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familiar yet foreign

Recipe: galbi (bbq korean short ribs)

I am a barbecue whore. I think it originates in part from my southern roots – growing up in southeastern Virginia you end up loving seafood, barbecue, white trash food, and good country ham among other heart-stopping delights. I also love Asian food because I grew up in a household run by Chinese immigrants (my parents and my grandma) who all three are fantabulous cooks. This summer has been my summer of bbq (and pastries, and whatever else I feel like trying to cook). When I declared the Summer of BBQ, I meant I wanted to get my bearings straight on the King of BBQ (pork – according to where I grew up) and its loyal subjects beef, and chicken. But… Sarah Gim piqued my interest in galbi (or galbee), that is, Korean bbq short ribs on one of her posts.

It sounded so good. I had to try it when my List of Recipes to Attempt and Master cleared out a bit. And so it was that earlier this week while grocery shopping in Boulder I met my first obstacle… that no one in Boulder knows what short ribs (according to the Korean style) are. Safeway’s “I don’t normally work this department” butcher led me to something that looked nothing like what I sought. In Whole Foods, I was pointed to beef back ribs which had a lot of bone and fat and not so much meat. Where the hell were all the beef rib racks? At least the butchers at Whole Foods are willing to do just about anything you ask. So I handed the fellow five pounds of the meatiest back ribs I could find in the case and asked him to please cut them across the bones. I got a funny look, but he obliged me. I should have asked him to cut each piece into 3 strips instead of 2, but I have issues with shouting to someone while they are operating a bone saw.

I read an article somewhere (Fine Cooking? Cooks Illustrated?) that discussed the magic of galbi – either a pear or a kiwi in the marinade to tenderize the meat. I was all over that. I like tender meat.

can do – i got the kiwis

purée these lovelies

mix in the remaining marinade ingredients

I tend to bastardize recipes I find online. Can’t help it. I followed Sarah’s instructions and also a couple of other recipe instructions – especially since I don’t know what I’m doing. I washed and soaked the ribs for an hour (soaked, not washed for an hour – good lord). Then I marinated the ribs in this fragrant and wonderful mixture of soy sauce, sugar, kiwi, onion, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and…

my somewhat tall short ribs

dang, doesn’t fit

I had originally thought of putting the ribs in a ziploc – my favorite mode of marinating anything, but my incorrect gut instinct to try the baking dish took control first. They did end up fitting in a gallon ziploc with no problem. Eight hours later we were grilling those beauties.


fire and meat – good

Did I mention I’ve never *had* galbi before? I know… virgin… These ribs are delicious. I love the seasonings and sweet and smokey and meaty and mmmmmm! I could have done with less of the fatty, but I think that had to do with the kind of ribs I bought. These have a terrific flavor and aroma. Being completely Korean stupid, I paired the ribs off with a Japanese cucumber salad, grilled squash marinated in soy and sesame oil, and some leftover Chinese fried rice. It was like hosting my very own Asia-Pacific summit without the annoying heads of state but with all of the yum.

galbi – verdict: delicious!

Galbi (BBQ Korean Short Ribs)
[print recipe]

5 lbs. of beef short ribs cut Korean style (which, I was unable to procure)
2 kiwis, peeled and cut into 8ths
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8ths
3 cloves garlic, cut in halves
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar (or less – but I dig the sweet)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tbsps sesame oil
1 tbsp ground pepper

Wash ribs of any bits of bone. Soak in water for 1 hour. Drain off the water. Process the kiwis, onion, garlic, and ginger to a fine purée. Add remaining ingredients to purée and place in a large ziploc bag with the ribs. Marinate for 8-10 hours. Grill ribs on high for 2-3 minutes a side for medium to rare. Well – grill it to your liking. Serve with a lot of napkins.

13 nibbles at “familiar yet foreign”

  1. Kell says:

    Thanks for the virtual sweetness! You really are the best, Jen. It looks lovely. And you know something else? I decided to veer a little bit onto the high blood sugar side of the road for my birthday, and just eat something that I wanted. Know what I chose? Korean BBQ! We are in synch. xx

  2. jenyu says:

    Too funny! Are we on a connected craving wavelength? (except you are preggers and I am not!) Happy belated, dearest friend. I wish I could ship that cake to you, but we just don’t trust international post… xxoo

  3. rich sadlo says:

    H Mart should carry the style of ribs. They are in Flushing and New Hyde Park, New York

  4. jenyu says:

    Thanks for the tip, Rich. Unfortunately, NY is a leeetle bit out of my way ;)

  5. coastalvicar says:

    HI Jenyu…………..tried the galbi recipe tonight (had the butcher cut the rublets, prepped as directed, marinated for 20 hours and grilled). I was disappointed in the intensity of flavor. Good, tender, beefy, subtle sweet-garlic-soy-ginger, but no “BAM” which was what I expect. Maybe add more…..ginger, garlic, soy instead of water, chile garlic paste….any ideas?


  6. jenyu says:

    Hi Coastalvicar. Sorry, but I don’t recall saying that there was BAM anywhere in the recipe, I just happened to like the combination of flavors. I don’t know what BAM is, to be honest. Spicy? Salty? Tangy? Depending on what you mean by BAM, I would extrapolate that to ingredients that deliver it and then add those to the marinade. This isn’t an exact science, so there’s plenty of room to play with it and experiment. Good luck!

  7. bonnie wu says:

    So far you have the best sauce for Galbi. My Korean friend has the best one I ever tasted, but she could not or would not explain to me how to make it. She would just say: If you like it, come over and I cook it for you!!! How funny. But yours must be closer to hers. She uses Pineapple instead of Kiwi cause I don’t dig Kiwi. I will try your sauce and show my friend that I GOT IT!

  8. jenyu says:

    Bonnie – Oh, I think that’s unkind of your friend! I hope it works out for you and that you surprise the pants off of her! :)

  9. skinnymini says:

    THANK YOU SOOOO much for sharing this recipe. The kiwi twist is amazing. The best recipe my husband and i have ever had. I’m going to make it again tonight!!

  10. jenyu says:

    Skinnymini – this stuff is addictive, no? I love this recipe :) Glad you like it!!

  11. MrsRedBucket says:


    I just found your site and have trully enjoyed looking at your beautiful pictures and reading your commentaries and recipes. I was wondering in this particular recipe — why are the short ribs soaked in water for 1 hr? Is it to keep them tender? After rinsing the ribs thoroughly, can one just place the ribs and marinate? Or is the soaking in the water bath for 1 hr a necessary step? Thanks in advance for explaining.

  12. jenyu says:

    Mrs. RB – I have no idea, to be honest. Sorry!

  13. Lufflee says:

    Mrs RB —
    I saw on another site that did korean short ribs they mentioned soaking was neccessary because the korean short ribs are cut through the bones, and soaking them removes the bone dust that may still be on the ribs. The site only did it for 30 minutes so I dont think it needs to be for very long, just to assure the bone dust isnt in the way.

    Also Jenyu, Im trying a kiwi instead of an asian pear as you did. Hope it tenderizes the meat all the same ^__^ !

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