Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs) + School Lunch Rant

OK, so sometimes I’m deranged enough – unpredictable, at best – to go from a dainty tea cake like this on my last post, to a manly, robust galbi / kalbi on this one. But whatevs!

I’m just so excited to share with you my galbi (Korean beef short ribs) recipe! I’ve experimented with many variations before, but I find this one to be authentic and tasty, possibly the best fit for our family’s taste. Nami, of Just One Cookbook blog, also has an excellent Japanese version here. This recipe contains a few ingredients that make it my best-kept secret: Asian pearsdoenjang (soybean paste), and the optional gochujang (red pepper paste) – essential components in the marinade

Want to know a bit about the cooking science behind adding pears in this recipe? Enzymes in pears are supposedly activated by soy sauce proteases, which together, acts as a tenderizer to the rather tough short ribs. You want to know the dirt on this one? It’s true! It works, I swear! Do you know how many tough / dry galbi I had to bear before now? Besides, pears add another (fruity) flavour dimension to the ribs.

While I realize that there are many bottled galbi sauces (which surprisingly contains pear purée) available out there to make every busy cook’s life easier, I must say that it really doesn’t take any longer to make your own! When I read the ingredient list on the bottled marinade, the second item is always high fructose corn syrup, which we all know is evil, evil, evil! Really, that’s the stuff that poisons your body – those high fructose syrup (think motor oil of the food industry)! If you make your own marinade, not only do you know exactly what goes in there, it also tastes awesome! I promise!

But before I tell you how much this galbi / kalbi kicks butt, let me share with you a discussion that transpired between me and the hubby.

So one day, my husband warns me that when our kids go to full-day school, to make sure not to pack them ethnic foods for lunch. Since I didn’t go to elementary or middle school here and wasn’t sure of the “culture”, I was flabbergasted at his comment. Apparently, if I pack them white rice and ethnic dishes, they might get picked on (a.k.a. cafeteria bullying). I could not believe my ears! Does this happen in such a diverse country like CanadaHave you heard of similar food issues at your child’s school today? I hope not!

See, I don’t want to pack them fake-meat sandwiches with electric orange cheese just so they’d “fit in”; I want to pack them what we eat at home, which is a culinary tour de force based on my whims, haha! That said, I think families are savvier about food nowadays (homemade pesto pasta should beat chicken mcnuggets any time) – but I could be wrong. I truly hope kids these days are more open-minded about this stuff (where is Jamie Oliver when you need him?). I do, however, promise on my end not to embarrass my kids by sending them extremely stinky Asian fish sauce or pungent durian and the likes!

Now back to today’s recipe…My kids enjoy this galbi, served with either short-grain or long-grain white rice with some dried seaweed “sprinkles”. As my eldest daughter would say “Hey, this beef tastes like the one where we go to cook food on our table!” Like at the Korean restaurant? Best compliment. Ever.

5.0 from 7 reviews
Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This galbi / kalbi recipe is based on Cook's Illustrated + the many arm-twisting interviews I've carried out with some of my Korean friends' families.
Recipe Type: Main, Meat
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs, cut flanken-style or Korean-style, about ¼-inch thick
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 8 teaspoons grated peeled, fresh ginger
  • 1 cup (240 ml) soy sauce
  • ¾ cup (170 g) Demerara sugar or brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons doenjang (soy bean paste)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (red pepper paste, optional - only if you want a spicy version)
  • 4 scallions, sliced thinly + more for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  1. Have your butcher cut beef short ribs across the bones, otherwise known as flanken-style, Korean-style, or even Miami-style, about ¼-inch thick maximum. This can normally be done if you purchase meat at Asian supermarkets. Wash meat and dry with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl of a large food processor (at least a 6-cup processor), whirl the pear, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, doenjang, gochujang (if using) until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stir in the scallions.
  3. Prepare two 9 x 13 baking dishes or disposable aluminum pans, enough to lay the short ribs flat in 2 to 3 layers. Spread some marinade at the bottom of the container, then place your first layer of ribs down. Repeat until you have 2 to 3 layers, with marinade in between. Pour the remaining on top.
  4. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator. Marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours, turning meat once or twice to ensure even coating.
  5. Preheat your grill to 375 F / 190 C. Scrape grate clean with a grill brush and oil grate, then cover with lid until target temperature is reached.
  6. When the grill is ready, cook the short ribs, about 3 to 4 minutes each side, or until desired doneness is reached. Cook each batch with the lid down, as much as possible. Repeat until all ribs are done.
  7. Cut between each rib for smaller, bite-sized portions. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
*The marinade is portioned for 4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs, which is enough for 4 people as main course. If you are only feeding 2 people, just cut the marinade measurements in half, which will work for 2 to 2½ pounds short ribs.



