LA Galbi AKA Korean BBQ Short Ribs

Celebrate the Korean diaspora with a big, heaping platter of LA Galbi!

The first time I made LA Galbi without my Korean grandma, I was a 20-something living in NYC. I needed a dish to bring to a potluck. So I called up Halmoni.

Her instructions: Puree some onion and Korean pear. Add soy sauce but not too much. Then 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?

LA Galbi, a Korean American innovation, are beef short ribs cut across the bone in thin strips. The Korean diaspora, living in Los Angeles during the ’80’s and ’90’s, made Galbi with this non-conventional cut of meat.

Traditionally, Galbi is made from thick, beef short ribs, like the kind used for Galbi Jjim. The chunky, meaty flesh is butterflied into long sections that fold and wrap around each other. There’s one bone in the middle, with a flap of meat attached to each side.

When newly arrived Korean immigrants couldn’t access this cut of beef, they innovated. That’s how LA Galbi came to be. Nowadays, most people associate Galbi with this cut of beef. But before the Los Angeles Korean Americans, no one made Galbi this way!

Where can I buy LA Galbi?

When shopping for LA Galbi, look for nicely marbled meat that’s sliced 1/4 inch thick. Also, avoid ribs with big chunks of fat on the edge.

I’ve found LA Galbi at the following:

  • Korean Market (H Mart, Galleria): The LA Galbi at Korean grocery stores can be found in both the fresh meat section and frozen meat section (frozen short ribs are slightly cheaper). The short ribs from the Korean market are nicely marbled and perfect for grilling. However, the price is quite high. At $28.99/lb (CAD prices, 2021), it’s a luxurious food item.
  • Asian/Chinese Grocery Store (Foody World, T & T, Ranch 99): Chinese grocery stores also carry beef short ribs. They can be found in the butcher section, behind the glass case, in large 3-rib sections. The price point, by comparison, is quite low. Regular short ribs are $6.99/lb (CAD prices, 2021) and Angus short ribs are $9.99/lb (CAD prices, 2021). However, you’ll have to buy the entire 3-rib section. And you’ll need to ask the butcher to cut into 1/4-inch strips, across the bone, for grilling. FYI, the Angus short ribs are more marbled and meaty.
  • Non-Asian grocery store (Albertsons, Fred Meyer, President’s Choice, Trader Joe): From time to time, I’ve seen LA Galbi sold at non-Asian grocery stores. The quality from these stores is inconsistent, from my personal experience. Sometimes the meat is good, sometimes it’s not; it really depends.
  • Wholesale Bulk Store (Costco, Sam’s Club): I’ve found the meat at Costco to be inconsistent. Again, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.

Do I really need 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.

Korean Americans started adding Coca-Cola to Galbi for two reasons: to tenderize the meat and also, the flavor. The extra sugar ensures all those caramelized bits.

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!

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 Galbi. In that way, it’s a decidedly Korean American twist!

How do you eat LA Galbi?

The classic way to eat LA Galbi is the Korean BBQ way: with lettuce wraps, rice, ssamjang, and lots of banchan (side dishes).

FYI: People typically don’t use a knife and fork to eat LA Galbi. They snip the meat into bite-sized chunks with kitchen scissors. Korean BBQ, enjoyed this way, is an intimate, communal, hands-on experience.

Another Korean way to enjoy Galbi is with a side of cold noodles — Naeng Myun or Bibimguksu. The perfect summer meal!

But LA Galbi can be enjoyed with just about anything. I’ve seen Korean BBQ Short Ribs served with non-Korean food items and it doesn’t really matter — it’s always delicious.

How to make Korean BBQ Short Ribs:

In a food processor, puree onion, Korean pear, garlic, ginger.

pureed onion, ginger, garlic

In a large bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, Mirin. Add pureed onion/pear mixture, plus green onions.

Add beef short ribs. Mix with hands. Add sesame oil and mix again.

Add Coca-Cola directly on top of the ribs. Mix well. Cover and marinate overnight.

Grill and serve with sides of choice. (Clockwise, starting from top left: lettuce wraps/perilla leaves, green onions, Korean potato salad, ssamjang, and kimchi.) Enjoy!

platter of LA Galbi with Korean banchan
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

LA Galbi [Grilled Beef Short Ribs]

Celebrate the Korean diaspora with a heaping platter of LA Galbi. Smoky. Salty-sweet. Garlicky. A familiar favorite that everyone knows and loves!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Marinating Time8 hrs
Course: BBQ, Main Course
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: Grilled Beef Short Ribs, LA Galbi
Servings: 4
Author: The Subversive Table | Lis Lam

Equipment

  • Big Bowl
  • Food Processor (or box grater)
  • Grill

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs LA style beef short ribs, 1/4 inch thick

Food Processor:

  • 1/2 large onion, peeled + cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 large Korean pear OR Fuji apple, peeled, cored, + cut into large pieces
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 inch ginger

Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (Don't use the low-sodium kind!)
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 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)

Instructions

Prep the marinade:

  • In a food processor, puree onion, apple, garlic, and ginger. (You can also grate everything with a box grater.) Set aside.
    pureed onion, ginger, garlic
  • In a large bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, and Mirin. Mix until sugar mostly dissolves. Add onion + apple puree. Add green onions. Mix again.
    stainless steel bowl with galbi marinade
  • 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.
    marinated Korean short ribs in bowl
  • Add Coke directly on top of the ribs. It will foam and bubble. Mix well. Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
    Coca Cola being poured in large bowl of Korean galbi

Grill:

  • 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 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 with rice, lettuce wraps, ssamjang, and banchan (Korean side dishes) of choice. Enjoy!
    platter of LA Galbi with Korean banchan

Oven:

  • If you don't have access to a grill, an acceptable 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!
    platter of LA Galbi with Korean banchan

Notes

*If you choose not to add soda, add 1 Tbsp more sugar.  
**I’ve used all kinds of soda and while they taste similar, I prefer Coca Cola for that deep, caramel-y taste and color.  Full disclosure:  I lived in Atlanta during my teen years so I have a not-so-impartial bias for Coca Cola!
***The BROIL method for cooking Galbi 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!   
****This recipe doubles very easily.  You won’t need 2 cans of soda though.  Simply double everything else except the soda.  Then cover with enough Coke so that all the ribs are submerged in liquid.  That’s usually 1 (300ml/10oz) can.  

Korean Banchan (side dishes) to serve alongside LA Galbi:

Soy Sauce Quail Eggs

Kkakdugi [Cubed Radish Kimchi]

Oi Muchim [Cucumber Salad]

Dubu Jorim [Spicy Braised Tofu]

All Recipes, Beef, Dinner with Friends, Holiday, Korean, Main, Potluck, Sheet Pan

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I just made it tonight to grill tomorrow.
    Can’t wait to see you it turns out!

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