Our Friend’s Favorite Holiday Recipe: Korean Short Rib Stew

kalbi-jjim christine han

What are your signature family dinners? Our dear friend and photographer we’ve loved working with for years, Christine Han, swears by Korean beef short rib stew. “Kalbi jjim is a special occasion dish, not because it’s difficult to make (it’s easy!), but because meat was a huge luxury back in the day,” she says. “My mom makes this twice a year: when I come home for a visit and at Christmas.” Here’s how to make it…

kalbi-jjim christine han

Kalbi Jjim

“Here’s the thing: many Korean-American families don’t like turkey (it’s not uncommon to HATE turkey, TBH) or other traditional American holiday dishes. You’ll often find a spread of traditional Korean dishes at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! This is how my mom makes it (everyone does it a little differently). I added my own touch by using Deuki Hong‘s sauce recipe because it’s delicious and uses fruit to sweeten rather than sugar,” explains Christine.

You’ll need:

For the stew:
4 lbs bone-in beef short ribs, with a good meat-to-bone ratio
2 carrots, large diced
2 potatoes, large diced
1 small daikon radish, large diced
1 medium onion, quartered

For the sauce (adapted from Koreatown):
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon black pepper
8 cloves garlic
1 apple
1 Asian pear

Soak the short ribs in cold water for 30 minutes, rinsing a few times. Peel, core and chop into dice the apple and Asian pear. Blend the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender, until smooth. Set aside.

Bring water to a rolling boil in a dutch oven or big pot. Boil the short ribs for about 8-10 minutes. Set aside 1-1/2 cups of the water the ribs have been boiling in and discard the rest.

Rinse the pot. Add the short ribs. Pour the sauce over everything, plus the 1-1/2 cups of saved water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Skim the foam that rises to the top and stir occasionally. Add the vegetables and continue to simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 45 minutes or so.

Garnish with chopped scallion if you’d like, and serve with steamed white rice. If desired, you can make this the day before you plan to serve it and cool the whole pot so that it’s easy to remove the excess fat for a lighter, cleaner stew.

Serves six.

kalbi-jjim christine han

Thank you so much for sharing, Christine! We love you.

P.S. More recipes, including the best brussels sprouts and shrimp and ginger stir fry.

(Photos and styling by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. Thanks to Franny Eremin for helping with this series.)

  1. Kalissa says...

    I made this last night and it was really good, but why is this called a stew? This is most certainly not a stew, just really good braised short ribs.

  2. Sunny says...

    Korean short ribs are a delicious gateway drug to Korean food. It sounds like a bunch of people are exploring Korean cooking, so I wanted to recommended Maangchi @ who passes muster with my difficult to please Korean mom AND is adorable and highly entertaining. Her recipes are the real deal — she makes soy sauce from scratch with wild fermentation (the Youtube video has a part where she goes to a beach in the Bronx with a camping stove to do a ‘pungent’ sauce boiling step) and obviously also makes her own very legit kimchi. No affiliation, just a big fan!

  3. Elisa says...

    My family would have both Korean and the traditional American food for the holidays. It was the best of both worlds and I loved all the different flavors. :D

  4. I always find your blog super inspirational, really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the share.

  5. Sarah says...

    Didn’t realize other Korean-American families didn’t like turkey for Thanksgiving! I remember sometimes we would have chicken or beef, and it was so much better. And always with kimchi (cuts the grease) on the side. It wasn’t until I got married and my husband cooked the turkey that I really enjoyed it. Every year he refines his cooking of it, and this year he brined, spatchcocked, sous vided, and then pan fried it. So good, but so much work to get it right. :)

    Anyways, kalbi jjim is one of my favorite dishes and such a treat to eat. We had it at my wedding, but I got interrupted by guests while eating it and they took away my plate before I could finish. 10 years later I still dream about that first bite! I tried making it but never could get it just as good (may have been because I was starving then though :p). Im going to try this recipe. Can’t wait. Thank you!!

  6. This is one of my favorite dishes!

  7. Christina H. says...

    Thank you for this! As a half-Korean, this is my favorite New Year’s Day meal (in addition to the duk manduguk–dumpling and rice cake soup!) My mom always adds in lots of shiitake mushrooms–the thick ones you find at Asian markets. They suck up a lot of the broth and are super juicy and yummy!

  8. LPD says...

    Sounds great! But I think there’s something missing in the recipe. Says ‘1/4 sake’… is that a quarter of a cup? Please specify. Thx!

