Galbi – Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs

 

BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs (Galbi) is one of the standouts of the world famous Korean barbecue! The unique thing about Korean BBQ marinades – aside from their amazing flavour – is their exceptional tenderising ability which can be applied to traditionally tougher cuts such as short ribs, making them tender in a way you never thought possible.

Once grilled, the succulent meat is at once sweet, savoury, garlicky, and smoky in flavour. The Koreans know a thing or two about good BBQ!

Overhead photo of tray with freshly cooked Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi)
Tongs picking up a piece of Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi) off the BBQ grill

Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs

Korean barbecue is one of the first things that come to mind when people think of Korean food. And it’s world famous for good reason! I love that it’s as much of a social event as it is an eating one, enjoyed by groups huddled around a table embedded with a grill sizzling with marinated meats, seafood and vegetables.

Interactive food, I call it. And I’m 100% on board!

Of all the marinated barbecued meats, I am pretty sure that Korean Short Ribs is one of the most well known. Koreans prize this cut for its rich beefy flavour, while the addition of the marinade tenderises, flavours and encourages delicious caramelisation on the meat as it barbecues.

Korean Short Ribs are also notable for the unique way they are cut: The meat is “unrolled” to form a long, thin flap still attached to the bone. This not only ensures maximum marinade penetration but also that the meat cooks quickly, while making it easier to eat.

Like I said, Koreans have their barbecue game all figured out!

Korean Barbecue Marinade for Beef Short Ribs

The DIY cooking experience aside, one of the things that makes Korean BBQ so great are the Korean barbecue marinades. There’s a few things makes Korean barbecue marinades so distinctive:

  1. Exceptional tenderising effect – Korean barbecue marinades incorporate fresh fruit such as nashi pears, regular pears, apples, kiwis and pineapples which have natural tenderising qualities. These fruits break down the fibres of otherwise tough meats, such as the short ribs we are using today, to render theme exceptionally tender – even if you happen to overcook them!
  2. Distinctive sweet-savoury flavour – They have a familiar yet unique Asian flavours. They are often strong on garlic – much Korean food is! – leaning towards the sweet but still savoury. As some of the sweetness comes from fruit rather than sugar, it’s very different to the sugary-sweet taste of some Western sauces. They are also complex, including ingredients like grated onion which adds a a great boost of savoury flavour and body.
Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi) cooking on a BBQ grill

Ingredients in Korean BBQ Marinade for Beef Short Ribs

Here’s what you need for the Korean Barbecue Marinade:

Ingredients in Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi)
  • Nashi pear or normal pear or apple – The unique ingredient in Korean Barbecue Marinades, nashi pear and other fruits have natural tenderising qualities that can soften the fibres of even the toughest cuts of meat. Beef short ribs are typically slow-cooked until fall apart tender (such as in this recipe and this recipe), yet here the meat is suitable for even barbecuing thanks to the marinade.“Nashi” is the Japanese word for “pear”. (So really, “nashi pear” means “pear pear”! 😂) It’s also known by various other names including Korean pear, Asian pear, Chinese pear, apple pear and sand pear, to name a few.It’s shaped like a round apple rather than the distinctive pear shape, but with a flesh texture and taste similar to a crisp pear. Except – dare I say it – juicier and tastier than most pears!

    Nashi pear is typically available throughout autumn and winter, though often I see them well into spring.

    Best substitutes: Normal pears or red apples. They have a very similar flavour and tenderising effect in end result;

  • Garlic – Korean food is known for being liberal with the garlic, and Korean marinades are no exception!
  • Ginger – The garlic plays a dominant role here, but ginger adds a lovely fragrant back note. I consider ginger to be complimentary and highly recommended but not essential;
  • Onion – An essential savoury base ingredient, especially with the unique way in which it is finely grated;
  • Mirin – Japanese sweet cooking wine which adds depth and complexity into the marinade and, well, anything it comes into contact with!;
  • Soy sauce – For flavour and salt;
  • Sesame oil – Like garlic, Koreans are very fond of sesame oil, and we do not complain!
  • Sugar – Adds more sweetness as well as terrific caramelisation on the beef; and
  • Black pepper – For a touch of warmth.

Beef Short Rib cut used for Korean BBQ

Beef ribs are a thick meaty cuts on the bone that are typically slow-cooked as hunks in Western cuisine, to break down the tough fibres until they become meltingly tender, such as these Beef Ribs in Red Wine Sauce.

In contrast, for Korean BBQ, beef short ribs are cut for cooking in various ways. They may be boneless, served as small, ready-to-grill, bite-sized pieces. Otherwise they may be cut with bone still attached. This can be one of two ways.

The first is known as “flanken cut” (also called LA galbi in the USA, and asado in other parts of the world including Australia), where the meat slices are cut across the ribs so you have several small pieces of rib per slice. The other is “English cut” ribs, where there is a single, longer rib bone section per slice. In Korean butchery these are cut smaller than you’ll typically find in the shops here in Australia. Also, and most characteristically, the meat is butterflied out into one long, thin piece of beef that unrolls, still attached to the bone.

The latter, butterflied beef short ribs, is what I’ve used today. This and the boneless cuts are rarely found at Western butchers, you need to get them from Korean or Asian butchers. But don’t worry, see below for an easily accessible substitution!!

The photos below show what butterflied beef short ribs looks like. The top photo is how it is sold at the Korean butchers, with the meat rolled up on the bone. The second photo shows what it looks like unrolled.

Butterflied beef short ribs for Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi)
Korean butterflied beef short rib, rolled up, as sold at Korean and Asian butchers. Ready to be marinated and barbecued!
Unrolled raw Korean Beef Shortribs (butterflied, for Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs (Galbi))
Butterflied Korean beef short ribs being unrolled.

