigerate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Turn bag at least once in the middle of the marinating process.
Heat grill to medium-high heat before adding the meat. Drain excess marinade off short ribs and grill them until medium, about 6-8 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. Serves 6.
* NOTE ON RIBS: Korean-style short ribs can be found at most Asian markets. The cut is called "flanken," a strange word that refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Most short rib recipes call for individual bones cut into thick pieces. Kalbi is unusual in that it calls for 3 ribs, cut lengthwise across the bones, so that you end up with a strip of meat about 8-10 inches long that has 3, 1/2-inch rib bones lining the top.
You can also use the marinade for a traditional cut of short ribs, but this is best cooked by braising -– a crock pot is excellent for this type of dish. (My mother calls this version Mushy Kalbi because the meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth.) You can also use the marinade on chicken.
The grilling technique for kalbi is the exact opposite of grilling a big American steak. Kalbi is much more of a hands-on dish. Because of its thinner cut, the meat cooks faster and requires constant attention and turning over, which is why it is so much fun to cook it at the table with a group of friends.
Like most Korean meals, kalbi should be served with panchan, an assortment of side dishes that might include marinated spinach, cooked bean sprouts, salt-cured fish and of course the ubiquitous Korean side dish, kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage or radish that people either love or hate.
Try kalbi once and you'll see what I mean about being hooked.