This is Korean food at its best. Kalbijjim/Galbijjim(갈비찜) was certainly one of my favorites as a kid and is still very much at the top of my list to this day. As a kid, I loved to eat just Kalbijjim, rice and Kimchi. It was a perfect balance of flavors for me. The combination of sweet yet savory, juicy yet melt in your mouth tender beef ribs with a great depth of flavor and the crunchy, spicy cabbage Kimchi to break up that little hint of fat was simply just too delicious for my figure. haha.. Even when all the ribs were gone, I savored every last drop of the remaining Kalbijjim sauce by mixing rice and the sauce together.
Koreans traditionally make this dish for great holiday occasions such as New Year’s and also for their most honored guests. So if you have visited many different relatives homes during the New Year’s, you do kind of get sick of it towards the end. Sadly, very few Korean restaurants (both abroad and in Korea) serve this dish anymore so you may not have been able to taste this at all. If you like Korean BBQs like bulgogi or kalbi, then you must try making this dish.
Kalbijjim is also a great party dish because you can make ahead of time. You just reheat when guests arrive. Kalbijjim, rice, kimchi, lettuce salad and any kind of jeon makes a fabulous party menu anytime.
Among the various beef cuts, Korean beef ribs are perhaps the most expensive cut and is certainly not something average Koreans eat or make often. When I went shopping to buy beef ribs (갈비 Kalbi) from our neighborhood market, I was told that it’s not a beef cut they normally carry because it’s so expensive. The butcher told me to come back during New Year’s or Chuseok holiday.
** Cool Kalbijjim overnight for best results.
Servings 6 Time: Prep 15 min + Cook 2 hrs Difficulty: Moderate
- 4 lbs (1.8kg) beef short ribs (갈비)
- 5~6 large dried or fresh shitake mushrooms
- 10 oz (300 g) Korean radish (daikon also works) – about 1 1/2 C cut up
- 2 carrots
- 12 chestnuts, peeled (canned chestnuts is ok)
Ingredients for Kalbijjim sauce
- 3/4 C + 3 T (add later after tasting) dark soy sauce
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C mirin or sake
- 2 T honey (+ 1 tsp as a finish)
- 2 T sesame oil + 2 T (add right before finish)
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 2 ~ 3 T chopped garlic
- 2 T chopped green onion + 1/2 stalk for broth
- Soak dried shitake mushrooms in warm water. Fully immerse mushrooms in water by adding weight on top. This will help reconstitute mushrooms quicker.
- Peel and cut radish and carrots into roughly into 1.5 inch pieces.
- Rinse ribs in cold water to get rid of any bone fragments. (I bought these short ribs from emart. They are imported from Canada.)
- Trim any excess fat and score center of the ribs so that the meat will cook faster and also absorb the sauce more readily.
- Add cleaned and trimmed ribs to a large enough pot and fill with cold water. Bring water with ribs to a quick boil and flash cook the ribs for 3~5 min. This is to get rid of any gamey taste that beef ribs can sometimes have. This step is optional.
- Turn off heat. Drain and discard all liquid.
- Make the sauce by mixing all sauce ingredients listed above EXCEPT for 3 T soy sauce, 1 tsp honey, 2 T sesame oil. You will be adding the additional soy sauce, honey and sesame oil to taste later on.
- Add sauce to pot. Turn heat to med-high and cook ribs in sauce for 5 min.
- Add 5 C water and bring back to boil.
- Add radish and additional green onion for extra flavor. Simmer for 30 min.
- Mushrooms should be fully soaked by now. Rinse and quarter shitake mushrooms like so.
- If using canned chestnut, just drain. If not, you will have to peel your own.. :( Nice thing about Korea, many markets peel raw chestnuts for you for free when you buy a bag. Here’s how they look –
- After simmering for 30 min., add carrots and mushrooms. Continue to simmer.
- After 20 min or so, add chestnuts. Optionally add dried jujube dates.
- Simmer for another 1 hr or so (total 1:50 min~ 2 hrs) until the meat is fully tender. Best way to check the tenderness is to tear a little piece off and taste.
I am holding up this piece of Kalbi with tongs after simmering for 90 min. You can see that it’s not falling off which means it still has another 20~30 more mins to go.
- When it’s almost done, taste the meat to see how you like it. Add more soy sauce (up to 2 T) and touch of honey (1 tsp) to taste.
- Kalbijjim produces a LOT of fat and you need to skim the fat before you serve. My tip for trimming off fat is to cool the stew in the fridge for several hours or in colder climates, leave it outside.
See how much fat has solidified overnight in Korean winter!
Now just break off fat pieces and discard them. You can easily remove fat from Kalbijjim or any other stew using this method without a lot of fuss.
Yup – that’s quite a lot of fat…good thing we removed it all. :)
- After removing the fat solids, add 2 T sesame oil and reheat Kalbijjim before serving.
So here is the final closeup of my yummy Kalbijjim -
In my opinion..
- Most Korean recipes will tell you to soak the beef in cold water and let it bleed out. Recipes say that the meat will smell bad otherwise. But in my opinion, you don’t need to do it unless the beef is especially gamey tasting. I think this was the case in the old days because many beef in Korea was from cows that worked the field which means they had a lot of muscle and was grass fed. I never really followed the advice for the last 20 years in the US and never had a problem. And the same here in Korea so I think I can say it’s safe to ignore it.
- Some Kalbijjim recipes add gingko nuts. Personally I don’t like the taste of it but you are welcome to try. It’s supposed to be good for your brains!
- Freeze leftovers for later. It will reheat nicely. Vegetables will be a bit mushy though.
- Save every bit of leftover Kalbijjim liquid and make Kimchi Jjigae with it. You will end up with a very hearty Kimchi Jjigae~