27 October 2008

Kalbi Jim

Korean Braised Short Ribs
Kalbi Jim (with title)
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I've been wondering if I should even post something like this, but lately it's been one of those days when I stare blankly at the computer or lie awake in bed, thinking about everything that's happened in the world lately. This post, in particular, encouraged a healthy amount of calorie-burning pacing from me. First of all, it brought to mind these two pages from the comic book Excalibur, issue 15, published in 1989:

It's interesting how very rarely true world crises are reflected in the pages of comic books, given how the start of each mission usually involves an imagined one. Even more interesting is when writers (Chris Claremont above, at his finest) do include them. These pages in particular prompted a very passionate reader to write the editors a letter, part of which I quote here:

That comedian Sam Kinneson did a black humor bit about how the starving Ethiopians should just get out of the desert. What he apparently did not know is that Colonel Miriam (sic)... put about a million of his countrymen onto freight planes, and dumped them four hundred miles out in the desert, with the warning that they'd be bayonetted to death if they somehow got through the deadlands back to more livable regions. He did it to insure that rebels in the area would have their food supply taken by these refugees. It is apparently these rebels who are attacking the relief workers, to entrench their long-term strategic positions.

What hurts most of all is that the world not only has its share of seemingly insurmountable problems, but it is also littered with real-life super-villains who have, in some cases, come to seats of power, enjoying the hatred and fear that choke the people of the world until there is nothing left.

Thought comic books may be afraid to expose real problems too much because it may sugar-coat and mislead the readers into thinking they are too easily solved, especially with, oh, maybe reality-altering powers and boundless telepathy and telekinesis (Phoenix force, I'm counting on you), it still goes to show that we can get knowledge, understanding, and hope from what may seem like the unlikeliest of places. I don't know if the first ever person who wrote the first on the first food blog in the universe ever thought that someday, it would get people to unite for so many causes, or in special cases, one special person. My heart is broken that Bri is gone, and I hope that I was able to touch her life, even if it was only for a short time. I know she did mine and I will always be grateful for that.

Whenever you cook something for someone else, even if it's just their daily meals, you really are making the other person infinitely happier than whatever praise or gratitude you may get makes you. Which is why I'm glad to be part of the community of food bloggers. Even if we individually have our faults, there are good people out there. Sorry if I may sound like an airheaded hippie (not to mention preachy, I think), with all this free love and peace, er, thingies. I just had to, at least today. I wish for love and peace for you, gentle reader :)

Kalbi Jim
I couldn't find a way to insert the word "faux" into this, because true Kalbi Jim is braised for several hours, not to mention marinated. While this version isn't (it doesn't even have Asian pear or ginger, which I think are part of the original), it's still extremely flavorful-- don't be fooled by the water-only pressure cooking. I haven't yet optimized it so that there's no transfer of pots at all (which means pressure cooking throughout), but I'm satisfied with the outcome. I prepared this for Genie and Vany when they helped me with my exam practice, and they pressured me to release the recipe as soon as possible. This is yet another one of those "Making History" recipes, out of my mom's kitchen notebook, with a few revisions by me.
Photography notes: Well, this is for my own archives, anyway. The main inspiration is Masashi Kuma's work. There's no way I can achieve his hyper-elegant style but again, I'm quite satisfied with how it turned out, especially since I was forced to go out of my white comfort zone and experiment.
  • 2.5 lbs (1kg) beef short ribs, cut into about 2-inch lengths

  • 1 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 small onion, minced

  • 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks

  • a handful of dried mushrooms, torn up (I used Chinese white mushrooms and black wood-ear mushrooms on different occasions, and I like them both.)

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped

Place the short ribs in a pressure cooker and add enough water to cover. Snap the lid in place and bring to pressure over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and process for an hour. Take off the heat and release the pressure (our model works by dousing the top of the cooker with cold running water for a minute). Transfer the ribs to a pot (save the broth) and add the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and green onions. Add enough of the broth from the pressure cooker to complete cover the ingredients and cover. Bring to a low boil and cook for 40 minutes. The meat will be tender, but if you want it to melt away, simmer over very low heat for an additional 1-1/2 hours. Alternatively you could use a crock pot for this step-- it will take about 3 hours. Turn the heat off at the desired stage of tenderness and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and green onions.

Cooking notes: I wonder how feasible the results would be to make it from start to finish in a pressure cooker, or a crock pot?

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