Saturday, April 4, 2015

Korean L.A. Kalbi

     Korean BBQ L.A. Kalbi Beef Ribs!
     Kalbi is a popular item in Korean BBQ Restaurants.  There are two types of Kalbi Beef Rib meat cuts.  One is Traditional Korean Kalbi and one is called L.A. Kalbi.  
     L.A. Kalbi is a modern Korean American style beef rib cut.  The meaty end of a beef rib is sawed across the bones to fabricate thin beef rib steaks that are about 3/8" thick.  L.A. Kalbi steaks are marinated somewhere between 12 hours and 2 days, then they are cooked over open flames on a Korean style BBQ chargrill or on Korean earthenware domed grill.  After marinating, the L.A. Kalbi steaks are tender when cooked and they are full of great flavor.
     Traditional Korean Kalbi is butchered in a different way than L.A. Kalbi.  The traditional method requires a fairly high degree of meat fabricating skill.  First a section of 2 to 4 meaty beef ribs is cut free from the rack close to the loin end.  The meat is thin very thin sliced by hand at an angle, so each thin shaved meat sliced is still attached to the rib bone.  After the bone is removed, the thin meat slices resemble pages of an open book.  
     The thin sliced Traditional Kalbi is then marinated like Bulgogi or it is cooked fresh.  The thin slices of meat cook quickly on a Korean BBQ.  Basting is optional but the traditional Kalbi is more often plucked right off the BBQ with chopsticks, dipped in a sauce and eaten all in one motion.  
     The marinade for L.A. Kalbi is a little bit different than the marinade used for Bulgogi.  Korean Pear (Asian Pear) is pureed and is used as the base element of a Kalbi Marinade.  The Asian Pear puree not only adds an interesting flavor, it also tenderizes the rib meat and assists caramelization when the rib meat is cooked.  
     Many food writers, including myself, often state that Korean Bulgogi is one of the top ten best tasting entrées in the world.  I must be a late bloomer, because the first time that I tried Bulgogi was just a couple years ago.  The truth of the matter is that I was so hooked on the flavor of Korean L.A. Kalbi, that I several years passed by before I first tried Bulgogi!  

     A Korean Grill and a Korean BBQ are basically the same thing.  The Korean BBQ is either a mesh screen over an open flame or it is an earthenware dome over an open flame.  The flame is controlled, so the grilled items are cooked at a gentle temperature, with no threat of flame ups.  
     In a home kitchen, a cast iron grill or skillet set over medium heat can yield the same result as a domed  Korean BBQ earthenware grill.  An oven broiler set to a medium low flame is also good for cooking Korean BBQ food.  For open flame style Korean BBQ, a small Hibachi Chargrill is good.  

     A good way to learn how to do Korean BBQ cooking the right way is to dine at a Korean BBQ restaurant.  The waitress always starts cooking the first round of BBQ at the customer's table, then the customer takes over the cooking at some point.  Participate in traditional Korean BBQ cooking.  at a Korean BBQ restaurant is the best way to figure out what this unique cooking style is all about.

     Kalbi Marinade:
     This recipe yields enough to marinate up to 6  L.A. Kalbi Ribs.  About 2 to 3 L.A. Kalbi Rib slices is a good individual portion size.  The marinade only has to cover the ribs with a thin coating.  
     This marinade is easy to make with a food processor, blending wand or blender.  If made by hand with a mortar and pestle, the ingredients should be pulverized fine enough to pass through a fine mesh strainer. 
     Step 1:  Peel and seed 1 Korean pear.  (Asian Pear)
     Coarsely chop the pear.
     Place the chopped pear in a food processor.
     Step 2:  Add 3 to 4 cloves of crushed garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame paste.  (tahini paste)
     Add 3 tablespoons of raw sugar.  (piloncillo)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Paste.  (Coarse Mild Sambal)
     Add 2 chopped green onions.
     Add 2 ounces of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Step 3:  Puree the ingredients in the food processor.
     Place the Kalbi marinade puree in container that is long enough to contain the L.A. Kalbi.

     Korean L.A. Kalbi: 
     L.A. Kalbi Beef Rib Cutlets can be found in Korean food markets, Asian food markets and butcher shops in western states.  The L.A. Kalbi Beef Rib Cutlets should be about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.  About 3 L.A. Kalbi Beef Rib Cutlets is a good portion.
     Step 1:  Place up to 6  L.A. Kalbi Beef Rib Cutlets in the container of Kalbi Marinade.
     Toss the L.A. Kalbi in the marinade, so they are thoroughly coated.
     Seal the container.
     Place the container in a refrigerator.
     Allow the L.A. Kalbi to marinate for 12 to 24 hours.  Turn the L.A. Kalbi in the marinade occasionally.
     Step 2:  Heat a Korean BBQ Chargrill to a medium temperature.
     *If no Korean grill or chargrill is available, a cast iron griddle or skillet can be used.  The L.A. Kalbi ribs can also be cooked under a broiler that is set to a low flame.  Or on a small Habachi Chargrill.
     Step 3:  Remove the L.A. Kalbi Beef Ribs from the marinade.  Discard the marinade.
     Place the L.A. Kalbi on the grill.
     Gently sear the ribs on both sides.  (Turn the ribs occasionally, so the marinade sugars do not excessively blacken!)
     Sear the ribs, till they are fully cooked and browned to a dark color.
     Simple presentations are best for Korean L.A. Kalbi.  L.A. Kalbi can be served plain on a piece of cabbage or lettuce with rice for a street vendor style presentation.  This presentation style can also be set up like a formal dinner entrée plate too.  
     The L.A. Kalbi entrée in the pictures is garnished with: 
     - white long grain rice
     - blanched baby bok choy and red bell pepper strips
     - blanched green onions 
     Serving 5 to 10 Korean Banchan (side dishes) along with an entrée is customary.  Rice is usually served on the side too. 

     Korean L.A. Kalbi has a flavor that is so tasty that after one bite, the craving for more is overwhelming! 

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