Korean galbi-jjim, a rich stew of beef ribs and vegetables, is one of the best cold dishes in the world. Lightly sweetened with a deeply fragrant base of soy and sesame, this spectacular dish is perfect for a chilly winter day. Traditionally a high-end dish in Korean cuisine due to the inclusion of beef, galbi-jjim has become the festive dish for many Korean gatherings. Be warned: galbi-jjim takes time and is best done on a weekend when there is plenty of time to cook and enjoy.
While most people familiar with Korean cuisine are familiar with grilled short ribs from Korean barbecue, galbi-jjim uses those same short ribs in a succulent braise. Modern Korea has become famous for beef and historically this meat was reserved for royalty and the upper class. Even in modern Korea, the galbi-jjim is usually a sign of a special occasion such as celebrations or holidays.
Be sure to buy large chunks of short ribs for this recipe and not the flanken or LA cut of short ribs (thin, cut across) which is suitable for barbecuing. Korean grocery stores will have short ribs cut specifically for galbi-jjim in the meat section. If that’s not an option, buy English cut ribs from your local butcher. This cut of the end of the rib is intended for long braises and will be suitable for galbi-jjim.
There are two key steps in the preparation of galbi-jjim beef that should not be skipped – soaking the ribs in cold water and an initial boil. These critical steps are important for removing impurities (blood) that occur naturally in beef. To do this, first soak the ribs in cold water for at least 30 minutes before draining them. Then the ribs should be boiled with clean water and strained again, this time reserving the broth. Without these steps, the stew can be gamey, without the clean taste of a properly prepared galbi-jjim.
Galbi-jjim (Korean Braised Short Ribs) Recipe
This galbi-jjim recipe is courtesy of Andrew Lim, the chef at Chicago’s Perilla. Recently awarded a Bib Gourmand award for 2021, Perilla is named after the hardy plant native to Korea and a tribute to the immigrant parents of Chef Lim and his managing partner, Thomas Oh. Lim’s goal for Perilla is to present Korean cuisine in a new light, with high-end ingredients and unconventional techniques.
Like many Korean Americans, galbi-jjim was a special occasion dish for Lim growing up.
“At my family vacation gatherings, turkey was secondary,” Lim said. “The galbi-jjim – it was always the star of the show. It was rare that we had this incredible dish on our table unless it was a birthday or a big celebration. So the sight of this large platter of ribs short shimmering braises, beautiful shiny vegetables, chestnuts and sesame seeds was always a huge treat for the family!
Although Lim is proud of this recipe, he still believes that his mother’s recipe is the champion, and “this is my attempt to honor her recipe”. Lim recommends enjoying galbi-jjim with white rice along with lots of kimchi and banchan (Korean side dishes).
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Total cooking time: 1h45
Yield: 3 to 4 people
For the stew:
- 3-4 large pieces of beef ribs
- 1-2 large carrots
- ½ large whole daikon radish
For the traditional toppings (optional):
- 8-10 pieces of chestnuts (peeled)
- 8-10 pieces of dried jujube
- 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
- 12-15 pieces of ginkgo nuts
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon green onions, sliced
For the sauce:
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ medium onion
- 8 ounces Granny Smith apple and/or Korean pear (half and half if possible)
- 8 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 0.25 cup sake, rice wine or mirin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Place the short ribs in cold water for 30 to 45 minutes to remove some of the impurities and blood. Put aside.
- While the beef is in cold water, place the ginger, garlic, onion, apple/pear, sugar, salt, sesame oil, sake/rice wine/mirin, soy sauce and black pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth or slightly chunky (if the pieces are too large, blend again). Put in a bowl and set aside.
- Cut carrots and radishes into large chunks or 1.5 to 2 inch cubes. Put aside.
- After 30 to 45 minutes, discard the cold water from the short ribs. Place the short ribs in a large saucepan and fill with water, about an inch above the beef. Heat until boiling, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and strain the boiled beef broth from the meat and set them aside. Rinse the short ribs, removing excess fat.
- Return the beef to the pot and add 3-4 cups of strained beef broth water and gravy. Cover and boil stew for 1 hour or until beef is tender but not falling off the bones.
- After an hour, add the carrot and radish cubes to the pan (8-12 pieces each). If using, add ginkgo, chestnuts, gummies at this stage (adding these ingredients will enrich both the flavor and texture of the stew). Simmer another 30 minutes or until vegetables are softened and cooked through.
- Taste the sauce, if you want more salt or sugar, add more according to your taste. The sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s too runny, let the ribs and sauce simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes or so. The meat should barely pull away from the bone, but not so tender that it slips off on its own.
- Turn off the heat and garnish with sesame seeds, pine nuts and green onions.
- To be enjoyed with steamed rice and banchan (like kimchi!).