This is how we make Kalbi in Hawaii! Kalbi are Short Ribs marinated in a delicious Korean style sauce and grilled for a couple minutes on each side for the finishing sear. These short ribs are thin, packed with flavor, and always the first thing to go at the grill!
Growing up on Kauai meant growing up on Korean BBQ!!!!! There are BBQ restaurants throughout the island and they are all delicious, although I had a favorite of course. My choice was always the mix plate(who doesn’t want to try a little of everything?!) with Kalbi Ribs, Teriyaki or Huli Huli Chicken, and fried rice. (After I left the island, this Ahi Katsu dish became the new go-to)
This recipe first appeared in Whisk magazine. Cover shot by Malky Levine.
Hawaiian Kalbi Ribs(or Hawaiian Short Ribs), are super thin ribs that are so full of flavor there is no way NOT to suck at the bones!! In a plate lunch they are served full but if you’re having a BBQ you can cut them in between the top bones with kitchen shears for the perfect shareable, family-style dish.
The Right Cut
Make sure to ask your butcher for Korean Style Short Ribs, Miami ribs (two names for the same style cut). The cut refers to “Flanken”, a strip of meat cut across the bone lengthwise, resulting in thin slices perfect for fast cooking on the grill.
These are not regular short ribs- as those are much thicker and need a longer cook time. These korean style ribs are cut 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick across the bone- the finished pieces should be very thin and will have 3-4 oval shaped bones running along one side of each rib.
These Kalbi are so good because we marinate them overnight in the most delicious sauce with green onions, soy sauce, ginger, and lots of other incredible flavors! I love that the sauce is easy to make and the hands on time for this meat is basically non-existent.
For the most flavor packed Kalbi marinade I like to use a little bit of a lot of things! The triangle of Hawaiian food is soy sauce(called Shoyu in the islands), fresh ginger, and garlic. Almost every recipe starts there. We’ll add brown sugar to balance the saltiness, mirin(Japanese Rice Wine), for depth of flavor, and a very important ingredient for tenderizing the meat: a kiwi or Asian pear- also called a sand pear.
TIP: A great tip I have for you when making not only Hawaiian short ribs but any style of short rib, is to cross-hatch cut the meat before placing it in the marinade. We’ll score the meat on both sides in a criss cross pattern which will help the sauce penetrate the meat- hello flavor!
After our ribs have marinated overnight, or for at least 4 hours, we grill em’! I recommend using a charcoal or gas grill for the best smoky flavor, but I have also made these in a grill pan with great success; read- they didn’t burn and tasted damn delicious.
Each rib needs only 3-4 minutes on each side- they should have pretty grill marks and the meat cooked through.
TIP: Leave space between the ribs on the grill so steam can escape and the meat can caramelize (as opposed to the ribs touching each other).
You can eat these straight off the grill, but if you manage to get them to the table, arrange them slightly overlapping on a rectangle platter. For a last pop of color sprinkle with white sesame seeds and thinly sliced scallions.
To Cut: If you want to cut the ribs into smaller pieces, look at the bones. You see how each rib has at least 3 bones at the top? Cut in between those bones with kitchen shears for snack-able pieces!
I hope you love these Hawaiian Kalbi Ribs like we do! Happy Cooking, and please come say hi on Insta to share your food photos!!!
Hawaiian Kalbi Recipe- Korean BBQ Short Ribs
- 8-12 cross cut short ribs ask your butcher for Korean style short ribs or Miami cut ribs
- ⅛ cup green onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs fresh ginger
- 1 kiwi or half an asian pear also called a sand pear
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup mirin(japanese rice wine)
- ⅛ cup water
- ½ Tbs sesame oil
- ½ Tbs toasted sesame seeds
- ½ tsp black pepper
Prep and Marinate
- Rinse the ribs in cold water. Using a sharp knife, score the meat of each short rib on both sides in a criss-cross pattern, making sure not to cut all the way through the meat; scoring the meat helps the marinade to penetrate.
- To prepare the marinade, thinly slice the green onion, crush the garlic cloves into a bowl, and peel and grate a 1-inch piece of ginger. Cut the kiwi in half, place it on a cutting board cut side down, and slice top-to bottom around the fruit to remove the skin. Grate the kiwi with a zester or fine grater into the bowl. If using an asian pear, peel it and thinly grate it. The kiwi/asian pear will tenderize the meat.
- Add soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, water, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, and black pepper to the bowl. Mix to combine. Transfer the marinade to a large ziplock bag or wide container, add the ribs, and massage the marinade in.
- Let the ribs marinate overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours. If using a kiwi in the marinade, don’t let them sit any longer than 24 hours or the flesh of the meat will begin to break down.
- When ready to grill, prepare a charcoal grill or gas grill, or use a grill pan(although you will lose that additional smoky flavour). Place the ribs on the grill, leaving space between each one so the steam can escape and the meat can caramelize.
- Grill each rib for 3-4 minutes per side; they will have black grill marks on both sides when they are done.
- To serve, get out a large platter. Lay the ribs diagonally along the dish, crossing them slightly. Sprinkle with sliced green onions- and enjoy! If you’re serving these at a BBQ and are looking for an easier munch, you can cut each rib between the bones using kitchen shears. Bite size perfection!