  • Oh Jen! I love your savory post VERY MUCH! Kalbi looks so good!!! I feel guilty – I’m the one who rely on Korean marinade (with the pear picture on it)… I am buying doenjang next time at Asian market.

    I didn’t go to school here but I wasn’t comfortable about preparing Japanese lunch box for my kids before they didn’t even started school. But once they started school, I’ve heard and seen so many kids bring some of their home cuisine to school, and I actually changed my mind. Like you, I really want to give more nutritious food, and my son prefers Japanese food over other things, so I decided to prepare…until he says he prefers something else. So planning 3 days Japanese 2 days something else. But fish is big taboo. When I was working, some people microwave fish and other strong smell food and oh my, it was painful for all the workers… LOL. Need some courtesy for others, for sure. Haha. Great post, Jen!
    p.s. By the way, I love the rice bowls. Particular the one that has rice in it. Please tell me that’s a very expensive kind and not a copy version…. because it looks very beautiful!!!

    • I just got pingback – thank you for the mention! Mine is not really Korean version (as I have been using the store bought Korean bbq marinade for the Korean flavor!!! LOL!), but you are very kind to include my link. THANK YOU Jen! xo

    • Reply July 17, 2012


      Nami, thanks for your lovely comment! I was actually inspired by your Beef Short Ribs post, that’s why I made them – Korean version (the only version I am confident with, hehe). As for the bowls, they were gifts from a Japanese friend! How would you know if they are copies or knock-offs? I’m not sure if they are the very expensive ones…I don’t think so…but they are lovely, nonetheless! Everything the Japanese makes is beautiful and functional anyway!

  • We always had “ethnic” lunches, and we went to a British school. I had no problems fitting in: In fact, my classmates would ask for whatever I had! I remember their favorites were “adobo” chicken, veggie fried rice, and my mom’s lumpia. :)

    I’ve been looking for a good galbi recipe! The photos make this recipe look even more enticing. Will be buying some ribs this week, for sure!

  • These short ribs look and sound amazing! I don’t have kids, just the four legged kind and my hubby who is a big kid, but I think it is great that you don’t fall into the norm and send this great food to school with your kids. I would imagine that now a days it is almost cool to have unique and tasty food. I am sure they loved every bite! Have a wonderful rest of the week!!! :-)

  • This looks absolutely wonderful! i know i’d definitely be happy to be one of your kiddos, bringing this for lunch. =)

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    I love reading your posts (almost as much as I love gawking at the food)! 😀 Who knew that pears moonlighted as meat tenderizers!?

    I’d like to think that with each generation, tolerance keeps improving. There are always going to be bullies, but I have hope for the majority of future generations…and food is the best way to unite everyone. :)

    Those blue, patterned bowls are gorgeous!!

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    Been looking for a simple recipe of this one… and yes, I also had dry batches of short ribs in my futile attempt at this Korean favorite. hope I can find the ingredients for the marinade.
    I do hope you resolve that school lunch “issue”, I get what you mean, and I also understand where J is coming from.

    • Reply July 17, 2012


      Hi M,
      Yeah, hubby said that if other kids see you with white rice baon, they tend to tease you…Pasta and sandwiches are OK, according to him, but when white rice is not. But then again, this was during his / our time, when Canadian kids didn’t know how to deal with foreigh cultures yet. I’m hoping this has all changed by now…

      This galbi recipe is one of my best-kept secrets. A go-to recipe in my arsenal. If we are having a party and I’m not sure what to prepare, this galbi/kalbi always makes an appearance and is always a hit! Everyone’s happy, so I’m happy, hehe. Try it! And if you can find doenjang (soybean paste), it’s awesome! Also, if the adults want a spicier version, add gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) to the marinade! Yummy! I stand by this recipe!

