Fans of Korean food are no doubt familiar with the popular restaurant offering of grilled beef ribs known as Galbi, but there is also a similar dish known as Tteokgalbi (also Ddeok galbi, Ddukkalbi, Dduk kalbi, and Duk kaibi) made using ground beef formed into patties and either grilled or pan-fried. Frequently, the ground beef (the meat traditionally taken from the ribs) is blended with pork to provide a little extra fat, and the seasonings and other additions can be very simple (just a little garlic, soy, onion and sugar, for example), but may also include carrot, mushroom, ginger, sesame and pear.
Tteok Galbi is often served with rice and a variety of Korean side-dishes known as banchan , but some also serve it wrapped in a flatbread or lettuce leaves with other additions. For my interpretation today, I am going to wrap my patties in some Japanese Red Mustard leaves grown by wife…
Instead of the more traditional rib-meat, I have chosen a nice grilling steak and will use pork belly for the additional fatty component. Since my beef is nicely marbled and quite fatty already, I will only be using about half the pork belly rashers you see pictured above. For the whole recipe, you need:
- 1 lb. Beef steak;
- ¼ lb. Pork Belly;
- 1 Scallion, finely minced;
- 3 tbsp. Garlic paste;
- 1 tbsp. minced Ginger;
- 3 tbsp. Sugar;
- 2 tbsp. Soy sauce;
- 1 tsp. Sesame Oil;
- 1 tsp. each Salt and Pepper;
- 3 tbsp. Flour;
- 1 bunch leaves of Lettuce, Mustard or other greens.
The ‘Tteok’ in Galbi Tteok means ‘rice cake’ and, though some recipes actually include this as an ingredient, the name supposedly reflects the texture of the ground meat mix. Some versions make a virtual paste out of the mixture (often using a food processor) while others advocate chopping the meat by hand. I have chosen to do the latter as I do not care for ground meat that is too overworked. I am however, adding a little flour as a binder. Above, you can see the two different meats after chopping with a knife.
Next, mix all the ingredients well (except the leaves, of course), and then let sit to marinate for at least a couple of hours.
Tteok Galbi is often formed into squares, sometimes circular patties, but I am forming mine into half-moons as I think this will suit the leaf wrappers the best. It makes it easier if you partially freeze your patties by giving the patties 20 – 30 minutes in the freezer as this makes them easier to handle. This is especially useful if you are cooking on a barbecue grill rather than a griddle or pan.
For this version, my wife and I are just having the patties as an appetizer and I am not cooking a starch. I am, however, using a little ‘kimchi’ as a side dish/topping for the wraps. You can use a commercial Kimchi, or a homemade version but, for this preparation, since I had neither, I am using a little Sauerkraut mixed with Gochujang and some salted scallion greens as an interesting substitute.
I was really hoping to barbecue these patties but nasty wet weather precluded that and so I pan-fried instead. Using a cast-iron pan, I fried these over moderately-high heat with just a little oil for about 8 minutes on each side Afterwards, I inserted the patties into radish green leaves along with a little ‘kimchi’ and then closed tem up with a toothpick for presentation.
Well … I’ll begin with the flaws here first: The construction of these was quite fiddly, especially as the texture made the patties just a little bit friable (two broke during handling). Also, I wasn’t able to produce nearly as ‘elegant’ a result as I had hoped. A bit more experimentation is necessary.
As for the taste, however, these were top-notch and my wife really raved about them and insisted we have more soon. I loved the beef and pork combination and the texture was just great (although I may have to make it a little more finely ground for handling purposes next time). The seasoning was good enough not to require any tweaking in the future and the ‘fake’ kimchi’ was excellent. I am already having some idea about how to improve the presentation and service in future experiments…