LA Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs)

Celebrate the Korean diaspora with a big, heaping platter of LA Galbi! Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs are the best kind of party food!

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 is a particular kind of Galbi or Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs. Thinly sliced short ribs are cut across the grain and marinated with pureed onion and pear, soy sauce, sugar, and plenty of garlic. The rich flavor of beef is complemented by the salty-sweet-garlicky marinade. Barbecued over a hot grill to get that charred, smoky flavor, it’s classic party food. A great way to celebrate with others!

The name — LA Galbi — comes from the Korean diaspora living in Los Angeles during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Galbi is traditionally made from butterflied short ribs that fold and wrap around a long bone. But LA Koreans didn’t have access to this cut of beef. Instead, they used what was available. A different, non-traditional cut of beef short rib that was thinly sliced and showed 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!

Ingredients:

  • Onion. Pureed onion is the flavorful base of this recipe. Not the same without it!
  • Korean pear. Pureed Korean pear adds subtle sweetness and great texture. Swap with a Bosc pear, Bartlett pear, or Fuji apple, if unavailable.
  • Soy sauce. Salty, deep, umami flavor!
  • Garlic + Ginger + Green Onions. The essential aromatics. Don’t skimp on any as they add a lot of bite and garlicky potency.
  • Mirin/Mirim. Korean or Japanese sweet cooking wine.
  • Sugar. Adds sweetness.
  • Sesame Oil. For rich nutty fragrance and flavor.
  • Coca-Cola. Tenderizes the meat and ensures all those caramelized bits and ends.

How to make Korean BBQ Short Ribs:

1. In a food processor, puree onion, Korean pear, garlic, ginger. (Or, grate on a box grater.)

pureed onion, ginger, garlic

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

PRO TIPS:

  • 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.
  • Use scissors. People typically don’t 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.

FAQ:

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!

How do you eat LA Galbi?

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

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 served Korean BBQ Short Ribs with non-Korean food items and it doesn’t really matter — it’s always delicious.

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!   

More sides (traditional and non-traditional) to serve with LA Galbi:

side view of LA Galbi on cutting board

LA Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs)

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Celebrate the Korean diaspora with a heaping platter of LA Galbi. Smoky. Salty-sweet. Garlicky. Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs are a classic party favorite!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Course BBQ, Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Calories

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, 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!
    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.  
Keyword Grilled Beef Short Ribs, LA Galbi

More 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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