Mysteries of Korea Town; Kalbi Style Flank Steak

July 20, 2011
1 Rating
Author Notes

I lived in the LA area for many years. LA has the largest Korean population outside of Seoul. I love Korean food and I love the people, many of whom operated retail stores in my old neighborhood. But the cuisine is a mystery I’ve been trying to puzzle out piece by piece. At one time there were very few good references in book form. Happily that has changed. You can Google anything but just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean that it’s any good. There are now some fine books you can turn to.
I’m pretty good at Korean style barbecue but the pickles and so on which accompany every meal remain a deep mystery. When I revisit LA and Orange County I like to stock up on lots of this stuff. The Kogi Truck proved that Korean could be the next wave in cuisine.
This steak is best cooked outside over either a gas grill or a wood charcoal fire (the latter is preferred). You will need that hot spice element in the marinade; in this case gochujang, which is a chili and bean paste mixture. You can find that or other similar concoctions in Asian markets. Sriracha is an acceptable but not exactly first choice substitute*. Look around on those shelves. Read the labels. Serve this steak with short grain rice and kimchi or other Korean pickles. HMart and Marukai each have an entire aisle of kimchis...and then, "Forget it Jake, it's Korea Town." - pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe produced one of the best steaks I've ever had. Its brilliance lies in the subtle sweetness of the Asian pear -- no other sweetener is added -- and the generous use of whole sesame seeds, which provide a nutty flavor and delightful crunch to the grilled meat. As with any pierino recipe, follow this one to the letter. Slitting the beef before soaking it in the marinade for a full 8 hours, and turning it but one time once it was on the grill, ensured meat that was tender and fragrant inside, crisp on the outside and outrageously tasty. Thank you, pierino!! - AntoniaJames —AntoniaJames

  • Prep time 8 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 1 ½ pound flank steak (or use flanken ribs)
  • ¼ cup dark soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sesame oil
  • ½ ripe asian pear, peeled. Go ahead and eat the other half
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang or other chili bean paste, sriracha being your last resort
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or substitute maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 small piece of ginger thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon gochugaru (very optional)**
In This Recipe
  1. Cut the peeled pear half into chunks and puree in your sturdy blender
  2. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, gochujang, gochugaru (if using) and honey to blender and pulse a few times
  3. Turn the blender contents into a bowl and add the garlic, ginger and sesame seeds to complete the marinade
  4. With a sharp knife score the top of the flank steak with four or five bias cuts. Cover the steak with the marinade and refrigerate for up to 8 hours
  5. Fire up your grill (remember wood is preferred). Grill the marinated steak turning only once. Test with an instant read thermometer for doneness---sorry, I don’t trust the finger poke method. For me 120F works. After the steak has rested, slice very thinly, again on the bias
  6. *Note to cook: I like sriracha aka “rooster sauce” but it’s become almost like ketchup in recipes. The chili and bean pastes add subtle and more complex flavor notes
  7. ** If you can find it, this Korean hot red pepper powder is wonderful. I call it "Korean crack." Wonderfully aromatic. I received some from a Korean born friend of mine and fell in love with it right away.

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Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.