I spent a year living in Ulsan, South Korea and there’s much to love about Korea. The people, the exercise machines in the middle of a forest, the matching couple’s outfits, getting food delivered to your door in real dishes that you simply leave outside your door when you’re finished, to be picked up by the delivery person at a later time… But in my mind the food is near the top of the list! I still get cravings for many favorite foods from that time of my life and I thankfully have a number of good Korean restaurants here in Toronto to scratch that itch with.
Many people are becoming familiar with certain Korean flavors, as in recent years it has gained a certain level of popularity especially in urban centers in North America. Korean barbecues flourish here in Toronto and kimchi is easily recognized as an important Korean dish. But beyond that? My favorite Korean dishes were often the ones you got in those Korean eateries that didn’t specialize in a particular dish, like those that do Korean barbecue or samgyetang (whole chicken soup). My favorites were the ones which college and high school students flocked to for their cheap prices, where the ajummas (aunties) in the kitchen the size of a closet were slinging a wide variety of Korean comfort food dishes that were ready in minutes. Kimchi mandu guk, mul naengmyeon, kal guksu, pajeon – that’s good Korean cooking.
There are certain flavors which automatically take me right back to these places and gojuchang is one of those. It’s a chili paste made with fermented soybeans, which makes it very distinct and unique from the many chili sauces around the world. It’s a sort of spicy miso-like paste that I most associate with the dish bibimbap, a bowl of piping hot rice, meat, veggies and a crispy fried egg which is always topped with a generous dollop of gojuchang. I had to get gojuchang into this recipe. I get mine at the local Korean grocer but most Asian groceries (or even groceries that have a decent ‘Asian’ section) will have it as it’s an important condiment in Korean cuisine.
To go with it, I’ve made a breakfast sandwich with braised beef short rib, a cut that’s often used in Korean barbeque. Served with a gojuchang mayo, lettuce (which is often what the short rib is wrapped in) and a fried egg like bibimbap, it’s both satisfying, comforting, full of Korean flavors, and relatively easy to put together. I didn’t, as my kids aren’t big on spicy food, but you could easily add kimchi to this as well for an extra fermented, spicy kick. Or serve it on the side. The ribs themselves are not spicy, so with the gojuchang mayo you control how spicy you want this sandwich to be (which is perfect for a family meal with differing tastes).
And, as with most breakfast foods, this sandwich could be served for brunch, lunch, dinner or any other time you need some food! Once the beef and mayo are made up (and they’re easy to do ahead of time), it’s easy to put together a sandwich whenever the urge hits you.
Note: This recipe is inspired by this photo from Dan Seidman. There’s nothing like a ready-to-burst golden egg yolk to motivate you to try your own version! It’s a beautifully shot picture.
Note 2: I used buns that were brought over from my neighbour, baked fresh that day. Use whatever you have on hand or like to eat, while looking to move closer to my neighbours…
Korean Beer Braised Short Rib Sandwich w/ a Fried Egg
A Korean inspired sandwich that's easy to make up the parts ahead of time.
- 2 lbs beef short ribs
- salt and pepper
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 tbsps vegetable oil (I also like using avocado oil when using cast iron in particular as it has a high smoke point)
- 1 12oz bottle of beer (I recommend a brown ale or amber, something neutral and malt forward vs hop forward. Though almost anything would work and when I made this recipe I used a flanders-red styled ale and it tasted great).
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 3 tbsps rice vinegar
- handful of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/3 C mayonaisse
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp gojuchang
For the beef ribs:
Heat oil in pan.
Generously salt and pepper the ribs. When the oil is hot, sear each side of the ribs until dark brown and caramelized. Make sure there is room in the pot to do this; do this in batches if need be. You're building the flavor here so don't skip this important step.
Remove the ribs from the pan, then deglaze the pan with the beer. Scrape up the browned bits stuck to the pan (again, we're building flavor with these), then add the garlic and ginger, stirring and letting them cook for 2-3 minutes in the liquid.
Add the ribs back into the pan and mix in the vinegar, chocolate, and chili powder.
Here's where there's some option. If you have a dutch over or other oven ready pot, cover and put into the oven at 300F to simmer for 2-3 hours depending on the thickness of your meat, etc. If you don't have a pot like this or want to do it another way, cover and turn down your stove to let the ribs simmer on the stove top for 2-3 hours. Turn and stir the ribs a few times while they’re cooking to make sure they're getting evenly cooked and no part is drying out. The ribs are done when they’re fork-tender and falling off the bone, the rib bone should just slide out or fall out from the meat. During cooking, you may need to add a bit of water to the pot if the liquid evaporates too much. You don't want these to dry out.
When the ribs are done, remove them from the pot and shred them. With the remaining liquid, bring it to a boil on the stove top and reduce it until it is 'saucy', approximately reducing it by 1/3 of the total amount.
Combine the shredded ribs back with the sauce and mix well.
For the gojuchang mayo:
Stir mayo, lime juice, and gojuchang until smooth. Taste. Add more gojuchang if you'd like it a little spicier, add more mayo if it's too spicy.
For the sandwich:
Fry an egg, sunny side up for that fabulous yolky goodness to ooze all over your face and down your fingers when you take that first bite.
Layer your sandwich with lettuce (or/and some avocado), heaps of wonderfully flavorful but not spicy beef ribs, a generous dollop of spicy gojuchang mayo, and that crispy fried egg.
Make sure you have a plate, because this is going to get deliciously messy...
It's going to be helpful for this recipe to have a dutch oven, braiser or other over-ready pan. If not, I've included how you can make this with a typical stove-top pot. Also, The total cooking time is heavily dependant on how you choose to cook your ribs, how high you have the heat, how thick the cut of ribs are, etc... Use your best judgement and a fork to tell when they are done. They should easily separate from the bone, falling off of it.