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Kalbi: The King of Korean Barbecue

You too can make mind-blowing Korean short ribs. With just a little help from Dr Pepper...

Posted January 26, 2012

bbqLet’s get this on the table: Korean Barbecue rocks hard. How can anyone not love a menu that spotlights intensely flavored grilled marinated meats and various banchan, a handful of quirky yet super tasty side dishes? Exotic flavors—savory, sweet, spicy—so many different textures, plus it’s tailored for a crowd that wants to eat well and have fun.  It really is the perfect cuisine for people who love food and get-togethers.        

Korean barbecue or gogi gui translates literally to “meat + roasted meat” and refers to the Korean method of grilling pork, chicken or beef. The most popular of these meats—and the best—is galbi or kalbi, made from marinated beef short ribs grilled over charcoal.  The very best kalbi recipe I’ve found (out of at least a dozen attempts) is Sandy’s Killer Korean Kalbi, but with two exceptions. First, substitute Dr. Pepper for honey in the pre-marinade. Yes, I’m serious. Dr. Pepper works miracles tenderizing the short ribs prior to grilling. Just trust me on this. Second, have your butcher cut the ribs flanken-style (as the recipe states), but half an inch thick and no less. Thicker ribs taste better and are much easier to cook properly over a raging fire.      

Depending on where you live almost all of the required ingredients can be found at any halfway decent supermarket. That instantly recognizable and aggressively assertive flavor profile of Korean food comes not from obscure ingredients but relatively common ones such as: sesame seeds and oil, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, sugar, ginger and scallions.  Muscular, in-your-face flavors perfectly attuned for high heat grilling.    

One hard to find item worth seeking out is gochujang, or Korean chili-bean paste. The salty, layered tang of miso with a mild, back-of-the-throat heat provides the authentic counterpoint to the grilled meat.    

Traditional accompaniments include steamed rice, Kimchi, grilled scallions, Oi Moochim (seasoned cucumbers), Bibimbap (mixed rice dish) and matchstick cut carrots. One popular and highly recommended way of eating kalbi is to wrap the meat with lettuce and add condiments and sauces to your heart’s content. This method is party-perfect as well because you can feed a crowd without needing piles of silverware. Amen.      

So the next time you find yourself planning a backyard barbecue, step it up and go Korean. It tastes amazing, provides an interactive dining experience that you and your guests will appreciate in lieu of the typical Bull’s Eye barbecue sauce gut-buster. After all, lively conversation beats a food coma meltdown every time. 

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