Korean BBQ – Kalbi & Bulgogi

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Korean Kalbi & Bulgogi Recipe

This food blog thing really isn’t good for my waistline. B.B. (Before Blog), the little angel on my right shoulder and the devil on the left used to have a healthy debate, often lasting for a couple of minutes. “Poached Chicken Breast or Gorgonzola Stuffed Hamburger?” The playground was fair, the game was clean. Angel used to win, oh about 51% of the time. The game totally rigged now – sweet angel gently tugs on my ear, reminding me that I really should be cooking healthy tonight, something under 500 calories, light, refreshing, a mixed baby green salad perhaps. And all the little devil on my other side has to say is:

Oh, its for the BLOG.”

POOF! the devil has won and without any consideration, the angel gets whacked in the head, pushed off my shoulder….she somehow ends up landing in the pile of carrot skin compost. Its totally insane that this blog is my reason for choosing to eat like a queen everyday. Its not like this little venture provides me with fame and fortune!

Korean BBQ

If you ask my friends what their favorite meal is at my home, the Korean BBQ Party wins, hands down. The meal itself isn’t that unhealthy, its just that Korean BBQ is so damn good that you just can’t refrain from stuffing yourself silly. Its also so incredibly easy too – the overnight marinade does all of the work, and you get all of the credit. There are 2 main types of beef in the Korean BBQ lineup: Kalbi (short ribs) & Bulgogi (thin slices of rib-eye). The marinated Kalbi gets thrown on the super-hot BBQ grill and the Bulgogi is cooked at the table on a portable butane-powered grill. You certainly could just cook it in your kitchen and bring it to the table to serve. I also have Kimchee (spicy, pickled cabbage/carrots) at the table, lettuce leaves and lots of white short-grained rice on the table.

KALBI are short ribs, cut on the cross-section (is that the right terminology?) They are thin 1/2″ slices of ribs that are marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar, pear juice, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Every Korean family has their secret concoction for the marinade. But sometimes, I get lazy to create the marinade from scratch. I do the Sandra Lee thing…i know i know….(wince) just slap me for even mentioning her name…and use the marinade that comes in a jar + add freshly shredded carrots and onions. Get a good Korean brand (you can tell, usually the authentic stuff is in Korean, claims of using real pear juice on label (see below).

I promise you that it will taste mind-blowingly, lip-smackingly, soul-satisfyingly good.

Korean Kalbi & Bulgogi Marinade

This is Kalbi ready for the grill:

Korean Kalbi & Bulgogi

Store-bought Kimchee…because if I made Kimchee myself, dug a hole in the backyard to bury the Kimchee, the alligators that live 10 yards from my house would probably dig up the jar and try to eat it.

Headline: “Woman Kills Alligator with Kimchee” Anyways, I digress…..here is a Kimchee glamour shot:

Kimchee

And other banchan, or side dishes:

BanchanBanchan

p.s. Did you know that the South Korean Ministry of Kimchee has developed an official scale for how fermented and spicy a Kimchee is? See Serious Eats for the article.

BULGOGI is paper-thin slices of rib-eye, marinated as well. I have a butane-powered little table-top grill: Inexpensive ($15 from Amazon) and it also is great for emergencies…like if we had a massive hurricane or flash flooding – we could totally still have our Korean BBQ Party!
A good hostess never lets a silly thing like a natural disaster ruin a party!. Grab the largest fry pan that you have (or a fancy griddle) – and now you have a table-top grill – everyone can cook their own Bulgogi. The Bulgogi marinade is slightly different from the Kalbi marinade – look at the jars and get one of each.

Step 1: fry a piece of Bulgogi

Step 2: lettuce in palm of hand, add rice, add Bulgogi, top with Kimchee

Step 3: eat Or, you could just skip the wrapping thing altogether:

How to Eat Korean BBQ

Print

What you need for Korean BBQ Party

Servings: Prep Time: Cook Time:
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**Gluten free notes - while the marinade in the bottle is NOT gluten-free, I tagged this meal as Gluten-Free because it is easy enough to make your own marinade gluten-free. Hmmm...yeah. I should have just written the recipe for making the marinade from scratch....ok, I'll do that soon. In meantime, just google for a recipe for the marinade and substitute with gluten-free soy sauce.

