My mom was never a good cook.* As a kid, I remember lots of microwave dinners, fast food visits, and white rice with raw veggies and unseasoned beef. I joke that if she had been a better cook, I probably wouldn’t have been vegan for five years.
It took me living in Korea for a year to give up my vegan diet and truly appreciate Korean food and food in general. I love how it brings people together and how integral it is to a person’s culture and identity. In Korea, I watched my aunt cook and helped when I could. I started to learn the different ingredients along with the timing and love that went into each dish. I started to get a sense of what flavors worked by eating. A lot. I came back to the States a carnivore and a kilo or two heavier and I don’t regret it at all. Because that’s when my love of cooking really began. Plus, R says he wouldn’t date me if I was vegan, so there’s that. What can I say? Our love is strong.
In LA, I’m lucky to have big Korean supermarkets conveniently located to both home and work. Last week, I picked up some kalbi or Korean short ribs. LA kalbi is different from traditional kalbi because it’s cut across the bone. According to Maanchi, this type of kalbi wasn’t/isn’t common in Korea. I love her blog, by the way. It’s often where I start when I’m cooking Korean food. Although, she never takes any shortcuts, which is awesome for knowing how you’re supposed to do it, but I usually adapt because I don’t have ingredients or the time. Anyway, Maanchi says there are two theories on where the name “LA kalbi” came from:
Theory #1: LA galbi** is cut laterally, so the name comes from the first 2 letters of the word “lateral.”
Theory #2: Korean immigrants living in Los Angeles, CA innovated this cut.
Either way it’s delicious and just requires time to let the marinade do its thing.
Gochukaru (red pepper powder), honey, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame seeds
Not pictured: brown sugar, white sugar, sparkling water, lemon, lime, Asian pear, green onions, onions, garlic, ginger
I pretty much followed this recipe from Food Network, but I halved it. I also didn’t have Sprite, so I just did sparkling water, sugar, and some fresh lemon and lime juice. I think the Sprite, along with the pear acts as a tenderizer. I’ve seen plenty of recipes that don’t include either, so I’m sure if you left it out it would still be fine. I let that marinate covered in the fridge all day while I worked and then grilled those babies on the grill pan. You can broil them too if you want. Grilling over a real fire/coals is probably best.
We ate them with lettuce, white rice, kimchi, Korean chili peppers, garlic, and bok choy. I also made some ssamjang (that salty/spicy dipping paste) by mixing up a spoonful of daenjang (soy bean paste, like a Korean miso), about half a spoonful of gochujang (hot pepper paste), a bit of honey, a bit of sesame oil, and some sesame seeds.
I forgot to take a picture of the kalbi cooked and we ate it all, so imagine it looked like this.
Next time, I’ll probably skip the onion in the marinade, but I still liked it. And, R went for seconds so that makes me happy.
* In my mom’s defense, she’s since made a huge effort to learn how to cook. Lucky for my dad, she’s really come a long way and I actually look forward to meals at home when I visit.
** You’ll see it spelled galbi or kalbi. It sounds more like galbi when you say it correctly, but I just always used a “k” like in “kimchi”. Unfortunately, unlike Japanese and as far as I can tell, there’s no agreed upon way to romanize Korean, so people just do what they want.