During a 2011 trip to LA’s Koreatown, I was unnerved by the number of pho restaurants that had popped up. Korean pho? WTF? But if Korean-Americans can expand into rarefied pho territory, then it’s only fair to acknowledge that Vietnamese-Americans have taken to kalbi, beef short ribs usually cut across the bone, marinated and grilled. During summer weekends all across SoCal, hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds of kalbi are grilled and consumed in the backyards of Vietnamese-American families. Though, for the record, I am not sure pho for kalbi is a fair trade…
There are many versions of kalbi (also known as galbi); sometimes a single rib’s meat is sliced open in a spiral, or even boneless. Of course, my family has serious bone-gnawing tendencies, so we like the three-bone, thinly sliced version that allows for optimal consumption of the gristle around the bones. And, naturally, we add a secret ingredient not commonly found in Korean cuisine but is quintessentially Vietnamese: lemongrass. Shhhh, don’t let the secret out.
When the temperature soared into the 80s last week (March in New England?!) we decided to inaugurate the grill for 2012 and kalbi was the obvious choice. To pair with the kalbi, we grilled king oyster mushrooms and Japanese eggplants with scallion oil. Fluffy jasmine rice and kimchi rounds out the meal. And beer, of course.
Lastly, a few words about the marinade. In use the jarred variety that you can get at any Korean supermarket. You can certainly make your own, but I just don’t have the time to find and puree Korean pears–a key component of the marinade that helps to tenderize the meat. I look for brands that have higher percentages of pear puree and less (if any) MSG.
3 lbs korean short ribs
1 cup marinade
1/3 cup lemongrass, finely minced
4 scallions (roughly 1 cup), thinly sliced
1/3 cup canola oil (or sunflower or grape seed)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 lbs Japanese eggplant (about 5), trimmed, rinsed, dried and sliced in half lengthwise
1.5 lbs king oyster mushroom (about six 1 1/2 inch diameter stalks), trimmed, rinsed, dried, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice, cooked
Kalbi: Combine short ribs, lemongrass and kalbi marinade in a large bowl, cover and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour (up to 4 hours) in the fridge. When grill is hot, cook ribs over high heat for about 1-2 minutes per side. Depending on how hot your grill is, cooking time may be more or less. Just keep a close watch; you want nice grill lines but no burning. Keep cooked ribs under foil to keep them warm and moist.
Scallion oil: Place scallions and salt in a heat proof bowl. Heat oil in a small sauce pan until a slice of scallion sizzles when dropped in the oil. Poor hot oil over scallions. I’ve added a couple of extra tablespoons of oil to this scallion oil recipe as I will be using some of the oil to brush on the mushrooms and eggplant before grilling.
Veggies: Brush mushrooms and eggplant with scallion oil (only the oil). Grill mushrooms away from the flames for 4-5 minutes per side. King oyster mushrooms are rather hearty and take a while to cook thoroughly. Grill eggplant cut side down first over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side. Arrange mushrooms and eggplant on a platter and drizzle with scallion oil.
Serves 4-5 hungry adults.
* Special note: This meal made with the assistance and input from our family grill master, aka Mr. No Nom de Blog.