Ingredients:

The Meat
3-4 short rib slices per person
1/4 lb of Bulgogi per person
1 jar of Kalbi marinade
1 jar of Bulgogi marinade
1-2 carrots, shredded or julienned
1 julienned onion
2-4 stalks green onion, sliced in 1" lengths
2-4 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

I get my meat from my local Asian market (the owner is Korean and he sells Kalbi and Bulgogi meat frozen. I defrost and marinate. Or you could go to your butcher and ask him to cut the short ribs for you. Instead of rib-eye, you could use thinly sliced flank steak or really any type of thinly sliced beef) - Combine marinade, some carrots/onion/green onion/garlic and Kalbi in large zip-top bag.

Do the same for the Bulgogi. Marinate the meat overnight, up to 3 days - Kalbi gets the BBQ grill treatment - Bulgogi is cooked at table

The Rice
Lots of white short grained rice (Korean or Japanese style) - I make enough rice to have 1-2 cups cooked rice per person. Here is a great 3-part tutorial on Korean Rice.

The Supporting Players
lettuce leaves (leafy, soft), kimchi, other picked radishes, salted seaweed sheets (you can use seaweed to wrap the meat instead of lettuce)

The Dessert Not Korean, but its the perfect soothing and cooling dessert after all the heat: Tapioca Pearls with Sweet Coconut Milk & Cantelope


Comments 51

  1. LunaPierCook

    Oh, yeah, I can totally identify with the whole “It’s for the blog” thing. But (and mine’s a big one), we recently did a video documentary of a fundraiser with over 40 chefs. Mary was shooting at one point, turned the camera toward me, I got the footage into the editor … and wuz thankful we wuz shooting in w-i-d-e-screen …

    I love Korean BBQ! We have a couple places up here in SE Michigan that are very nice. I’ve yet to take Mary to any of these, and she’s yet to try kimchee, but we’ll get there. Either that, or I’ll try what you’ve written up here myself. The one foodservice shop I frequent up here has those little cookers for $27, but they also include a case. I found one with a cracked case, and they went ahead threw in a four-pack of the cans of gas fer nuthin! Yup, the cooker was in perfect shape, and I really don’t even need the case.

    Oh, and BTW, at that same fundraisers, those little cookers were everywhere! Some chefs had set up two side-by-side and put the large-and-deep rectangular metal pans on them so they could keep things hot or even let something simmer in large quantity. Others had set up a pair and thrown on a long cast-iron griddle for cooking. The darn little beasties are so useful, everyone should have at least one.

  2. Amy

    I hear ya, it’s always for the blog. :D Galbi was actually one of the first recipes I added to my blog (the picture is hideous lol). I use orange juice in my galbi marinade instead of pear because I like to eat asian pears and can’t bear to sacrafice them for a marinade. I broil or pan sear the short ribs. Yum… so greasy and delicious.

  3. Amy

    Oh I forgot to add that your photos are the most gorgeous korean bbq ones I’ve ever seen. I feel my mouth gravitating towards that one shot with the bite on chopsticks. *drools*

  4. Marvin

    That first shot of the short ribs looks amazing. I’ve always seen the short ribs frozen at the Asian market too, have you ever found them fresh? If I go to the normal butcher, how should I ask him to cut the short ribs?

  5. singleguychef

    I think we need to set up a support group! Hi my name is…

    The photos look great. I am definitely going to try this recipe.

  6. simcooks

    It’s ok to do the Sandra Lee thing once in a while for marinades. Just don’t dress up in the same color code as your kitchen decor and tablescape, and refrain from saying “Keep it simple, keep it sweet, keep it semi-homemade”. :)

  7. SteamyKitchen

    LPC- we should be portable butane burner hawkers. we’d make a fortune!

