Grilling and barbecue may roost at the pinnacle of American food traditions, but that doesn't mean they aren't popular elsewhere in the world; in fact, most nations claim grilling over open flames as a major cooking style. One of the most popular international grilling trends to hit the US is Korean barbecue, with its succulent marinades and charcoal-charred meats; the most clamored-for meat is undoubtedly kalbi, a beef rib cut with ample marbling for a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
In restaurants, traditional kalbi gui (literally, "grilled rib") is served as a long, thin strip of meat attached to a single two- to five-inch rib bone. But the cut prevalent at most Asian markets is known as "LA kalbi," which is cut in thin strips across the rib bones. LA kalbi is also fun to eat: those little bone nubs are awfully useful as handles! When buying this cut, go for the most marbled pieces you can find, and make sure there are no jagged edges on the bones.
You'll want the meat to be nice and caramelized on the outside and cooked all the way through on the inside. This will make it easier for you to tear the meat from the bone and make little lettuce wraps. To assemble, tear off a green or red lettuce leaf, line with a perilla leaf (if you can find them at your local Asian grocer), add a piece of deboned kalbi, and top with a dollop of Korean spicy bean paste (ssamjang) and a slice of raw garlic. Roll it up and pop it in your mouth for a vibrant burst of flavor. For the kalbi and spicy bean paste recipes, just keep reading.
3 1/2 to 4 pounds "LA kalbi" (short ribs cut across the bone) or bone-in short ribs Serves 8 to 10. 2 heaping tablespoons Korean soybean paste (doenjang) Makes about 4 tablespoons.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup cola
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Korean pear or 1 Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
White rice, lettuce leaves, perilla leaves, hot bean paste (ssamjang), and sliced raw garlic, for garnish (optional)
1 heaping tablespoon Korean hot pepper paste (gojuchang)
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon green onions, thinly sliced
3 1/2 to 4 pounds "LA kalbi" (short ribs cut across the bone) or bone-in short ribs
Serves 8 to 10.
2 heaping tablespoons Korean soybean paste (doenjang)
Makes about 4 tablespoons.