      • Reply July 24, 2012


        I have the soybean pastes– similar to miso paste right?

  • Reply July 17, 2012

    Phenomenal Mama

    Hi Jen! My kalbi recipe also has pears in it, but I didn’t know they were to tenderize the meat. I just assumed it is to sweeten the marinade. :) Will try this version tomorrow as kalbi-jim is on the menu.

    • Reply July 17, 2012


      Hi Tina, if you can find doenjang (soybean paste), all the more delicious…yum, the umami will be satisfied! I love galbi / kalbi!!!

  • Reply July 17, 2012

    A Canadian Foodie

    I have had Korean teachers stay with me a month at at time for three years in a row and was able to learn so much from them! The first impression they had of our food culture was – where is the choice? Used to such variety at every meal, to have only 4-5 choices at a meal was such a surprise for them. We had 2 at a time, always, and they would “play fight” over whose recipe was best, as everyone always has “their family famous” Korean rib recipe. Therefore, I would have a cook off each year and we would make “both”. I loved them ALL!
    I have detailed recipes for so many things I was taught. Thank you for this timely reminder. YUM!

    • Reply July 17, 2012


      How very fortunate that you’ve had wonderful people stay with you! Yes, in Korea, they have, as a regular part of their meal, those “side dishes” or “banchan” we usually see in restaurants – kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, turnip, tofu, noodles, pancakes, baby octopus, etc. – but always in petite amounts.

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    Hi Jen! I sure am glad you went from the dainty tea cake to the manly beef ribs because, for one thing I sure am glad to have both of your recipes;-) I also like the look of the flanked style cut of the beef ribs and will have to go about gathering up ingredients to recreate this amazing looking beef rib dish-your photos really capture the essence of it’s deliciousness;-)

  • Reply July 17, 2012

    A Canadian Foodie

    PS – definitely remember all used Kiwi as the fruit. :) V Pear would be DELISH

    • Reply July 17, 2012


      Yes! I’ve heard of using Kiwi as tenderizing agent as well!

      • Reply July 12, 2013


        I did an experiment and used kiwi instead of pear one time and did a blind taste test. The kiwi won out! Try it next time, because we love kalbi and the kiwi made it more flavourful and tender.

        • Reply July 12, 2013


          I’ve heard of some people using kiwi – and with great results! I will definitely try this twist soon!

  • Reply July 17, 2012

    Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    I just ate breakfast but I would love to try these short ribs for dinner. And I’m on your side, I think preparing what you eat at home for your children is fantastic (and who knows, it may expose some of their classmates to some real food!). I love your blue bowls too!

  • I love glabi/kalbi and don’t get to eat it often enough! I haven’t tried making it at home yet, I either just eat out or buy the frozen stuff from Trader Joe’s hehe. This recipe looks simple enough that I should attempt it soon!

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    Embrace it, girl! We like you deranged. These short ribs look so delicious!

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    As a child who grew up in Canada, and not in a city where ethnic diversity was considered a huge part of the city, I have to say that your husband, is almost, all wrong. My mom sent me to school with a mix of boring sandwiches and Asian foods. My friends were always fascinated by what I would eat and I became known as the girl with the “cool” shrimp chip snacks that I would barter for their exotic (to me) cheese sticks. I think only if you’re from a very small town would your children still experience such teasing, so cook away and let your kids be all the better for their expanded culinary horizons! In today’s world, only eating “white” food makes you a bit of a weirdo imo.

    Btw, I don’t have a food processor, so could I use a regular blender for this?

    • Reply July 18, 2012


      Hi J, Of course! You can use a blender!

      I’m glad you were the “cool girl with shrimp chip snacks!” Hahaha!

  • Reply July 17, 2012


    Great recipe Jen. I want to try this sometime for my family. As far as lunches go just pack what you eat and teach your kids to find new friends if they make fun of them. I think it’s great to give them real food instead of that processed garbage that is out there. If you teach them to be confident in who they are and ignore the bully most likely the kids bullying will not continue since they do not get the reaction they want.

