By : Ilona Salim
Before I came to the U.S. for college, I’d indulge in Korean restaurants back in Jakarta. I focused on the classics, such as the KBBQ dishes, the soups, and the mouth-watering seafood pancakes. My narrow view of Korean dishes sadly meant that Galbijjim never crossed my mind.
This all changed on my road trip from Davis to LA. It was past midnight by the time we rolled into LA, and we were starving after the long drive. As we searched for a restaurant to satisfy our whining bellies, our friend suggested that we visit “Sun Nong Dan.” For those of you who don’t know, Sun Nong Dan is open for 24 hours, and for a good reason! We were astonished to find a long, bustling line of people at 2:30 AM!
After a 45-minute wait, we were directed to our table and I was so ready to eat. We ordered and waited patiently for the food to arrive. While the banchan and purple rice were delicious, they simply teased the arrival of the main star-- the Spicy Galbijjim.
Galbijjim is a Korean beef stew that is traditionally eaten during festivals or celebrations. In Korea, beef was considered one of the most valued meats, only served to the royals. However, a revolution in Korean cuisine occurred in the mid-1700s when the Korean government decided to increase the population of beef cattle.
After waiting in eager anticipation for the Galbijjim, the server came into view with a steaming stone pot. She handled it carefully, as to not burn herself. My mouth watered as she placed a pot full of sizzling ribs, accompanied by carrots and radish, all simmering in a gorgeous red sauce. As if the dish could not get any better, it was topped off with cheese. The server took out a torch and signaled for me to get my phone out because it was about to be a show. Without asking questions, I immediately took it out and pressed “record”. I watched in awe as the torched cheese danced in the heat, and slowly merged with each other to create a beautiful blanket of creamy, gooey goodness.
Ever since that fateful experience at Sun Nong Dan, I have explored other Galbijjim restaurants up here in NorCal. Each restaurant has its own unique twist to it, and while they differed in terms of savory or sweetness, they all delivered the same comforting, indulgent feeling that is absolutely unforgettable!
Our take on Spicy Galbi Jjim (GF)
(our version was gluten free so Wei Qing can enjoy it too! I added a note to make the recipe non - gf)
1.4 kg of short ribs
1 large sweet onion
5 stalks of green onion
2-3 large carrots
10 dried shiitake mushrooms
½ cup tteokbokki
A cup of radish
(optional) Mozzarella cheese
12 cloves of minced garlic
7 tbsp of Gochugaru (Korean Pepper)
½ cup Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
2 cm ginger (sliced into 0.5 cm pieces)
4 tbsp of Mirin
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp of sugar
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
** Note: If you do not want to make this gluten-free, I suggest 5-6 tbsp of Gochugaru and 2 tbsp of Gochujang
Boil 3 liters of water in a large pot.
Soak your dried shiitake mushrooms.
Cut ribs into smaller pieces and wash thoroughly.
Once the water boils, add ribs into the pot with ½ an onion, 3 smashed garlic, and 2 stalks of green onion. Simmer for 20 minutes or until ribs are cooked through.
If a layer of scum forms, get rid of this impurity by gently scraping the top layer with a ladle.
Once the initial simmer is done, reserve 4 cups of broth in a separate bowl. Please ensure to filter this broth.
Collect the ribs and rinse once more with cold water. Rinse your large pot since we will be using it again.
In a separate bowl, mix in the ingredients for the marinade. Taste and adjust to your liking.
Into a clean large pot, place your ribs, and your marinade. Coat your ribs with the sauce under low heat.
Once coated, add in 2 ½ cups of the broth you saved.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
While the beef simmers, cut your carrots, ½ of your onion, and radish to the desired size. I suggest larger cuts.
Soak your tteokbokki.
After the 30-minute simmer, add in your vegetables and tteokbokki. Give it a stir and leave for another 15 minutes.
Once the 15 minutes are up, plate your dish! You can add mozzarella cheese on top and torch to melt the cheese!