Korean BBQ – Kalbi & Bulgogi

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:


And other banchan, or side dishes:


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

What you need for Korean BBQ Party


Prep Time:

Cook Time:

**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.


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


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