    Amy- i’ve never tried using apple juice…makes sense though because you really can’t taste the pear…I think the pear adds some sweetness but more importantly tenderizes meat. apple juice’s acidity would do the same. thanks so much for the photo compliment!

    Marvin- I get them frozen all the time, mainly because I live in an area that doesn’t have a big Asian population. If you live in a big city, that should be no problem. Ask butcher to cut the short ribs cross section 1/2″ pieces. Better yet, print out the picture above and show it to him!

    SGC- Yeah, we need to call it “BOA” Blogger Overeaters Anonymous

    Sim- haha!!! Keep it asian. Keep it fatty. Keep it semi-lazy.

  8. The Expedited Writer

    Hey there,

    I saw your link on Teczscape’s food blog and stumbled in. You have great photos of food porn here and I must say, that Korean Bulgogi grilled beef looks smashingly good! I feel hungry already and I just had dinner :(

    And if you don’t mind, i would like to pop in more often to see what’s up in your kitchen. I’m going to link you up to my foodblog :)

    Keep up the good work, Jaden!

  9. tigerfish

    I feel I’m having a korean all-you-can-eat BBQ of kalbi and bulgogi from wandering chopsticks to steamykitchen, then having many rounds back and forth.
    Headline:Woman killed tigerfish on the grill ;p

  10. Rasa Malaysia

    I am not much a meat eater, well, you can tell it from my site, but I love the dessert you presented. The Malaysian version is called bubur cacar and the people in Hong Kong actually translated it to Cantonese so it sounds something like “Mo mo cha cha.” (Ask your mother if you don’t know what I mean, LOL!) It has various ingredients: taro, sweet potatoes (yellow and orange), bananas, tapioca, black-eyed peas, starchy gelatin thingy…it’s so colorful and good. I will have to make it one day! :)

  11. Melinda

    Oh dear. It all looks so good, and probably impossible for me to recreate.
    (Do I remember you saying you went out to a Korean BBQ restaurant for your first date with your now husband.)
    I think someone should start this here in England. It would be very successful.

  12. SteamyKitchen

    Expedited Writer- Welcome! Please stop by any time, my door is always open. :-)

    Tiger- OMG, you just made me laugh so hard I snorted my coffee. (ouch!) LOL

    RM- haha! I’ve never tried the Malaysian version – you’ll definitely have to make it and teach me how to use the sweet potatoes.

    Melinda- Yeah! Our first date was Korean BBQ – it was love at first bite.

    WC- you and me – foodie sisters 4ever!

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  14. Alex

    I just recently enjoyed some Korean Kalbi ribs for the first time at a friend’s house. The marinade gives them such an incredible flavor, I was instantly hooked. I haven’t been able to find the ribs at my local asian market (I checked just a few days after having them the first time because they were so good) so now I know what to tell the butcher!

  15. Linda

    I must add, your blog is so inviting and your images are BEAUTIFUL !!

    I was searching online for a table top grilil/burner and landed on your blog.

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  19. Lee Ping Chong

    I’d rather eat Korean BBQ for dinner than poached chicken breast with salad because if I eat the latter, my stomach will not be satisfied and I will find myself eating midnight snacks….

  20. Missing SF

    OMG!!! Where have YOU been all my life?!?!?! I love you!! If I were a man and you weren’t married, I’d be on a flight and kiss you smack on the lips, then fall to one knee and ask for your hand in marriage. BUT since I’m not this will have to do:

    I live in Dallas and have had a HECK of a time trying to find GOOD food that does not involve a steak and a potato! I am orignally from San Francisco and I can admit that I am spoiled when it comes to Asian food. So one day, I went surfing on the internet for recipes to make shrimp blankets for my daughter and…POOF… Google sends me to heaven on my laptop!! It landed me square in the middle of the Steamy Kitchen!! Halleujah!!! (trumpets sound) Not only did I find my blankets, but Kalbi too!! I love you!! (did I say that already?) I can’t wait to finish all of the blogs..yes ALL! I will not rest until I have looked at every one of them and drooled over every picture… let’s begin….