Best options / substitutions for Korean cut beef short ribs

The best options and substitutions for Korean cut beef short ribs are:

  1. LA galbi / asado slices – As mentioned, these are also common in Korean BBQ, especially in the US. These are beef ribs, simply cut a different way (across the bone). Make sure the LA galbi / asado slices you buy are reasonably thin (no more than 1cm / 0.5″).
  2. Boneless beef ribs, sliced – This is simply short ribs without the bone; or
  3. Beef oyster blade which is essentially flatiron steak in the US. It has similar cooking and flavour characteristics to beef short ribs in that:
    • It can be slow or fast cooked;
    • It has a similar beefy flavour; and
    • When sliced thinly and marinated in a Korean BBQ marinade, it stays nice and juicy even when grilled long enough to caramelise (which necessarily pushes the thinly sliced beef far into well-done territory).

While oyster blade might not be a well-known cut of beef here in Australia, it is in fact even sold at large supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farms) and is one of the better value cuts of beef.

To use oyster blade, simply finely slice it and use per the recipe in place of the beef short ribs. If you get the oyster blade in steak form (which is how it’s typically sold at supermarkets), then slice it thinly on an angle to get pieces with a larger surface area (partially freezing it helps).

The last option (expert level!) is: butterfly your own Korean beef ribs! Sometimes you can find suitable sized short ribs on the bone, but not butterflied. If you are confident, you can butterfly your own. It is not difficult if you are competent with a knife and take your time. You need pieces with ribs about the size you see in my photos, ie. ~8cm / 3″ long. The cutting part however is out of scope of this post, so follow this handy tutorial from Modern Pepper (a Korean cooking website) to see how to do it.


How to make Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs

One of the distinguishing techniques used in Korean marinades is that onion and fruit (nashi pear, in this case) are finely grated for maximum effect and flavour in the marinade.

How to cook Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs (Galbi)
  1. Finely grate onion, nashi pear, ginger and garlic, then combine with remaining marinade ingredients;
  2. Unroll the Korean cut butterflied beef short ribs;
  3. Place beef in a ziplock bag or container then add the marinade;
  4. Marinate beef for 24 hours. Don’t shortcut this – beef short ribs are a tough cut of beef so it needs the full marinating time to ensure it is properly tenderised;
  5. Cook beef preferably on a BBQ but even a stove is fine. I like to use my BBQ so I can cook the beef strips whole – because it looks so good! But practicality rules when indoors, so just cut them up into pieces that will fit in your skillet or pan.It takes around 2 – 3 minutes on a hot BBQ to caramelise each side, by which time the inside of the thin slices of beef are very, very well done – in fact, technically overcooked for meat this thin. But do not worry, this is intentional! Why? Because the marinade keeps it tender. In fact, I’ve cooked it for well over 10 minutes and it was still unbelievably tender.Seriously. This Korean marinade is foolproof magic!
  6. Remove from the BBQ or stove, then serve! Unlike other types of un-marinated Korean barbecue meats which have a dipping sauce, this beef is infused with and dripping with flavour so you absolutely will not need a sauce!
Freshly cooked Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short ribs
Close up of fork Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs (Galbi)

Galbi – Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs

Servings4 people

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. This is an excellent Korean barbecue marinade that will work with pork, chicken or even lamb. And while it’s delicious cooked on the stove, a BBQ will better replicate the true Korean barbecue experience!Do not worry about overcooking the thin slices of beef. The marinade is magical, it keeps the thin slices of beef incredibly tender even if you cook it for over 10 minutes which would ordinarily turn the beef into inedible dry cardboard!

Ingredients

Korean Barbecue Marinade:

Instructions

  • Make Marinade: Whisk Marinade ingredients in a bowl.
  • Marinade 24 hours: Place beef in a ziplock bag, glass or ceramic container. Pour over Marinade, mix well to coat. Cover and marinade for 24 hours.

Cooking:

  • Remove beef from Marinade, discard Marinade.
  • BBQ – Heat on high until smoking hot, then brush grills with vegetable oil. Lay beef on BBQ and cook for 2 minutes on one side until caramelised. Turn and cook the other side until caramelised. Remove, loosely cover with foil, cook remaining beef.
  • Stove – Cut beef strips into pieces that will fit your skillet. Heat skillet with oil over high heat. Add beef and cook for 2 minutes until caramelised, then turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes.

Serving:

  • Garnish beef with sesame seeds and green onions if desired. You don’t need a sauce for this one – it is literally dripping with flavour! Pictured in post with Kimchi Fried Rice and Ginger Smashed Cucumbers.

Recipe Notes:

1. Beef short ribs cut – Korean barbecue calls for a specific way of cutting beef short ribs so they are thin and cook quickly on the grill. They are either sliced through the bone into approx 0.7cm / 1/4″ slices (called LA galbi in the US, or asado elsewhere), or “butterflied” (pictured in post) so the meat rolls off the bone with the bone still attached.
Slicing through the bone requires special butchery equipment, butterflying short ribs requires not only nifty knife skills but also beef ribs that are not as fatty as the usual Western ones that are intended to be slow braised until meltingly tender (such as in Red Wine Sauce or BBQ Sauce).
I opt to buy mine pre-cut from Korean butchers! I go to Hahn’s Quality Korean Meats in Eastwood (Sydney) which is a Korean neighbourhood. Korean cut beef ribs can also be found at many Asian butchers.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 431cal (22%)Carbohydrates: 20g (7%)Protein: 37g (74%)Fat: 22g (34%)Saturated Fat: 8g (50%)Cholesterol: 108mg (36%)Sodium: 1269mg (55%)Potassium: 742mg (21%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 16g (18%)Vitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 37mg (4%)Iron: 5mg (28%)

 

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