I have always been a big fan of flanken ribs, even before I understood what they were all about. I just knew that they were incredibly tender, with fat so crispy it melted in your mouth and they usually came seasoned with flavors of soy and sesame. I didn’t know where they came from on the cow or what their NAMP number was. Now, because I work as a meat distributor, I actually ended up in a Facebook conversation regarding such things after posting the above picture. That conversation led to all of my co-workers (including our master butcher) discussing it the next day, which just made me laugh later thinking about it. Because, wow, what a group of meat nerds! Seriously!
At any rate, flanken ribs are also known as galbi or Korean ribs, and are usually taken from the shortribs plate or chuck rib section of the cow and cut across the bone. Usually those ribs are cut thicker (like 2-3 inches) and are made for braising, but these guys are cut super thin. Like a quarter of an inch or so. They are typically run across a bandsaw while partially frozen, so the cuts should be nice and uniform. Like this:
This means instead of slow and low, you want to cook them quickly over very high heat. You can also see that the ribs are quite fatty, so you want to be sure to crisp up that section as much as possible. Left undercooked, it will still taste fine but the texture will be lacking. The crunchy fat is the best part!
The next important thing to note when making these ribs is that the marinade is critical. I have tried a few different recipes, and there are still some I am dying to try, such as this one which calls for an Asian pear to help tenderize the meat. However, I always forget to go shopping before I make these (like last week) and thus I’m left with pantry staples.
Luckily this recipe from Bon Appetit worked out just fine. It called for the all of the basics, which I happily had on hand: soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, lots of garlic, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Since I only had about a pound and a half of meat, I cut the recipe accordingly. Then I took my lovely little ribs and let them soak for 24 hours in the mixture.
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