  21. Ray

    I am trying to find a barbeque co Korean.food-Bulgogi-02.jpj oker
    Its a Round Barbeque cooker that is placed in the middle of the table,
    with a slotted barbeque plate,
    some are not slotted and are surrounded with a water trough
    Hoping that you can help
    Kind regards
    Ray

  22. kellypea

    I’m desperately looking for something BBQ for tomorrow’s Oscars food fest. Crank up the barbie and all that sort of thing — This sounds sooooo good I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait until tomorrow. Hmmm…wonder if we have Korean take out around here? Be back…

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  24. brenda

    i live in paris too and have the hardest time finding thinly cut meat for korean and japanese cooking. is it at ace mart that you buy your kalbi / bulgogi meat?? i lived in the sf bay area for all of my adulthood so i know what you mean about korean bbq, sushi, etc.

  25. rxgator07

    If you don’t want to bother firing up the BBQ grill, the Kalbi cooks up okay on a George Foreman grill believe it or not. However, a real BBQ does taste better.

  26. Robin

    Oh god, I can totally relate to the angel devil argument. I just tell myself to work extra hard at the gym. I like to listen to food podcasts while I exercise so I can think, “If I want to eat all the yummy food they are discussing, I have to run further”. It works for about 5 extra minutes which is like 150 calories, whatever. I’m trying to make Kalbi marinade from scratch this weekend. Check out my blog to see how it goes!

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  28. Allison

    I love this blog! Thank you! Sounds like you live in Florida- no kimchee or miso burying in these yards, indeed!

  29. Barbara

    Hi Jaden. First I’d like to say that I’m really impressed with with your background and where you are today. Your website and cookbook are impressive and I can’t wait to try more of your recipes! I actually found your website while searching for Pho Soup (your recipe is wonderful, by the way!). I lived in Japan for 5 years in my early 20’s and got spoiled on good, REAL Asian food. Your recipes are a refreshing, pure take on authentic Asian food – not the typical Americanized sauce-laden junk.

    I’ve never made my own bulgogi or kalbi marinade, but might attempt it this weekend after reading how ‘easy’ it must be on your website.

    Just an idea for others out there still searching for a yakiniku (Korean BBQ) grill… Korean BBQ was one of my favorite things to go out to eat while I was in Japan. (They even had all-you-can-eat KBBQ’s there!) My boyfriend and I both looooooove Korean BBQ and frequent the KBBQ restaurants in our area (Virginia Beach, VA) as often as we can afford. Ever since I got back to the U.S. I’ve been periodically searching for a good home grill to make my own. The best thing I could come up with was the standard butane flame with some type of grill pan, but it just never was the same as doing it on the grate over the open flame. So finally we decided to try our luck with a tiny charcoal BBQ grill. We went for an inexpensive 14-16″ round Char-Broil charcoal grill. Another that a friend of ours ended up finding was the Char-Broil 465131005 Charcoal Tabletop Grill. Both average about $25 to $30 and the pit and grate are the perfect size for the little meats and veggies, and the perfect size for KBBQ parties, especially if you have a round dining/patio table for everyone to sit/stand around.

    Anyway, sorry for going on and on and on, it’s just something I’m passionate about. lol :-)
    As I said, your cookbook and website look awesome, and I’m glad I found you on the ‘net!

    1. SteamyKitchen

      Nice to meet you too Barbara! Thanks for the charcoal grill info – we need to get a tabletop one for Korean BBQ and Japanese yakitori.

      Have a great evening!

      Jaden

  30. Rebecca McG

    So how about that Bulgogi marinade recipe? I went to the Korean market here in town and couldn’t find a bulgogi sauce. When I asked the lady basically said “don’t buy the crap in the jar. Make it yourself, tastes much better!”

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  32. Scott

    Bulgolgi/Kalbi marinade

    My wife (she’s Korean) is the one that usually does the marinade and she does pretty much everything by eye so you will have to play with the ratios to get it right or maybe Jaden can provide actual measurements.

