Sundays in my household are normally spent preparing for the week ahead. That means the usual chores – grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, wallowing in self pity that the weekend is over… ok that last one is mostly just me. I also spend a great deal of time doing food prepping, whether it’s making a batch of mason jar salads or cooking a large, one-pot dish to last us the full week. One such dish is Galbi Jjim, a Korean-style braised short rib delight that’s hearty, flavourful, and comforting. It’s one of Mark’s favourites and definitely one of mine, too. How can you resist melt-in-the-mouth tender beef in a delectably savoury sauce?
Traditionally, galbi jjim is eaten during Chuseok (harvest festival that is held in September) and was regarded as a high-class dish, as the galbi (short rib) cut was expensive than other cuts. The really good quality galbi that’s cut specifically for galbi jjim can still be quite expensive when bought at a Korean butcher shop, but the higher quality the meat, the better it tastes in the end.
Speaking of galbi, let’s talk about the cut that I typically use. Instead of the thicker cut galbi that’s traditionally used for this dish, I prefer to use the thinner cut (normally marinated and grilled – I’m sure you’ve had this before at Korean BBQ restaurants). I find it much easier to work with and the end product tastes just as good. I’m also able to find this at the local supermarket instead of having to go specifically to a Korean butcher shop, which means it’s a little easier on the wallet. So, whether you choose the traditional thicker cut or the thin-sliced cut is completely up to your taste and preference.
The components of the galbi jjim are quite simple and a lot of star players in other Korean dishes are included, such as soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, meul-yut (Korean corn syrup, for that undeniable “je ne sais quoi” quality that it gives any dish), mirin, dried dates, and green onion. Other ingredients are black pepper, sugar, bay leaves, carrots, baby yellow potatoes, onion, and kiwi.
Start by preparing the galbi. Cut between the bones for perfectly-sized pieces and trim away any excess fat. Place the prepared galbi in a large stock pot (preferably one that is wider than it is taller), add cold water just to cover, and bring it to a boil on high heat.
One step I always skip is soaking the ribs in cold water for an hour to draw out some of the blood. It’s really because I’m too impatient to wait that long. Feel free to soak the galbi if you’d like, but I never have an issue just skipping this step, as the first boiling of the ribs gets rid of all the blood and other gunk.
While the galbi is boiling, skim off all the brown stuff on the surface. It’s not an appetizing sight, but best to get rid of it now than have it in your finished product! Let the galbi boil for 5 minutes.
Drain the galbi (discard the water it boiled in) and give it a good rinse under hot water. I usually do this in two batches because my colander is small. But it also ensures that the galbi is thoroughly rinsed. Clean the pot that you boiled the galbi in, returned all the drained and rinsed galbi into the pot, and add enough water again to cover. This time we’ll be making the delicious broth.
This is where you can get creative. You don’t have to add anything into the broth, but I usually like to add an onion, some green onion, bay leaves, and ginger. I find that it gives the broth a bit more flavour, and plus it smells amazing while it’s simmering. Bring everything to a boil; cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
While waiting for the broth to get happy, it’s the perfect time to make the sauce. Typically, Koreans use Asian pear to tenderize the meat while braising. I prefer using kiwi instead, as the acid breaks down muscle in the beef and makes it ultra tender. However, it’s worth noting that too much of a good thing can ruin the dish. Too much kiwi results in mushy meat. Nobody wants mushy meat.
It’s also a good time to get the veggies ready. Traditionally, Korean or daikon radish is used, but I prefer using baby yellow potatoes. A bag of baby potatoes does the trick. Cut the larger ones in half, but leave the smaller ones whole. Peel and cut the carrots into chunks similar in size to the potatoes.
Once the broth is ready, strain it into another large pot or bowl to reserve. Toss the broth ingredients and set aside the ribs. The best thing to do with the reserved broth is to run it through a fat separator. Why, you ask? Galbi has a lot of fat, and all that time simmering in the broth has released it into the liquid. Leaving the fat will result in a greasy jjim, which is not very pleasant, so it’s best to remove as much of the fat as possible. Here’s where the fat separator comes into use. The type I have has a stopper that goes into the spout. You pour the broth into the cup and wait for the fat to rise to the top (see the fatty film in the picture?). Remove the stopper and it allows the broth underneath to pour out, leaving the fat at the top. If you don’t have one of these awesome gadgets (seriously, why don’t you have one yet?), you can let the broth cool in the fridge for several hours until the fat solidifies on the top and skim it off. But who has time for that, right?
Return the galbi into the pot, add the de-fattened broth, and the lovely sauce made earlier. Mix it all up, bring it to a boil on high heat; cover and let simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. After the 30 minutes is up, add in the carrots, potatoes, and dried dates. Give the whole thing a good mix and let simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, moving around the ingredients so that everything has a chance to soak up that delicious sauce.
You can top it with some sliced green onion if you like, or eat it as is. The potatoes and carrots should be tender, not mushy, and the meat well-seasoned and melt-in-your-mouth from all the simmering.
- Approx 5 lb beef short ribs
- 1 bag of baby yellow potatoes
- 5 carrots
- 8-10 dried dates
For the sauce
- 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
- 1 small kiwi (if kiwi is on the larger side, use just over half)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2″ piece of ginger (about the size of 2 garlic cloves)
- 150 ml (10 tbsp) soy sauce
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp meul-yut (Korean corn syrup)
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp sesame oil
Optional, for the broth
- 1 medium onion
- 4-5 stalks of green onion
- 4-5 bay leaves
Cut the galbi into pieces, in between the bones. Trim off any excess fat. Place the ribs into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil on high heat. Skim off the brown foam and let boil for 5 minutes.
Drain the galbi and discard the water. Rinse the galbi under hot water and return to the pot. Cover with cold water, add any broth ingredients, and bring a boil. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 40 minutes.
In the mean time, prepare the sauce. Chop the onion, kiwi, and ginger into pieces. Add all the sauce ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Cut any large baby potatoes in half. Peel and cut the carrots into chunks similar in size to the potatoes. Set aside.
Once the broth is ready, strain it into another large pot or a large bowl and reserve. Drain the galbi and place back into the pot. Strain 4 cups of the reserved broth through a fat separator and add back to the pot with the galbi (you can save the remaining broth for other uses if you’d like). Add the sauce into the pot and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover and let simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the potatoes, carrots, and dried dates to the pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
Garnish with sliced green onion (optional) and serve with rice.