When I was in graduate school in Chicago I shared a room with a guy from South Korea. He was almost evangelical about Korean food and insisted on sharing his homeland's cuisine with everyone he met. He took me to a Korean restaurant and ordered egg roe soup. I was supposed to think it was delicious. If you replace the word "delicious" with "absolutely disgusting" then, yes, it was delicious.
After that experience I was not inclined to eat anything Sung offered to feed me. But when he spoke of Korean BBQ, I had to relent and give it a try. Sure, there was a possibility that it would include rotten cabbage or something similarly putrid but BBQ is BBQ, so I gave him a chance.
He started off with Flanken cut beef short ribs and marined them in some sort of soy sauce garlic mixture that smelled much better than I thought it would. After marinating the ribs he cooked them quickly over a small grill and served them with lettuce leaves.
I ate so much I thought I needed to purge. To this day those ribs are the highwater mark for me and my understanding of "good grilled meat." Until yesterday I thought I'd never be able to reproduce that wonderful evening with ribs, lettuce, and shattered misconceptions. But like my understanding of Korean food, my belief that I couldn't cook good Korean style ribs has undergone a serious transformation.
Here's what I did:
I found Flanken cut beef ribs at Sam's Club, then I paid for them. Easy enough.
I made a marinade with:
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon sesame seed oil
several cloves of garlic
I marinated the ribs for a couple hours on the advice of John "Chez" Eddy - who warned me that if I marinated them too long they would probably get overly salty. Then I grilled them for a couple of minutes over medium heat. These things are cut thin so it would be easy to overcook them. I wanted to err on the side of underdone and I'm glad I did.
They turned out something like this (the photo isn't mine, I borrowed it from wellsphere.com - I also lifted the picture of the ribs from recipetips.com. My apologies to the hardworking photographers who took these pics. Perhaps you can visit those pages and see the photos for yourself!):
Last night I relived that evening in Chicago so many years ago. I ate until I was nearly sick and I kept looking to my wife for affirmation. "Aren't these ribs great?" But I never heard her response. I was only interested in more ribs and I'm pretty sure she was more interested in finding another husband!