Kalbi Jjim (Korean Braised Short Ribs)

These tender, savory and sweet beef short ribs are a popular dish served for Seollal (Korean Lunar New Year), birthdays, and special celebrations.

Overhead view of a bowl of sweet and savory Korean braised short ribs

Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

Kalbi Jjim (also spelled galbi jjim) is one of the most popular dishes served for Seollal, Korean Lunar New Year. In my version of sweet and savory Kalbi Jjim, short ribs are seared and braised in soy sauce with scallions, sugar, honey, and mirin. A purée of onions, ginger, and lots of garlic bring depth and complexity, while an Asian pear both sweetens and tenderizes the meat.

When the short ribs are close to falling off the bone, carrots, daikon, and dried shiitake mushrooms are added. Garnish it with scallions and sesame oil. The brothy sauce reduces to a perfect consistency for spooning over rice, a must-have accompaniment for this dish.

Kalbi Jjim is a dish reserved for special occasions. When you consider the cost of the short ribs, it’s certainly not a dish most people can often indulge in. While most braises are reserved for winter, Korean restaurants serve Kalbi Jjim year-round.

It’s very much a weekend affair, something to make when you have the time to peek in on a 2-hour braise. It’s a dish for when you have company. This recipe makes a generous portion that can feed 8 to 10 guests when served with lots of rice, so feel free to cut the recipe in half.

The Short Ribs

Short ribs come in two standard cuts: English-cut and flanken-style. English-cut ribs are long rib bones encased with a generous amount of meat. They are also called beef spare ribs.

Flanken-style ribs are 1/2-inch-thick strips of meat with several crosscuts of bones in each strip. They are also known as LA-style ribs for Los Angeles, the city where Korean immigrants started to use them for a BBQ dish called kalbi. This cut is often found at Korean markets.

The ribs used for Kalbi Jjim are cut shorter than the standard English-cut short ribs. They’re short and stocky, 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and 2 1/2 to 3 inches high.  

If you can’t get to a Korean market, ask your butcher to cut English-cut ribs crosswise into halves or thirds. If you can find thicker flanken-style ribs, cut the ribs so there is one bone in each portion.

Regardless of the cut, look for ribs that are meaty, well-marbled, and not too fatty. If you’d rather not deal with bones when eating the ribs, use boneless short ribs. Note that they will take a little less time to cook.

Galbi jjim (braised short ribs) in a bowl along with rice.

Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

How to Prepare the Short Ribs

My version of Kalbi Jjim veers from the traditional practice of soaking and blanching the ribs before cooking them. It’s a technique often used to make stocks or broths—it helps clean away the blood and impurities. Although I find this necessary for stocks and broths, I don’t find it necessary for a highly seasoned dish like Kalbi Jjim.

I simply sear the short ribs on all sides until they are browned, before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The Vegetables

This recipe is a simplified version of Kalbi Jjim. Potatoes, chestnuts, large red dates called jujubes, and ginko nuts are traditionally used, but they each require their own preparation, which can be overwhelming. I use carrots, daikon, and dried shiitake mushrooms, which are standard and more accessible.

Dried shiitake mushrooms (also called dried black mushrooms) are readily available at Korean and other Asian markets. They’re often found wrapped on plastic trays or in plastic boxes. Look for mushrooms with thick caps and clean edges that curl under, as opposed to thin flat ones. They’re meatier and will plump up nicely in the braise.

I prefer to add the vegetables after the ribs have braised for about 1 1/2 hours. That way their flavors aren’t muddled in the cooking liquid and they don’t get mushy.

Galbi jjim (braised short ribs) in a bowl along with rice.

Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

The Purée

A purée of Asian pear, onions, garlic, and ginger is a common Korean marinade. It both flavors and tenderizes the meat. Bosc pears or crisp sweet apples (such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Gala) can be used instead of Asian pear.

