Friday, June 6, 2008

Stewed Korean Short Ribs, Kalbi Jjim (갈비찜)

Succulent Stewed Ribs Reminiscent of French Bourguignonkalbi jjim

Whenever recent inductees to Korean cuisine describe fond memories of Korean food, the frequently mentioned universally palette-pleasing dish is kalbi, Korean barbeque short ribs. Typically marinated overnight and then fired over a tabletop or backyard grill, kalbi is the Korean equivalent of American barbeque. What people are less familiar with, however, is the kalbi jim*. Kalbi jim essentially uses the same cut of rib meat and similar seasonings as barbeque short ribs, only the bone is longer and meat scored or butterflied. But, the similarities end there. This tasty dish has more in common with the flavorful French bourguignon than its brother barbeque.

Bourguignon is beef braised in red wine and seasoned with garlic, onions, carrots and bouquet of assorted herbs like thyme, sage, tarragon and parsley. Like the French bourguignon, kalbi jim is also slow-cooked with liquor and spices, simmered till it reaches a fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. The reduction, when cooled, congeals and resembles aspic, a savory meat gelatin. The richness of kalbi jim derives from the bone marrow of the ribs, which steadily seeps into the sauce, thickening it as it simmers.


Although many traditional Korean recipes call for par-boiling the ribs, soaking the meat, or adding chicken broth, I have found that the simplest and most efficient way to cook kalbi jim is to just group the ingredients together according to cooking time and throw each of them in at the right time in a heavy-bottomed, copper-coated pot. What is most important in this dish is the cooking time and quality of ingredients. I love simmering raw chestnuts in kalbi jim, but since chestnuts are out of season, I used small Korean sweet potatoes with similar success.

* Kalbi is also spelt galbi, kalbee or galbee. Jim is also spelt jjim or chim.


Kalbi Jim, Korean Stewed Short Ribs Recipe

~ Serves 3-4 people


Preparing the beef short ribs
3 lbs short beef ribs (English, thick-cut 3”-5” pieces)
1. Rinse the ribs in cold water to clean away any remaining bone bits.
2. Trim and discard excess fat.
3. Score or butterfly the meat (I will post separately for how to properly butterfly short ribs).
Cooking the beef short ribs
The alcohol and fruit juices in this kalbi jim tenderize and naturally sweeten the meat. With enough meat tenderizers, overnight marinating and sugar or honey rendered unnecessary.

6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
6 tbs soy sauce
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
1 cup vermouth or rice wine
¼ cup maesil ju, green plum wine, or Grand Marnier
½ cup water
1 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbs roasted sesame seeds
8 raw chestnuts, peeled or 2 Korean sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
10 ginkgo nuts, shelled
2 tbs red pepper threads (sil kochu), cut into 1” pieces
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1. Throw all ingredients, including meat but except the chestnuts and ginkgo nuts into heavy-bottomed or thick clay pot and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
3. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to ensure the bottom does not burn.
4. Add in chestnuts and simmer for another 20 minutes.
5. Add in ginkgo nuts and simmer for another 20 minutes.
6. Remove the lid and turn up heat to medium high.
7. Stirring frequently and scraping the bottom with a wooden paddle, cook for another 20-30 minutes, until the meat becomes shiny and liquids reduce.
8. Optional step: Wait till the whole pot cools, then put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Scrape away the fat, then reheat and serve with ogokbap, mixed rice.

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