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Kalbi and Bulgogi

Christmas Kalbi and Bulgogi with the Johnsons

Korean BBQ is becoming more and more popular; I see it on Food Network, jars of marinades in the grocery store. . . Lucky Robert and I grew up on this stuff. A trip to Woo Lae Oak was always our birthday dinner choice. Taking friends and family was an initiation process. Mandu and shrimp tempura to start, Dad would even eat the tails of the shrimp tempura. Then the marinated raw meat would arrive to grill on the table, and Dad would dare the newcomer to eat a piece of the raw meat as he always did. Robert has always liked Bulgogi better. I like Kalbi better. Kalbi is sweeter and made with short ribs cut lengthwise. Bulgogi is saltier, thin strips of rib-eye. I’ve started making it for the Johnsons for our Christmas dinner.

I loved taking Sarah and Kelly to a Korean place in Chicago and watching Sarah fall in love with the seaweed soup that my mother always made. Even better was watching Kelly pick up and gnaw the Kalbi bones.

Korean BBQ in Chicago with Cuore Felice

My pickiest eater, Matt Novogratz who only ate three things in high school: hamburgers, spaghetti, or peanut butter and jelly, fell in love with Bulgogi. When he moved to New York, he called me one day to announce, “Margaret! There’s a Woo Lae Oak in SoHo. Get up here so you can order for me.” For Taylor’s birthday this year, I made Kalbi for Courtney and him. He likes to make fun of me for ordering all the panchan (side veggies) from a local Korean restaurant. If he only knew what making kimchee does to your kitchen.


5 cloves of garlic

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Juice of one asian pear*

1 1/2 cups soy sauce

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup sesame oil

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp. red pepper flake

2 tsp. ginger

4-6 lbs. short ribs, cut lengthwise

*Asian pear is optional, but the fruit juice tenderizes (and sweetens) the meat.

~ Combine all ingredients letting sugar dissolve completely and marinate meat 2 hours - overnight.

~ Grill, broil, or pan fry each side for 5 minutes.

~ Garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.


Same as above except use 3 T of sugar instead of 1/2 cup.

~ Marinate THIN strips of rib-eye (I’ve also used sirloin or flank steak) two hours - overnight.

~ Pan fry, laying meat completely flat and turning once, till cooked through.


Frankie's Olive Oil

Williams Sonoma Croissants

Joe's Stone Crab Claws

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