Ah yes, the classic pot roast. Chunks of tough meat braised with vegetables for hours until soft and tender. Every country has their own version of this rustic dish and Korea is no exception. While Galbi Jjim is made with beef short ribs, the ribs I found at the market yesterday were pretty poor. So instead, I swapped out the traditional short ribs for chuck beef (thus the "pot roast").
Let's talk traditional galbi jjim for a sec before I start getting technical. It's simmered in a soy based sauce with Korean radishes, carrots, chestnuts and jujubes until the meat on the short ribs almost fall off the bone. Sounds similar to the pot roasts you're used to right? Sear meat, toss in vegetables, add water/broth and cook away for hours until fragrant. Wrong. Galbi jjim doesn't follow this method and while simple, takes a little longer to prepare.
First, the meat is submerged under water to remove the blood. Why this madness? To make a cleaner broth and to remove excess "beefy" smells from the meat says mother. No arguments from me when it's a family recipes handed down generation after generation. You may have to repeat this process with clean water once the initial water gets too red. This whole process takes about 2 hours.
Next, the sauce/marinade. In case you're not Asian (and not many of my regular readers are) here's the thing about trying to get a recipe from your mom or worse - your grandma. There is no recipe. No freaking recipe at all. How much soy sauce grandma? And how about the amount of sake? Don't even bother asking because the answer's going to be "Enough". So what's the lesson to be learnt here? It's to taste what you're cooking. Taste. Memorize the flavor not the quantities. Understand how the ingredients work together and know what happens when you upset this balance. Below, I'll post a rough estimate of what I think the sauce had in yesterday.
- 2 cups soy sauce
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- half of an Asian pear, rough chopped
- 0.25 cup sake
- 2 tablespoons plum extract
- 0.5 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons of roasted, ground sesame seeds
- finely ground, fresh black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 4 green onions, finely diced
I think that's all of the ingredients that went in for the sauce. All the vegetables except for the green onions and the Asian pear is purreed in the food processor and then added with the other ingredients. Mix everything and set aside. Meanwhile, bring water upto a boil (enough to come three-quarter up to the meat) and once it's at a boil, add the meat in. Cook for about 30 minutes and then drain the water. Bring enough water to come up half-way to the beef to a boil and add the meat back in with 0.75 of the sauce. Cover and cook checking the beef once in awhile to evenly coat and to check liquid levels. If the soy-based cooking liquid is too low, add the rest of the sauce in. This will take about an hour or so. Meanwhile prep the vegetables.
Contrary to what people may think, traditional galbi jjim does NOT have potatoes. Instead, it has Korean radishes. Peel the carrots/Korean radishes and then chop into large pieces. Now here's the kicker. With a paring knife, go around all of the straight edges and round them out. No, I'm not kidding around. We're looking for rounded vegetables in our Korean food and if you're going to make this dish (or still reading) this will be done. We use dried jujubes because of the concentrated flavor and roast the chestnuts before adding it into the jjim. After the hour of cooking with the sauce, throw in the rounded, chopped carrots/radishes, dried jujubes and the roasted chestnuts. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the carrot and radishes are tender.This is a dish that gets even better the next day. I actually like it warm or at room temperature. It tastes sweeter at those temperatures compared to when it's served hot. The meat's definitely more tender when you use the short ribs but the chuck came out surprisingly well also. There is a texture difference due to the fat content and composition of the beef but the flavor profile was all there. Savory and sweet in a perfect harmony with a slight backnote of what is this from the jujube. The vegetables? Tender and flavorful from absorbing the sauce. This truly is a great comfort food and perhaps one of the great, overshadowed jewels of Korean cuisine.