Variations

If you’d like to make a more traditional Kalbi Jjim, you can add the following ingredients, all of which can be found at Korean markets:

  • Jujubes (dried red dates): I throw them in whole rather than pitting them. They both flavor the braising liquid and can be eaten (sans the pit).
  • Gingko nuts: I haven’t used gingko nuts, but I’ve heard they can be purchased frozen. You would need to shell them before adding them to the braise.
  • Chestnuts: If I have roasted chestnuts that come in foil packets, I’ll throw them in. They can be found in the produce or kosher section of some supermarkets or in the dry goods section of Asian markets.
Overhead view of a bowl of sweet and savory Korean braised short ribs

Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

Rice is a Must

Kalbi Jjim is always served with plenty of cooked rice. Round out the meal with your favorite sautéed vegetables and banchan, like kimchi and siguemchi namul.

Storage Instructions

Like many braised dishes, Kalbi Jjim tastes even better the next day, and the next. If reheating a large batch, place it in a pot over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer until the meat is warmed through. A microwave works fine if you’re reheating a portion or two. It’ll keep in the fridge for three days.

You can freeze Kalbi Jjim for up to two months. Thaw it prior to reheating.

Galbi jjim (braised short ribs) in a bowl along with rice.

Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

More Meaty Braises to Try

Kalbi Jjim (Korean Braised Short Ribs)

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Servings 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • For the mushrooms
  • 8 (about 1 ounce) dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup hot water
  • For the short ribs
  • 5 to 5 1/2 pounds meaty bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 1 1/2x2 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • For the purée
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • For the braising liquid
  • 2 scallions, ends trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • For the vegetables
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut 3/4-inch-thick on a bias
  • 1 small (1-pound) daikon radish, peeled and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch slices, then quartered into wedges
  • For serving
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Steamed rice

Method

  1. Soak the mushrooms:

    In a medium bowl, add the dried mushrooms and hot water. Place a small plate or bowl on the mushrooms to keep them submerged in the water. Soak them until the caps softened, about 30 minutes.

    Using a knife, trim off the stems (store them for making vegetable stock if you’d like). Keep the small mushrooms whole and halve the larger ones. Set the mushrooms and the soaking liquid aside in separate bowls.

  2. Meanwhile, sear the ribs:

    Season the meaty sides of the ribs with the salt and black pepper.

    In a large Dutch oven or a wide heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold all of the ribs in a single layer, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place the ribs in a single layer so that they don’t touch or overlap. You may need to work in batches.

    Sear the ribs, turning them occasionally until all the meaty sides are nicely browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side. The first batch of ribs will take longer than the following batches as the pot gets hotter as you go. Transfer the seared ribs into a large bowl.

    Short ribs searing in a cast iron skillet to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

  3. Make the purée:

    In a blender, add the pear and purée on low speed until it liquifies into a chunky paste. When using the blender, it helps to have some liquid to get things moving so I start with the juicy pear before adding the other ingredients. Add the garlic, onions, and ginger and purée on medium speed until smooth. Set it aside.

    Pears in a food processor to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs .

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

    Pears and garlic in a food processor to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs .

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

  4. Braise the ribs:

    When the ribs have all been seared, pour any of the oil remaining in the pot into a small heatproof bowl. Discard the oil when cool.

    Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the purée. Use a rubber spatula to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the scallions, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, and honey.

    If there’s sediment in the bottom of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into the pot. If not, just add it to the pot.  

    Return the ribs, and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl, to the pot. Position the ribs so that the bones are facing up and the meat is submerged. It may be a tight fit, but the meat will shrink while it cooks.

    The liquid in the pot should reach almost the top of the ribs, which won’t be fully covered. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer gently until the meat is fork tender but not falling off the bones, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the scallions and discard it.

    Braising liquid and ribs to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

    Braising liquid and ribs to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

    Braising liquid and ribs to make shortcut Korean braised short ribs

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu

  5. Add the vegetables:

    Add the soaked mushrooms, carrots, and daikon, pushing them down to submerge into the liquid. Cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

  6. Serve:

    Transfer the ribs, vegetables, and some of the braising liquid into a large serving bowl. Garnish with the scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serve with rice.

    You will have some leftover braising liquid. It’s perfect for drizzling over rice or cook more vegetables in them, like potatoes.

    Overhead view of a bowl of sweet and savory Korean braised short ribs

    Simply Recipes / Uyen Luu