    • Franny Eremin says...

      Good catch, LPD! It’s 1/4 cup. I just updated the recipe. Thank you so much!

  9. Christi says...

    I may have just had a convo with my mother about having this for Christmas dinner.

  10. Lindsay says...

    It’s amazing, my husband has made this 2 times in the last few months and it’s so delicious

  11. nicole b. says...

    Speaking of Korean dishes, I’ll add a cookbook to your excellent gift guides, Joanna: Chef Bill Kim’s Korean BBQ. Chicago readers can attest to his bellyQ restaurants. :) And I love his approach to simple cooking you can actually do at home. The cookbook can be found here:

  12. I have never used a daikon radish or an Asian pear (gasp, I know!). What do these taste like? Are the flavors unique and worth a hunt, or can I substitute them with something more common?

    • Hi Jennifer! You don’t have to include daikon radish, just add extra potato, or whatever vegetable you like. Asian pears are delicious (the most refreshing kind of pear IMO), but you can sub in regular sugar instead for the sweetness.

    • Abesha1 says...

      Asian pear tastes like a cross between a Bartlett pear and a mild apple, and is crisp to bite. You could use a mild pear, or a sweet apple.

    • Hi Jennifer! An asian pear is a crispy blend between a pear and an apple. It’s really delicious, and super easy to find at most grocery stores, depending on where you are. They are rounder than a normal pear. Daikon is a mild radish, also easy to find at large grocery stores. Hope this helps!

    • Flora says...

      Asian pears are super yummy! Not sure if you taste it in the final version of this particular recipe, but the pear supposedly helps tenderize the meat, so maybe it’s worth tracking down? Growing up, my mom never made this with daikon, but she did put peeled chestnuts in towards the end of the cooking. I’ve wondered if turnips would make a good substitute though.

  13. Linda says...

    This dish is so good with a steaming bowl of rice and kimchi!

  14. Angela says...

    Love the Asian representation on the blog! This is a comfort food of mine but never learned from my mom how to make the dish – Can’t wait to try!

  15. Wow, this looks so good!

    I’m totally onboard any holiday that is all about food, so Thanksgiving is my favorite. We’ve never had turkey in India and we tried it for 2 years before my husband finally said that he doesn’t like it. We’ve switched to chicken and our thanksgiving spread is a mix of american (mashed potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts) and indian dishes.

  16. Jo says...

    Whether intentional or not, I just wanted to thank the CoJ team for representing Asians so regularly on your blog. It’s the littlest big thing.

  17. Sasha L says...

    Oh my gosh, I’ve been looking up recipes for this ever since we saw it in an episode of Kim’s Convenience Store (it’s pretty funny!) a couple months back. I think my husband would love it! We’ll have to try over Christmas break. Sometimes I think COJ is reading my mind! ?

    • Danielle says...

      Kim’s Convenience is the first thing I thought of too! Such a good show.

  18. Amanda says...

    So I’m a Korean adoptee and I’m working on learning more about Korean culture, so this is great! This sounds delicious, and I can probably get my very meat-and-potatoes family on board with it.

    • I’m a Korean adoptee too!
      When I first started making my own Korean food, I would go to this website:
      She adds pictures which is nice.

    • anon says...

      another fan of koreanbapsang! she has a recipe for cheese tteobokki that is super yummy!

  19. LU says...

    My family did the same when I was growing up! I’ve continued the tradition as an adult – my husband and I always make some sort of Korean dish as the main meat dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I actually also love mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. so we often end up with a random mix of Korean and Western food, haha.

    • Yes!! We did that too. We all loved sausage chestnut stuffing :)

  20. Kim says...

    Looks good, what do you do wth the pear and apple? Chop in fine pieces…peel skin?

    • Franny Eremin says...

      Hi Kim! Great question. I just emailed Christine – she says to peel, core and dice before putting into the food processor. Just updated the recipe above. Thank you! xo

  21. Amy says...

    Looks delish! How many does this serve?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      just emailed christine — she says 6! i’ll add to the post. thank you xo

  22. lesley says...

    this looks really delicious!

  23. Reg says...

    This recipe looks delicious! That’s hilarious about the turkey. I HATE turkey as well. My mom is Korean and dad was raised on a farm in South Dakota. Whenever we visited his family during the holidays, I couldn’t stand the food–especially the meat. I think a lot of it has to do with lack of marination.