The whole my being Korean is really a great facade — what you see is all you get when it comes to my ethnic heritage. When I was a little girl and white kids would tell me to go back to China where I belonged, I was less offended and more befuddled because I didn’t understand why I didn’t belong there and why I’d be sent back to China rather than Korea.
It’s an adoptee’s plight; a weird middle place between Caucasian Americans and ethnic Koreans. I act one way and look another and for whatever reason, that really gets people confused. At the end of the day, however, I am about as white bread as they come.
I also have a problem with Korean food, generally speaking, because I don’t think it tastes good. There are a lot of spicy/fermented/pickled foods and I don’t care much for any of those. In fact there are really only four dishes that I can tolerate in that “I’ll eat it and not gag” sort of way: bulgogi, galbi, bibimbap, and japchae. In fact I actually enjoy the first two, almost totally enjoy the third, and could probably eat the fourth twice a year. That’s saying something. When it comes to Asian cuisine, the more Americanized it is, the better in my book, and when it comes to Korean food in America, it’s somehow managed to slip by unscathed. Pity, really, because almost everything could use a good helping of sweet and sour sauce.
The other night I decided to make bulgogi because really, it’s one of the tastiest things Asia has produced. Sweet, savory marinated beef that’s been so thinly sliced it’s almost like cardstock. But when I got to the grocery store and discovered rib-eye (the most common cut used) was more than twice the cost of other cuts, not to mention an inability to get the meat sliced thinly enough, I put my plans on hold. It wasn’t till I stopped by the Reduced for Quick Sale section a week or so later and found just under a pound of short ribs that I realized my destiny was actually to make galbi.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure there’s a huge difference between bulgogi and galbi beyond what type of beef you use. The marinades taste remarkably similar (delicious) to me, and I don’t read any Korean to be able to signify if there really are any differences. I know, I know, I could probably look it up on Wikipedia. Let’s just keep it all mysterious, shall we?
I learned two important lessons when I made this tasty dish. First, broiling isn’t like baking, where you want to throw extra sauce on everything. If you make that error in judgment, you’ll end up with this:
Second, even if a recipe says to marinade something overnight, you can probably get away with one hour in the fridge and be okay. Which is precisely what I did because I am not exactly a patient woman and wanted galbi that night.
The first thing you’ll want to do is trim as much of the fat off as possible, then cut it into smaller sections and score it. I like to use kitchen scissors for a task like this because it goes fast and is remarkably easy. After prepping the meat, place it in a shallow baking dish and let it kind of hang out while you mix together the marinade. Once you’re finished, pour the marinade over the meat, cover the dish with Saran Wrap, and place it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour, although apparently it’s most ideal to leave it overnight.
Once your meat is all ready to rock n roll, lay it out on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler for about three minutes on each side. This isn’t one of those situations where you can walk away from the kitchen and not expect to ruin things — keep a close eye on the meat, and listen to how it’s sizzling, to make sure you don’t ruin your pan AND your dinner. As soon as the meat is no longer pink inside, remove it from the oven, serve it up, and enjoy every last bite.
I served mine up with rice and sauteed vegetables, but for authenticity you’ll want to get your hands on a plethora of kimchis (gross).
Galbi for Two – adapted from this recipe
1 lb. short ribs, fat trimmed and scored
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 scant cup sugar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced (I’ll be honest…I use the jarred kind)
1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
Remove all the fat from your short ribs, cut them into several pieces (about 2-3″ long), and score them. Place them in a shallow baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk together well. Pour the marinade over the meat, cover it, and place it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour (overnight is most ideal). Preheat the oven to the highest broiler setting and move the rack to the top. When oven is preheated, place the meat on a baking sheet, shaking off any excess liquid, and broil for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on each side. When the meat is no longer pink, remove it from the pan and serve it with rice. Enjoy!