A staple of the Lunar New Year table, "galbijjim," or braised short ribs, is a quintessential example of homey yet regal Seollal fare. The hearty stew of ribs plays sweet and savory flavors off each other and renders meat into tender, velvety chunks of molten glory.
The dish, according to the Institute of Traditional Korean Food president Yoon Sook-ja, dates back to the mid-1700s. In an agricultural text from 1766 a method for steaming beef appears. A cooking book from the late 1800s documents it as "garijjim."
Yoon attributed the practice of serving galbijjim during Seollal to Korea`s agrarian history.
"Our country is an agricultural nation," Yoon wrote in an e-mail interview. "Cows used to do farm work were considered sacred. During the Goryeo Dynasty, the slaughtering of cows was forbidden to the point that anyone who did so would be punished."
According to Yoon, only the monarch and aristocrats dined on galbijjim during the Joseon Dynasty. The precious nature of the dish led to the tradition of putting it on the Seollal table.
Today, some households place a bowl of galbijjim on the ancestral table for rites. Some households serve it to guests and family and do not include it as part of the ancestral ceremony.
Where to eat
For those who want to tuck into some galbijjim without going through the hassle of making it, the Korea House serves a galbijjim lunch special.
The set (priced at a reasonable 25,000 won) includes another Seollal staple: "tteokguk" (rice cake soup). For this meal, however, the ribs are where it`s at.
Served up in an elegant porcelain dish, the establishment`s take on this classic displayed an understated sophistication.
Made from grade 1 and 2 "hanwoo" short ribs, the galbijjim bore a fragrant, spice-laden flavor and was appropriately sweet. The secret to the flavor, according to the Korea House`s cooking team head, lies in the fresh ginseng, pyogo (or shitake) mushrooms, daikon radish, apples, Asian pear, licorice root and cinnamon used it infuse it with an aromatic character.
A smattering of chestnut, gingko biloba nuts, carrot, pyogo mushroom and jujube added a dash of color.
An accompaniment of pumpkin porridge, "japchae" (clear noodles stir-fried with vegetables), rice, tteokguk and a dessert of yuzu tea, rice cakes, hangwa (traditional Korean sweets) and fruit rounded out the meal.
The galbijjim lunch special costs 25,000 won per person. Opening hours are from noon to 2 p.m.; 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.; 7:20 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. The Korea House will be open during Seollal. Weekend reservations are required.
For more information visit www.koreahouse.or.kr or call (02) 2266-9101~9103. The Korea House is located near Exit 3, Chungmuro Station, Subway Line No. 4.
From the writer`s maternal grandmother
Serves 4 to 5
2.4 kilograms of beef short ribs
2/3 cup of water or beef broth (for those who do step 3)
1 cup of raw peeled chestnuts (available at most marts and grocery stores)
1. Pour the ribs into a large bowl. Add cold water till it covers ribs. Cover bowl with newspaper. Soak for two to three hours in a cool place to drain out blood. If there is a lot of blood, change the water once while soaking.
2. Trim off the fat from the ribs. Make two vertical cuts on the cartilage on the bone. Score the meat down to the bone. To make a criss-crossed score, make vertical slices first, then one horizontal slice across the middle.
3. If there is a lot of fat inside the meat, put ribs in a pot, pour in a small amount of water, just enough to help cook it and boil for 20 minutes. Leave in a cool place overnight and skim off the hardened fat. Substitute the resulting beef broth for the 2/3 cups of water. If there is not a lot of fat skip step 3 and go directly to step 4.
4. Put ribs in a large bowl. Add marinade (recipe below) to the ribs. Mix marinade and ribs together. Store the marinating ribs in the refrigerator overnight. Do not discard any of the marinade, pour it all into the container with the ribs so that ribs can fully marinate.
5. Pour the marinated ribs with all of its marinade sauce into a large pot. Add 2/3 cup water or beef broth (for those who did step 3). Cover with lid. Put on high heat until it starts boiling. Reduce to a simmer on medium to medium low heat. Boil for 40 minutes, gently stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning and to keep an even amount of marinade and heat distributed on ribs.
6. While the jjim is simmering, cut the carrot into small, rounded bite-sized spheres. Wash the peeled chestnuts with water. Add the carrot and the chestnuts to the pot. Simmer on low heat for another 20 to 40 minutes or until the beef, carrots and chestnuts are fully cooked and marinade broth is reduced to a thickened sauce-like texture.
30 cloves of garlic
1 Asian pear
2 stalks of green onion
8 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
2 tablespoons jocheong (grain syrup)
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 tablespoons white sugar
4 tablespoons sesame seed oil
Dash of ground toasted sesame seeds
1. Process the garlic in a food processor. Set aside.
2. Chop pear into cubes and slice onion. Process the chopped pear and sliced onion together in a food processor.
3. Combine the garlic, pear and onion in a large bowl.
4. Slice the green onion and add to bowl.
5. Grate ginger and squeeze and extract 1 teaspoon of ginger juice. Add juice to bowl.
6. Add 8 tablespoons of soy sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of rice wine or sake. Add 2 tablespoons of jocheong. Add 2 tablespoons honey. Add 2 teaspoons black pepper. Add 4 tablespoons white sugar. Add 4 tablespoons sesame seed oil. Add a dash of ground toasted sesame seeds. Stir marinade.
By Jean Oh