Recipe... L.A. kalbi is a uniquely Korean-American dish that uses flanken-style short ribs rather than the butterflied English-style ribs traditionally used in kalbi in Korea.
The marinade usually has some combination of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and a sweetener, but every restaurant (and Korean mom) has a different variation. Here grated Asian pear and granulated sugar add sweetness, but you’ll find recipes that call for grated apple or kiwi, honey, brown sugar, and even lemon-lime soda, a sneaky pantry substitute for fruit. Feel free to make substitutions in your own marinade—use apple cider vinegar in place of rice vinegar, an Anjou pear if you can’t find Asian pear, and so on—depending on your taste preferences. Grilling the ribs over charcoal results in the best flavor, as it adds smokiness to the caramelized meat. But you’ll also get good results if you cook them on a gas grill, in a grill pan on the stovetop, or broil them in the oven.
While L.A. kalbi can shine just fine on its own with a simple bowl of rice and some kimchi, this recipe goes all-out with everything you need to enjoy the kalbi in ssam (lettuce wraps): fresh leaf lettuce and perilla leaves for wrapping; pa muchim, a fresh, lightly dressed scallion salad that cuts through the ribs’ meaty sweetness; and hot, cooked short-grain rice. Use a pair of kitchen scissors—a staple in Korean cooking—at the table to cut the three-boned ribs into single-serving pieces, or cut the meat off the bones for easy ssam wrapping. Wash it all down with an ice-cold beer and you’ll be licking your fingers, and the bones, clean. —Irene Yoo
SCALLION SALAD AND ASSEMBLY
Blitz garlic, Asian pear, and ginger to a smooth purée in a food processor or blender. (Or, finely grate garlic and ginger; grate Asian pear on large holes of a box grater.) Transfer purée to a medium bowl. Whisk in mirin, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, and ½ cup water until sugar is dissolved.
Arrange short ribs in a resealable plastic bag or baking dish. Pour marinade over and turn ribs to coat. Seal or cover and chill at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.\
Do Ahead: Freeze ribs in marinade for up to 1 month.
PA MUCHIM AND ASSEMBLY
Slice scallion pieces lengthwise into thin strips. Soak in a mesh strainer set inside a large bowl of ice water 10 minutes to remove some sharp bite and allow time to curl slightly. Swish scallions around with your hands to remove any sliminess, then drain well and pat dry. Wipe out bowl; return scallions to bowl.
Whisk vinegar, mirin, gochugaru, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved; season with salt. Add dressing to scallions and toss to coat.
Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. Remove short ribs from marinade and grill until well browned and slightly charred around edges, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and top with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut meat into bite-size pieces with kitchen shears.
Arrange lettuce and perilla leaves (if using) on a second platter. Scoop rice into individual bowls.
To eat, stack a palm-size lettuce leaf and a perilla leaf in your hand. Top with rice, meat, and scallion salad and wrap into a tight bundle. Eat in one bite and repeat!
Photo By Isa Zapata, Food Styling By Kat Boystova