Korean barbecue was always an omen.
When I would see my mother mix soy sauce and sugar into a marinade to pour over well-marbled slabs of short ribs, I knew something good had happened. I'd watch as she threw all the ingredients together without even glancing at a measuring spoon and wonder how she could possibly know how much soy sauce was enough.
This dish that we Koreans and Korean-Americans grew up with was a special event meal, partially because it meant a lot of prep work. But also, for our parents who grew up in a poor and war-torn nation, beef was not readily available or affordable to their families. So, the festive feeling of breaking out the tabletop grill and eating with our hands continues.
As an adult, I usually reserve Korean barbecue for gatherings with family or close friends. But also, as an adult, I can't really ask my mom to make it for me, so I usually go eat out.
For a dish with such history and emotional meaning, the restaurants don't really do it justice. So, I am sharing my mother's recipe for the marinated short rib Korean barbecue or "galbi" that I grew up with.
Here's a taste of a good omen:
5 pounds of short ribs (preferably LA galbi)
3 cups pineapple juice
3 cups of soy sauce
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of Coca Cola
1 onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 scallions, chopped finely
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Combine all ingredients and marinate the meat in the mixture for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. (The Coke is to help tenderize the meat, but if you prefer not to use it, you can just add more sugar to the marinade.)
Grill and serve.