  • These look delicious! I love all the flavors together!
    My 7 year old is super picky, and it is not for our lack of giving him food from around the world. He actually likes Indian flavors, but if you tell him we are having Indian food for dinner, he freaks out. The mention of Thai food sends him running. But if you don’t tell him what he is eating is from a different country, he is usually good. Not sure what it is!

  • Kids these days are scaring me..and yes i had my share of going bananas because my kids wouldn’t even take their lunches out..and it wasn’t even nothing bad just nicely put together balanced homemade meals. My daughter came home numerous times crying because of the ewww from her friends…so yea those things are very alive in cafetieres and honestly I hate it. Now I put fresh fruits and veggies and something like wrap. i’ll be adding on my instagram her lunches from August.

    Your version of galbi is phenomenal. I am drooling here for real! Beautiful pics and great recipe…i will be adding this on my list to try asap! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply July 18, 2012


    One of the best Korean dishes, love it

  • Reply July 18, 2012


    Hi Jen,
    I’m the same way, I’ll go from dainty vegan meals to a steak as big as my head:) These ribs are making me so hungry. Unfortunately I’ve never had the pleasure of eating Korean ribs. Thanks for sharing can’t wait to try your recipe.

  • Reply July 18, 2012


    i made this for the first time recently — it was late at night so i didn’t get to take photos for a blog post — and it turned out great. i looked at so many recipes first, and they all called for the Asian pear. i couldn’t get my hands on them at the time, but i improvised with a green apple. whatever i did, it worked. the ribs were so amazing, better than any i’d ever had at a restaurant. the only bad thing, if you can call it that, is that i cooked them indoors in a grill pan and my apartment smelled like the ribs for days.

  • This looks so good and I love the idea of using an Asian pear as a tenderizing ingredient!

    Now, to the school lunch issue. I say pack them what they eat at home! You tell your kids to be proud of that food, and I bet if they shared a little everyone will want to eat what they have! And if kids are teasing them, tell them to find new kids to hang out with.

    If they learn to cave to pressure now, they will never make it to high school! :-)

  • Reply July 19, 2012

    Choc Chip Uru

    This Korean dish is one of the best I have ever seen my friend – ribs have never looked so tempting 😀
    I loved your post!

    Choc Chip Uru

  • Reply July 19, 2012

    Jen @ Savory Simple

    First of all, this looks amazing. I’ve pinned it and cannot WAIT to try it. Secondly, kids are just cruel. I was bullied mercilessly as a child and I honestly think it’s a losing battle (not to sound too depressing). I think kids pick certain kids as targets of bullying and once that happens it doesn’t really matter what you do. If it’s not the school lunches, it will be something else. I don’t know what the solution is, but I wouldn’t let it effect your lunch preparations.

  • That sure went straight to my tummy and made me very hungry and wish I can dig in my screen. That looks so delicious Jen!

  • Reply July 20, 2012

    Magic of Spice

    It is a shame that in this day and age such silly things go on in the schools, especially with the foods.
    I just love this marinade and my family would go crazy for those gorgeous ribs!

  • Reply July 21, 2012

    Mark Wiens

    Beautiful recipe Jen, I think the various realm of Korean grilled meats are among my favorites in the world.

    I think part of the reason for being a lover of so many foods from around the world is that I attended international school. Everyday for lunch I would hop from friend to friend, sampling bites of home cooked Ethiopian food, Korean gimbap, Australian vegemite sandwiches, Ghanaian jollof rice, and many other things. I hope your kids will be able to enjoy their ethnic foods and perhaps even share a little with others to get their palates accustomed to delicious tastes from around the world!

  • […] Galbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs) from Tartine and Apron Strings […]

  • Reply September 12, 2012


    I love galbi! Looks really good!

    • Reply September 13, 2012


      Hi Sook,
      Thanks for visiting my site. I’m glad you like my kalbi / galbi :)

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  • Reply February 1, 2013

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  • Reply May 7, 2013


    I just tried this last night and it tastes SO authentic and yummy! Melt in my mouth good!! We had just went to a Korean restaurant and this tasted even better! 😀 Thank you for posting this!

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  • Reply July 10, 2015


    HI! Can this recipe be used for chicken too? Also have you ever used a kiwi instead of an asian pear for this recipe or any bby recipe? Thanks for your reply!

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