ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Anatomy of a Korean Barbecue Marinade


This weekend, my friend had a barbecue and asked me to bring over some of that “Korean shit” that I’ve been known to make now and then. Yes, dear readers, it turns out that occasionally, I’ve been known to actually whip up a Korean barbecue marinade perfect for Galbi (or beef short ribs). I learned the recipe about three years ago when another friend of mine had a bbq and invited over his neighbor, an Asian woman who came with pounds and pounds of Galbi. Needless to say, it was delicious — just like the restaurants — and as I’m a huge, huge fan of Korean food, I asked her for the recipe. I don’t make it too often (laziness), but the truth is that it’s actually very simple, and it turns out perfectly each time.
Well, since my buddy requested the “Korean shit,” how could I deny him? I headed over to the local Korean supermarket (a definitely bonus to living in LA), gathered up my ingredients, and went to work. And since I’m a compulsive blogger, I photographed the entire process (well, not the shopping). By the way, I should mention that everything in the recipe should be readily available in any supermarket. I only go to the Korean market because it’s cheaper, and they sell mass quantities of short ribs cut the way I like them.
Anyway, a magical mystery tour of my Korean culinary adventures after the jump…

First, I start off with one and a quarter cups of GOOD sugar, as Ina Garten would say.

To that, I add a cup of GOOD soy sauce. (Actually, it can be average soy sauce)

Surprise ingredient! Half a cup of 7-Up (or Sprite, in this case). Basically, a GOOD lemon-lime soda. It’s kind of golden looking because it’s in the same measuring cup that the soy sauce was in. So consider that mystery SOLVED.

Random shot of the marinade fizzing as the soda hits the sugar. It’s like science class ALL OVER AGAIN.

Three quarters of a cup of sake. A real plus about the Korean supermarket is that you can find cheap little bottles of sake. In the past, I always had a giant bottle leftover. It was very wasteful. I would feel ashamed.

Three quarters of a cup of GOOD water. And again, as Ina would say, if you can desalinate and distill your own batch of water, that’s great. But from the faucet is just fine.

One tablespoon of GOOD sesame seeds.

One tablespoon of red pepper flakes. Always be sure to pour them into a separate spoon — you never know when you’ll get a BAD RED PEPPER FLAKE. (Sorry, I’m just doing Ina-isms now)

One tablespoon of sesame oil.

This is what it should look like so far. Not too surprising.

Half a kiwi. I actually used a whole one (but it was small).

Ooooh… mysterious kiwi….

Garlic. Lots of garlic. One cup of chopped or minced garlic. Save yourself some time and get a bunch of peeled cloves.

I didn’t feel like dirtying up my Magic Bullet; so I just manually chopped. And chopped. And chopped.

This is maybe about one third of all the garlic. It’s a lot, people. It’s also essential.

One cup of chopped onion. This bad boy was super intense. It made me cry pretty much instantly.

There. All done. Kind of looks like vomit.

Now the meat. This recipe actually calls for five pounds of meat. I get short ribs, cut Flanken style. This package is merely 4.72 lbs. It cost me $13. I LOVE THE KOREAN SUPERMARKET!!!

The marinade really takes well to short ribs. I tried it once on a flank steak, and it wasn’t as good. Maybe it needed to sit longer. Speaking of which, the meat now goes in the fridge for ideally forty-eight hours. If you’re in a rush, six hours works too, but obviously, it’s not as intense of a flavor.

Two days later, the meat’s ready to head off to the barbecue. I should also mention that I marinated some chicken too in a separate container. Again, not as good as short ribs, but still tasty.

Be sure to use GOOD Tupperware.

Since I forgot to take a picture of the meat cooking, here’s a substitute photo of some salmon and two burgers. Just pretend there are tons of short ribs on the grill too. FYI, the ribs are very fatty; so be careful of flare-ups. And if you use a Foreman Grill, just know that the marinade and the fat can cause a very sticky coating. It’s a pain to wash (another reason why I don’t make this too often).

And here’s the final product. This batch turned out perfectly.

GOOD close-up.

Kind of the best dinner ever.

Fun times had by all.

18 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Anatomy of a Korean Barbecue Marinade”

  1. You did a GOOD job of chopping that garlic. Color me impressed!
    Leftover saki goes to waste? Drink that shit! It’s the best buzz ever!
    And this sentence is just so I can use one more exclamation point!

  2. Why you don’t have your own cooking show, I’ll never understand. I’d call it “B-Side: Cooking Shit”.

  3. Why don’t you like dirtying up your Magic Bullet? If I had a Magic Bullet, I’d dirty it up all the time!

  4. Did your dish make you completely outshine the chumps who brought the hamburgers and salmon?
    Did anyone cry?

  5. did you notice how it was all yin and yang in the bowl after you poured in the sprite? so cool. i only thought of it because i went to the melting pot last night for our 6th anniversary and we always get the yin and yang chocolate. i think that was what made your short ribs so fantastic.

  6. So my comment is more of a technical question: When you put in the kiwi, did you peel and slice or chop?
    This looks super-doable, especially with my big jar of pre-minced garlic!

  7. Can you cook this on a stove or oven? Living in NYC limits the amounts of BBQ’ing that you can actually do =(. But this looks easy and delicious and I LOVE Korean BBQ as well.

  8. This looks so yummy – I hope you don’t mind if I steal shamelessly.
    I second the motion for “B-side: Cooking Shit”

  9. I pretty much scooped the kiwi out of its peel and then just let it plop down into the marinade. Usually I mash it up and stuff. I forgot to this time. Didn’t make too much of a difference.
    And as for stovetop, when I’ve made it in the past, I’ve used my Forman grill, which works pretty well. Again, you have to stay on top of the grease factor and scrape the stuff off from time to time (but if you’re making a small batch, not 5 lbs worth), it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It does get smoky though.
    I’m sure it cooks up in a pan or in the oven just fine. One alternative is to get a cut of beef that’s more like bulgogi (thin, sliced, boneless). In Korean restaurants, sometimes bulgogi is prepared in a pan instead of on the grill; so cooking it on a stove would be the same thing. If anyone tries it, I’d love to hear how it turns out…

  10. I should also add that last night, I made a mini batch to marinate two chicken breasts in. However, I eyeballed the amounts (which I never do because I’m terrible at that), and I didn’t use kiwi or 7-up because I didn’t have any. Plus, I used a shallot instead of an onion. We’ll see how it turns out when I cook up the chicken Wednesday night…

  11. Yum! I can’t wait to go buy some GOOD ingredients and make some of this. It looks so good.

  12. OMG I am SALIVATING! It is 10:30 am, I might have to leave work RIGHT NOW. How could you do this to a pregnant woman?

  13. Oh my gosh! Someone gave you OUR secrets!!!
    Right down to the kiwi tenderizer dang it!
    Ah, but you don’t have our secret chicken recipe (yet)!

  14. Oh my gosh! Someone gave you OUR secrets!!! Right down to the kiwi tenderizer dang it!
    Ah, but you don’t have our secret chicken recipe (yet)!

  15. Magnificent web site. Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you in your effort!

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