Korean Barbeque Beef Ribs

Who doesn’t love a happy accident? After Jason purchased the wrong cut of ribs for a small dinner party, (he is the baker in the family), we were left with 3 pounds of thin beef short ribs that could only be cooked one way – on the grill! The trouble we had with that is that we didn’t have a grill and we don’t have a backyard for grilling. Because our kitchen doesn’t have a powerful exhaust fan for ventilating lots of smoke, no grilling indoors either. Our only option was to get a grill, pack our wagon, and walk a few short blocks to Golden Gate Park. Fresh off our recent camping trip, we were feeling confident about the whole outdoor cooking thing.

Korean style beef short ribs (kalbi) are perfect for summertime outdoor grilling. The thin cross cut of the rack (a “flanked” cut) makes the rich, tender, fatty meat perfect for bold marinades and hot charcoal. They cook quickly, so they have to be watched. A minute too long on a hot grill can mean the difference between perfect and charred.

This was our first go at Korean barbecue. The marinade is a mix of sweet and salty with lots of garlic and ginger and toasted sesame oil. Like several recipes we found, this one called for grating an Asian pear into the marinade. It adds sweetness, and the enzymes in the fruit help to tenderize the meat (the ribs hardly need it, but who are we to argue with the recipe). Nearly all the ingredients for this marinade are available in major grocery chains. We’ve come to love the marinade so much that we’ve used in multiple times since with Coho Salmon. Whatever protein you use, always serve with good white rice and kimchi.

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Korean Barbeque Beef Ribs
Adapted from Judiaann Woo

3 pounds Korean-style beef short ribs*
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup mirin (rice wine)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1/2 Asian pear, peeled and finely grated
2 tablespoons micro planned garlic
3 tablespoons micro planned ginger
1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)


In a bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Transfer beef ribs to a gallon sized sealable freezer bag, you may need 2 (or a container large enough to hold the ribs and marinade). Add marinade, press out excess air from bags, and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, if desired. Serve whole pieces as a main course or cut into smaller pieces, using kitchen shears, for a starter or party nibble.

*From The Food Network’s site: “Korean-style short ribs can be found at most Asian markets. The cut, also known as “flanken,” refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Unlike American and European-style short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean-style short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, about 8 to 10 inches in length, lined on 1 side with 1/2-inch thick rib bones. The thin slices make for fast cooking on the grill.”

Quick Kimchi

For years, we’ve looked sideways at foods we don’t quite understand and that we suspect will be unusual in flavor and/or texture. Particularly strong flavors of fermented fish and vegetables are not part of our mountain western taste traditions. Sure, we grew up with bold flavors like blue cheese, liver, and the occasional “fishy” tasting fish (that was a bad thing). But exotic foods like kimchi are not the sort of things we were raised on.

Ah, how things change. And thank goodness! Our time in California has dramatically broadened the range of things we prepare in our kitchen. That includes the big, stinky flavors of sardines and salted cod. Our pantry now contains Thai fish sauce, seaweed, daikon radish … you get the idea. Slowly but surely, we’ve come to our senses.

Kimchi is as Korean a thing as you will ever eat. It is traditionally present at every meal. To say that kimchi is commonly eaten is to grossly understate its importance and its ubiquity. As you might expect, a national obsession with a particular food has resulted in a wonderful variety of kimchi styles. Like so many fundamental culinary ideas, kimchi is essentially an idea or technique. Brined, fermented vegetables and added flavor in the form of sugar, spice and/or fish. The possibilities for variety are endless.

This “starter” kimchi recipe is simple and quick. The ingredients are all available in nearly any well-stocked chain grocery store in the world. How much of each ingredient is endlessly variable. Try it, see what you think, and try it again with your variations. It’s especially good with Kalbi (Korean barbequed beef short ribs) and white rice. Enjoy!

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Quick Kimchi

1 Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fermented chili sauce (such as Mother In-law’s)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 Asian pear, grated on large hole box grater (no seeds or core)
a pinch of red pepper flakes

Quarter cabbage lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-to 3-inch pieces. Toss with 2 tablespoons salt in a large bowl and let stand, tossing occasionally, 2 hours.

Rinse cabbage well, then drain. Squeeze out excess water with your hands and transfer to a large bowl.

Purée garlic, ginger, fish sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and fermented chili sauce in a blender until smooth, then pour over cabbage. Add scallions and grated pear and toss well. Marinate at least 1 hour.

Cooks’ notes: Kimchi keeps, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month (flavor will get stronger).