My idea of the quintessential birthday party doesn’t necessarily mandate a towering 3-layer cake. Mainly because every time I try to bake one, all I seem to create is a very tasty mess of sorts. So, instead, I resort to marinating meat. Lots of it. Short ribs, the Korean way, to be exact.
Because my idea of the perfect birthday party consists of just 3 things: a family of friends, perfect weather, and a beach barbecue. All of which I happily had (and then some) at my birthday last week.
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. The sun was positively beaming against a pale blue canvas that faded into gold-flecked waves of cerulean. Our overarching tent that provided us shade in the grass was accompanied by a bright yellow volleyball net, an absolute emblem of Spring Break. Friends from various chapters of my life stopped by, bearing endless gifts of food and wine that were happily shared and consumed, yet magically replenished throughout the day. Even those with the most insatiable appetites were stuffed and pleased beyond adequate expression.
The outstretched tables were shrouded in heaps and heaps of food. The spread seemed infinite, beyond my wildest imagination. There was a somen salad paired with a flawless sweet and salty homemade dressing, a tangy pasta salad teeming with ham and vegetables, tender kung pao chicken, chow fun, homemade pork belly yakisoba, cucumber kimchi, various poke (Hawaiian sashimi salad), mounds and mounds of steamed rice, rich and meaty chili, oysters on the half-shell, hot dogs, chips with salsa, beer, more beer, strawberry cheesecake squares, crisp salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies, even more beer, and of course, my marinated Thai Basil & Hoisin drumsticks and Korean Kalbi that (though not pictured in action) were grilled and smoked to an unbelievably succulent perfection.
The best part about the entire event itself (besides the food, at least) was seeing everyone leave with bulging, food-pregnant bellies and lazy but satisfied grins. At a surprisingly ripened age of 23, I can proudly say that as the years pass by, birthdays become less and less about myself and more and more about the people I love. Far beyond receiving even the best of gifts (though I did receive a wonderful pressure cooker!), my greatest joy comes from baking, cooking, and feeding those around me. This year, I was able to do just that. The frantic pre-birthday prepping, chopping, marinating, mixing, arranging, baking, and cooking paid off. And until I can literally succeed in baking and assembling my own, I guess you can say, I’m a girl who still manages to proverbially have her cake and eat it, too!
A Hungry to Happy Recipe
3.5 lbs Kalbi, or thinly-sliced beef short ribs
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water or mirin
1/3 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 cup honey)
2 tbspns sesame oil
1 tspn black pepper
1 Korean pear
1 yellow onion
10 cloves garlic
2 in piece of ginger
Soak and rinse the beef in cold water to drain out and remove any excess blood or fragmented bones.
In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil and black pepper.
Combine the Korean pear, onion, garlic, ginger, and kiwi in a blender or food processor until it becomes a homogenous white paste or semi-chunky concoction. Add paste to liquid marinade and mix well.
Place rinsed ribs in a large tray/pan or rectangular casserole dish and evenly spread the marinade over the beef. I recommend marinating in layers. Assemble the beef ribs, cover evenly in marinade, add another layer of beef, and cover in another layer of marinade. Repeat until done.
Grill or pan-fry the short ribs until cooked well-done (about 5-6 minutes). These thin, marinaded slices of beef taste best when cooked to their full potential, releasing all of its juices and cooking off the fragrant garlic and onion within the marinade.
Garnish with sesame seeds, optional. If desired, serve with lettuce, sliced cucumbers, garlic, jalapenos and spicy soy bean paste (all for traditional Korean lettuce wraps).
*kiwi is a personal secret ingredient passed down from my mama that proves to be a surprisingly wonderful meat tenderizer.