The STAR of the show at Korean BBQ — LA Galbi or Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs! Thinly sliced beef ribs are marinated in a salty-sweet-garlicky marinade with lots of pureed onion and pear. Throw on a hot grill to achieve that smoky flavor with charred edges. Utterly addictive and incredibly tasty. Celebrate the Korean diaspora with a big, heaping platter of LA Galbi!
The first time I made LA Galbi , I was a 20-something living in NYC. I needed a dish to bring to a potluck. So I called up my Korean grandma.
Her instructions: puree some onion and Korean pear. Add soy sauce but not too much. Add sugar until it’s sweet enough. You’ll need lots of garlic and green onion. And a drizzle of sesame oil, at the end.
I added a can of Coca-Cola for good measure, remembering the advice of Korean American friends who swore by this “secret” ingredient.
The result? Everyone at the potluck went crazy. And I’ve been making Korean BBQ Short Ribs this way, ever since.
What is LA Galbi or Korean BBQ Short Ribs?
LA Galbi is a popular grilled meat served at Korean BBQ. Rich, well-marbled beef short ribs are thinly sliced across the grain. Then marinated with pureed onion and pear, soy sauce, sugar, and plenty of garlic. Barbecued over a hot grill to get that charred, smoky flavor — it’s addictively delicious!
The name LA Galbi comes from the Korean diaspora living in Los Angeles in the 1980’s and 1990’s . Traditionally, Galbi is made from thick short ribs that are butterflied so they fold and wrap around a long bone. When LA Koreans couldn’t find this cut of beef, they innovated and used what was available instead — laterally sliced beef short ribs, thinly cut across the grain and showing the bone “eyes.” In the process, they created a uniquely Korean American innovation!
Nowadays, most people associate Galbi with this cut of beef. But before the Los Angeles Korean Americans, no one made Galbi this way!
For me, LA Galbi is classic party food. No potluck or barbecue is complete without this tantalizingly delicious meat. Enjoy!
- Onion. Pureed onion is the flavorful base of this recipe. Not the same without it!
- Korean pear. Pureed Korean pear adds a subtle sweetness and great texture. Swap with a Bosc pear, Bartlett pear, or Fuji apple, if unavailable.
- Soy sauce. Salty, deep, umami flavor! Don’t use the low-sodium kind, if possible — it won’t taste the same.
- Garlic + Ginger + Green Onions. The essential aromatics. Don’t skimp on any as they add a lot of bite and garlicky potency.
- Maesil Cheong. Korean green plum syrup. Optional — if you have it, add a little. If you don’t have any, that’s ok, too.
- Mirin/Mirim. Korean or Japanese sweet cooking wine. Removes the gamey flavor and scent of meat.
- Sugar. Adds sweetness.
- Sesame Oil. For rich nutty fragrance and flavor.
- Coca-Cola. Tenderizes the meat and ensures all those caramelized bits and ends. Can be subbed with Sprite, Ginger Ale, or Root Beer. Make sure it’s not sugar-free soda! If you don’t drink soda, add 1 Tbsp more sugar and 1/2-3/4 cup water so the ribs are completely submerged in liquid.
1. In a food processor, puree onion, Korean pear, garlic, and ginger. (Or grate on a box grater.)
2. In a large bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, Mirin/Mirim, and green onions. Add pureed onion/pear mixture.
3. Add beef short ribs. Mix well with your hands. Add sesame oil and mix again.
4. Add Coca-Cola directly on top of the ribs. Mix again. The ribs should be completely submerged! Cover and marinate overnight.
5. Grill and serve!
- Marinate overnight for best flavor. The marinade needs to soak in!
- Grill over high heat. Charcoal gives the best flavor. Gas is the most convenient. Watch carefully as it can burn easily if not tended.
- Cut with scissors. People typically don’t typically use a knife and fork to eat LA Galbi. They snip the meat into bite-sized chunks with heavy-duty kitchen scissors. Korean BBQ, enjoyed this way, is an intimate, communal, hands-on experience.
How to serve:
- Serve with lettuce wraps and/or perilla leaves, rice, kimchi, and ssamjang. An easy but special meal!
- Serve with a side of cold noodles — Naeng Myeon or Bibimguksu or Spicy Cold Soba Noodle Salad. Summer perfection!
- Add various Korean side dishes like Korean Potato Salad, Spicy Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim), or Soy Sauce Quail Eggs.
- For a party, serve LA Galbi with Cheese Tteokbokki, Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi, or Korean Fried Chicken.
Do I really need to add Coca-Cola?
You can certainly marinate Galbi without soda. But I like to add Coca-Cola as a way to embrace and honor the Korean diaspora. It’s also my secret ingredient and so delicious!
Typically, Koreans completely submerge Galbi in liquid by adding a bit of water at the end. Korean Americans started adding soda instead. So creative! And ingenious! The soda tenderizes the meat and the extra sugar ensures all those caramelized bits.
A note: Soda occupies a unique place in the Korean American experience. My Korean American childhood was filled with soda. Sprite, Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Fanta — these fizzy, sugary drinks were considered a delicious treat and good for digestion. We drank soda on the regular.
