Galbi is a type of Korean barbecue dish that involves cooking marinated beef short ribs over a wood fire until they are tender and the outside is crisp and caramelized. Although the name "galbi" actually means "ribs", meat such as chicken or pork also can be used, though beef ribs remain the most common cut for galbi. The marinade for the meat varies from one recipe to the next but almost always includes soy sauce, sugar and garlic as a base, with ingredients such as sweet rice wine, citrus juice or even soda added. There are really two traditional ways to cook galbi, the first being over a wood fire and the second being done by diners at a table with a small fire pot in the center. The meat can be served with kimchi or rice or it can be wrapped with other vegetables in lettuce leaves.
Beef short ribs are frequently used in galbi, although the cut might be different than what is traditionally seen in other barbecue rib dishes. The meat can be cut into thin strips, sometimes with a little bone still attached to one end. This lets the marinade seep into most of the meat while also reducing the amount of time needed to cook. The short ribs are not always cut in this way and can be used whole, or cut thick. Barbecue that is made with thin, boneless strips of rib meat is known as L.A. galbi, apparently because the style originated in Los Angeles-based Korean restaurants.
Before grilling, the ribs are marinated in a mixture of garlic, sugar and soy sauce. Other acids, especially citrus or fruit juices such as Asian pear or pineapple, can be added to help tenderize the meat. For flavor, onions, ginger and peppers can be made into a paste. The meat is placed in the marinade and left to sit for anywhere from one hour to overnight. In general, the flavor imparted to the meat can either be sweet or sweet and sour.
Depending on the exact cut of meat being used, the authentic way to prepare galbi is over a wood fire. If the cut of the ribs is thick, then they are cooked slowly over a long period of time, sometimes protected from burning by being wrapped in leaves. For meat that has been cut thin, a shorter amount of cooking time over high heat is preferred. Alternately, a small barbecue or fire pot can be placed on the serving table so those eating are able to cook thin pieces of meat themselves.
The cooked meat can be served over rice or can have some of the original marinade reduced and used as a dipping sauce. The meat also can be added as a flavoring in some soups. One popular way to eat galbi is to wrap a piece of hot meat in a lettuce leaf, along with small pieces of fresh vegetables, and then eat the packet like a dumpling.