Tteokgalbi is a delicious Korean dish made from beef ribs, where the meat is minced and pounded on the bone, then marinated in a sweet, salty, and savory sauce, and then grilled or barbecued over charcoal. It’s sweet, chewy, and juicy, and best of all, it’s very tender because the meat is already chopped into small pieces and softened.
“Galbi” means ribs in Korean, and “tteok” means rice cake, and it was given this name because the process of cutting, marinating, and shaping the meat is similar to the process of making a rice cake. The final dish is also soft and tender, much like a rice cake in texture. And unlike galbi, which tends to be the center of a meal, tteokgalbi is always served as a side dish for rice, along with many other side dishes. Most people eat 1 or 2 ribs per meal, not a whole rack, but if you want to eat more than 4 ribs, who would stop you?
The dish originated from Damyang, Korea, which is in the province of South Jeolla and close to where I used to live in Korea. My favorite tteokgalbi place in Damyang was right on the highway running into town, and it was always full of people, smoky, and irresistible. They used foldable barbecue grills and traditional Korean cylindrical briquettes, and their tteokgalbi was delicious!
Across Korea you will find many different versions of this dish. To cut costs some restaurants mix in soybean paste or ground pork. Most places cut the meat off the bone completely, mince it, mix in filler, marinate, and then reshape a handful of the meat back onto the bone, mostly for presentation. The result looks like ground beef with a bone stuck in it.
My method is a lot different: I use beef ribs and I mince on the bone. My knife is dancing on the bone! : ) I think it looks and tastes a lot better. I prepare one or two per person, and serve with many delicious side dishes.
For best results, slowly grill over charcoal. But if you can’t do that, you can use your oven broiler and stove top, like I do in this video. It will still turn out delicious and beautiful.
If you like to prepare this dish for your guests in advance, you can freeze them up to 1 month and thaw out before cooking. You can marinate it overnight in the refrigerator or cook right away as I did in the video. The key to an awesome presentation is to get your table set up and ready, and have your guests sit down, and then get your serving pan super-hot and sizzling on the stovetop before bringing it out. Bring it to the table at that point and you’ll get tons of applause! “ooh~ ahh~”
You can double or triple my recipe, but you need to choose meaty ribs, or the result will be a bit meager. When you buy beef short ribs, take a good look and choose ribs with a good shape and lots of meat on them. When you’re mincing the meat, you can also take a bit of meat off one and put it on another that needs it, so keep that in mind, too.
And if you make a large quantity and use the broiler method that I do in the video, make sure your grill pan is oven-safe and that you pour out the excess melted fat before you cook on the stovetop. Nobody would want to eat melted fat.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 pound beef short ribs (4 meaty ribs)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirim (or water)
- 5 cloves of peeled garlic, minced
- ¼ cup worth minced onion and 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rice syrup (or sugar)
- 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 large bulb green onions (optional), washed
For garnish (optional):
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- shredded red pepper
- Rinse the beef ribs in cold water to remove any blood or bone fragments. Strain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the ribs on the cutting board, bone side down. Take a sharp kitchen knife and cut the meat on each rib into small pieces, scoring, pounding with the knife and mincing. Try to keep as much meat attached to the bone as you can. Anything that comes off, put back on the bone as you mince.
- Shape the meat on the bone into a rectangle, bone down. Place the ribs into an oven safe pan or grill.
- Combine soy sauce, mirim (or water), garlic, onion, rice syrup, honey, and toasted sesame oil in a bowl. Chop up the light green part of a green onion (keep the green part for a garnish later), add it to the bowl, and mix well.
- Spoon some onions and garlic from the sauce and massage it into each rib. Mix it in well with your fingers so it marinates. Keep some of the liquid of the sauce for later, but use all the garlic and onions in it.
- If you like to grill green onions, mix them with a few drops of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt. Place them in a pan.
- Preheat the oven, setting to broiler for 5 minutes.
- Place the tteokgalbi and green onion in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Remove them from the oven and pour out the rendered fat and oil. Add the rest of the sauce and cook for a few minutes over high heat, scooping the sauce on the bottom overtop of the tteokgalbi. Turn it over and cook for a few more minutes until thoroughly cooked.
- Garnish with chopped green onion, sesame seeds, and shredded red pepper. Serve right away.
Side dishes on the table:
- Cold cucumber soup
- Perilla leaf kimchi
- Fried fish cakes
- Green chili pancake
- soybean paste-based dipping sauce (ssamjang)