Kalbi ribs can be served with an assortment of side dishes, including white rice, kimchi, roasted garlic cloves, broccoli salad, dumplings and soup. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalbi ribs can be served with an assortment of side dishes, including white rice, kimchi, roasted garlic cloves, broccoli salad, dumplings and soup. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Marking 1 year with a festive feast

Kalbi marinade makes ribs that taste like a party

At this time last year, I was agonizing over what I would write and cook for my very first article.

I went into this with the faked confidence of an imposter. I was sure many cooks and writers out there would have been better suited for the task, but I was grateful for the opportunity, and determined to earn my place in the paper.

In the end, my biggest asset was the anonymity that made me bold enough to write with sincerity. I didn’t grow up here, and I know only a handful of you (who don’t share my last name), but you might know me quite well now.

On our last Friday night in Korea, my sister and I went out with our classmates to celebrate. We took the train to another district where we met our friends at a famous Kalbi restaurant that served the tastiest white kimchi in the city.

The dining room was overflowing out onto the sidewalk where they had set up temporary tables with barrels and boxes for chairs. We all crowded around out in the chilly spring air and talked while our meat cooked and occasional raindrops spattered on the grill.

In between lettuce-wrapped mouthfuls we teased and joked and voted on which of our karaoke staples would be declared the official song of the trip. We sang an early happy birthday to a classmate and kept each other’s soju glasses full until we all marched back to the dorms through the blinking lights and rain, loudly singing our chosen anthem all the way.

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to re-create that most amazing water kimchi, but my Kalbi marinade makes ribs that taste like a party.

Kalbi ribs


4 pounds beef short ribs

¾ cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

¾ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup water

1 white onion

1 pear or 1 sweet apple

6 large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons minced ginger

3 green onions

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (optional)


Rinse and inspect the meat for bone fragments, then dry thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl.

Sprinkle the brown sugar over the meat and rub to coat.

Cover and allow the meat to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the onion, pear or apple and garlic. Use water to help create a smooth texture.

Pour the puree over the meat.

Add the black pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil and chopped green onions.

Gently toss the meat in the marinade, being sure to coat completely.

Cover again and let marinade for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator; overnight is best.

Grill over hot coals or flame for 5 minutes each side or until cooked to desired doneness.

Serve with plenty of side dishes like white rice, kimchi, roasted garlic cloves, broccoli salad, dumplings and soup. The best way to enjoy is to use a lettuce leaf to make a pouch filled with bits of meat and vegetables that you wrap up and eat all in one bite. It’s fun to experiment with different flavor and texture combinations so the more side dishes the better.

Thank you all for letting me share my life and kitchen with you over this last year, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the time to come.

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