I’m noticing more and more Korean BBQ houses that are popping up everywhere that have the sliced meats that you cook yourself. Most of these Korean BBQ houses are also known as Galbi or Kalbi houses. Since it’s a Korean word translated into English, the spelling can differ. I’m use to seeing it spelled kalbi or calbi, but the better pronunciation would be galbi which I think they spell it that way so Americans can say it phonetically with a more proper accented sound.
The meat is commonly sliced short ribs that are about a 1/4 of an inch thick and marinated in a thick and sweet soy sauce. I’ve also been to places where they slice frozen meat paper thin and when they present it to you, you have this huge mountain of curled meat. Don’t let the visual size fool you, it’s really not that much meat. Also I don’t think they call this kalbi, but something else. Sorry can’t remember right now.
I’ve been to a few kalbi houses with some Korean friends that would basically show me the ropes. The more ethnic the place the better I found it to be. What I mean by “more ethnic” is when the signs are in Korean, the wait staff can’t really speak English and communication is mostly by pointing and nodding. So I recommend you find some Korean friends and go have a feast, it will be a little easier.
Most places will have the BBQ grill in the middle of the table where you grill your food. It’s common to have lots of side dishes with pickled veggies and sauces you can dip your food into. Like the picture above, it’s one of the most common presentations. You can see the short rib bones sliced horizontally that is cooking in the center.
Like most Asian “novelty” restaurants, the cost can quickly add up. Don’t be surprised to sometimes walk out spending $40-$60 easily, and that’s not even the top end cuts. Most of the time (so far) I’ve been able to average it to about $30, but I still felt like wanting more.
You can do this at home on your own BBQ grill, you’ll just miss out on the authentic feeling and environment. Just go to your local Asian store and buy a bunch of pickled veggies of various types and put them into little bowls. Next, get some thinly sliced meats and marinate it. I’ve also seen sliced short ribs in the major grocery stores, so it should be easy to make at home. Get some pilsner style beer and you should be good to go at a fraction of the cost.
Here’s a kalbi marinade from allrecipes.com you can try:
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 1/2 large onion, minced
- 3 pounds Korean-style short ribs (beef chuck flanken, cut 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick across bones)
- Pour soy sauce, water, and vinegar into a large, non-metallic bowl. Whisk in brown sugar, white sugar, pepper, sesame oil, garlic, and onion until the sugars have dissolved. Submerge the ribs in this marinade, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 7 to 12 hours; the longer, the better.
- Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.
- Remove ribs from the marinade, shake off excess, and discard the marinade. Cook on preheated grill until the meat is no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes per side.