The movie Minari captures some of that experience. The family’s devotion to Mountain Dew is both comical and amusing. Another time, I watched David Chang‘s mom make Bindaetteok on Ugly Delicious. Her secret ingredient? Sprite, for that added sparkle.
All to say, I think only Korean Americans would have thought to add Coca-Cola to Korean BBQ Short Ribs. In that way, it’s a decidedly Korean American twist!
Can I cook LA Galbi without a grill?
If you don’t have access to a grill, use the oven BROIL function. It’s the best way to get that smoky, charred flavor and crispy, caramelized edges. I’ve listed instructions in the recipe card below.
The BROIL method comes from many years of cooking Galbi in small NYC apartments with no grill access. Turn on the exhaust fan, if you have it, and open the windows if there’s too much smoke!
Can you freeze Korean BBQ Short Ribs?
Yes, the marinated ribs can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost by placing in the fridge overnight. I recommend shingling the ribs in a single layer, in a large plastic ziploc baggie. Double bag the ribs or place them on a tray in case the liquid leaks out everywhere.
Where can I find beef short ribs?
There are 5 places where I’ve found thinly sliced, laterally cut beef short ribs or LA-style ribs:
- Korean grocery store. Beautiful, well-marbled, nicely trimmed beef short ribs can be found at H mart, Galleria, Paldo, and other Korean grocery stores. The average cost is $29.99 per lb (CAD, 2023). The price point is high but the quality is very good. Sometimes, they can also be found in the frozen section for a slightly lower price.
- Chinese grocery store. Look in the butcher section behind the glass-walled partition at Chinese grocery stores like T&T, Foody World, or Bestco. There will be large 3-4 beef short rib sections. Ask the butcher to slice thinly for bbq grilling (but not too thin!), which is a free service. You can’t beat the price at $9.99 per lb (CAD, 2023). Sometimes, they will even go on sale for $5.99 per lb! Look for a nicely marbled section that is not too fatty with even thickness from one end to the other end. The best price point but the quality is not always consistent.
- Local grocery store. From time to time, I’ve seen LA-style ribs at local grocery stores such as President’s Choice, Safeway, Albertsons, etc. But they are not always available. The price point is mid-range — lower than the Korean market but not as low as the Chinese market.
- Costco. From time to time, I’ve also seen thinly sliced beef ribs at Costco. Good quality ribs but again, not always availa. le. The price is mid-range, similar to local grocery stores at about $23.99 per lb (CAD, 2023).
- Specialty Butcher Shop. At local specialty butcher shops, you’ll find high-quality beef short ribs — well-marbled, nicely trimmed, and meaty. The price point is the highest at $34.99 per lb (CAD, 2023). I’ve never bought these ribs so I can’t comment on the flavor.
More Korean meat recipes:
LA Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs)
- Big Bowl
- Food Processor (or box grater)
- 3 lbs LA style beef short ribs, 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 large onion, peeled + cut into large pieces
- 1/2 large Korean pear, peeled, cored, + cut into large pieces can be subbed with Bosc pear, Bartlett pear, Fuji apple
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (Don't use the low-sodium kind!)
- 5 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp Maesil Cheong green plum syrup
- onion/apple/garlic/ginger puree (from food processor, see above)
- 4 green onions, trimmed + diced
- 2 Tbsp Mirin
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil (add last)
- 1 300ml/ 10 oz can Coca Cola (do not use a sugar free version)
Prep the marinade:
- Make puree. In a food processor, add onion, Korean pear, garlic, and ginger. (You can also grate everything with a box grater.) Set aside.
- Make marinade. In a large bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, Maesil Cheong (optional) and Mirin. Mix until sugar mostly dissolves. Add onion + apple puree. Add green onions. Mix again.
- Mix together. Add beef short ribs to the marinade and mix together, with hands. Make sure every rib is well coated. Drizzle with sesame oil and mix again.
- Add Coke. Pour Coca-Cola directly on top of the ribs. It will foam and bubble. Mix well. Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Prep. When ready to grill, remove from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat grill on high and make sure to oil the grates well.
- Grill. Grill ribs on each side until cooked through but still tender, about 6-8 minutes total. Be careful not to overcook or burn the ribs. Charred edges here and there are OK.
- Serve. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice, lettuce wraps, ssamjang, and banchan (Korean side dishes) of choice. Enjoy!
- If you don't have access to a grill, a good substitute is using the oven BROIL function. Line a sheet pan with foil and reposition oven racks so they are 5-6 inches from the heat source. Preheat for 10 minutes on HIGH heat.
- Place single layer of Galbi on the sheet pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Broil until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes total. Flip about halfway so that both sides get evenly cooked. Plus, you'll get those little charred edges. Warning: the marinade contains a high amount of sugar so be prepared for the marinade to burn and smoke on the sheet pan.
- Serve with rice, lettuce wraps, ssamjang, and banchan (Korean side dishes) of choice. Enjoy!