    You will need Korean soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, sugar, toasted sesame seeds, ginger and a Korean spice called dashida (it has a really beefy/savory flavor and can be found in most Korean/Asian stores). I have seen the wife substitute the sugar and ginger with ginger ale and the marinade comes out just a good.

    Mix all ingredients together and marinade your meat. If your doing kalbi, I highly recommend a charcoal grill using hardwood lump charcoal.

    Scott

  33. Scott

    Bugolgi/Kalbi marinade

    Ooops!!! I forgot the one most Korean ingredient – GARLIC! Add that to the list of ingredients above. For me, the more garlic the better but use fresh garlic, not the powder. Sorry for the omission.

    Scott

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  35. suzan

    hi

    i love your blog. i am a frequent visitor & i am an indian.
    i have a question , i watch lot of korean dramas their they

    serve lot of side dishes do they make it everyday or make

    ahead & keep in the fridge. if that is the case how they

    could reheat it or eat it cold. i know lot of questions but

    i don’t have any korean friend to ask. i’m a working mom &

    i want to feed my family well like korean do. pl help me
    thanks a lot in advance.

    suji

    1. SteamyKitchen

      Hi Suji,

      The side dishes are called “banchan” and are considered condiments: pickles, salted vegetables, chili peppers. They are all served cold and kept in the refrigerator.

  36. Natasha

    On Sunday, I finally found a brand of marinades that I thought would work out, put the meat to marinate on Tuesday and we had a Korean BBQ party last night :) Its definitely not grilling weather here in the Northwest and we were out of butane for our portable grill so I cooked the meat in a heavy bottom skillet. I served with butter lettuce, Vietnamese style pickled carrots (blasphemy for mixing cuisine?!) and super spicy kimchi. This was my family’s first taste of Korean BBQ so I don’t know how authentic things were… but gosh! It all tasted oh SO good!

  37. Huggie

    Hey SteamyKitchen,

    Is there a big difference between the two marinades: Kalbi and bulgogi? I’ve heard that they were one of the same…

    Please advise!

    Thanks!

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  39. Tina Wong

    I like your blog. It is very informative and involves a lot hard work to capture those pictures. You really show you are passionate about food.

    The taste of the kalbi rib is awesome! My husband and kids like this dish very much. I used tenderloin pork in replace of beef rib. He said the ginger flavoured rib solve his indigestion problem. I guess he is right, because ginger paste is full of enzyme. I can’t agree with you more, the well toasted sesame seed gives the pork slightly nutty flavour it is very appetising. The shortcoming of this dish is it was it has less sweetness (I didn’t put enough sugar.) The dish was decorated in fusion style ( mixed of Japanese and Korean). I used the kitchen helper a Benriner mandoline to shredded some cabbage and put it under the pork. Sweetness of cabbage is good accompaniment for Kalbi sauce.

  40. mrsabrown

    My exmother inlaw is korean and I have went to alot of picnics at her church and they always use a standard BBQ grill generally top rack lined with foil….. they take meat straight out of marinade and toss it on and around until browned…….Delish!

  41. Laverne

    Costco sells bulgogi here in the Seattle area, and so does Trader Joe’s – delicious!! I serve it in butter lettuce or over jasmine rice, but never thought to add the rice to the lettuce wrap!! Good idea, thanks!! I also marinate franken ribs and quickly pan fry them like I do with the bulgogi, each time adding thin-cut sweet onion wedges. Yum!!

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  43. Ashley

    Did you ever get around to posting a gluten free marinade for this? I’d love to make my own from scratch, and I’m gluten intolerant. Thanks!

  44. Carroll B. Merriman

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your weblog. You have some really great posts and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested. Thanks!

  45. Miami John

    I once was married to a Korean and we made bulgogi for a tailgate but I added hickory chips to the the barbie. Well, we had a line of people dissing their own tailgates for our bulgogi. By the by, Coca Cola is often a substitute ingredient for the sugar parts of this marinade. Another tip, go to the supermarket and pick out your piece of meat and ask the butcher to freeze it overnight and then slice it as thin as they can. You are supposed to be able to see through the raw bulgogi! Perhaps the greatest bbq cuisine in the world.

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