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Jun 21, 2010 09:12 PM

Are "Korean short ribs" the same as "flanken-style?"

I'm wondering if someone who knows about meat can help me.

There's a Korean dish that Koreans call "LA Kalbi," the meat is short ribs cut across the bone, very thinly, like this:

Which is kind of a flanken cut, but flanken s usually a lot thicker:

I'm wondering if Koreans invented this cut? Or did they adapt it from something else? Is the flanken cut usually a thicker cut, or does it vary? I've never seen this thin cut sold anywhere but a Korean market, but some people say that mexicans sell it as well?

Thanks for any info.

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  1. I am not Korean, but will try to answer. Korean rests. here in HI serve across the bone cut b/c it is easier to work with. Fancier is to take what I call short ribs and to slice the meat back and forth to produce a long 2-inch-wide thin ribbon of meat still attached to the bone, which is much harder to produce and cook. That's my 2 cents.

    1. The LA style is a thin flanken cut, usually between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.
      Korean restaurants in Los Angeles are credited with first preparing kai bi with this cut, hence the name "LA Kaibi".

      The cut referred to by by Joebob is the traditional method. The ribs for this cut are first crosscut about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, then separated into individual rib pieces. The meat can then be either cut in a single continuous strip about 1/8 inch thick with the bone at one end, or butterflied with thin strips of meat on each side of the bone.

      8 Replies
      1. re: hannaone

        Thanks for the replies.
        Hannaone, do you think this "thin flanken cut" is a Korean-American invention, or do you think Koreans in LA got the cut from somewhere else (Mexican cuisine perhaps?), and used it with traditional kalbi marinade to invent "LA kalbi?"

        Koreans usually call this cut "LA kalbi" (which is "LA ribs" in English), they are either unaware of the term "flanken," or consider this a different cut altogether.

        1. re: Flanksteak

          Flanken is the way Germans would traditionally serve ribs, i.e., thin cut.

          1. re: Flanksteak

            I honestly couldn't say.

            My thoughts on this have to do with the difference between Korean grills and American grills.
            A traditional Korean grill is a metal plate with holes in it that can be fit over the opening in an ondol system
            ( )
            ( )
            (charcoal for ondol system )

            or a wire mesh affair, either of which could easily handle very thin meat cuts without "losing" them.
            These thin cuts could easily fall through the grates of an American style grill.

            Adapting the flanken cut OR creating the LA cut resulted in a strip of meat that could easily be cooked on American grills.

            1. re: hannaone

              An interesting theory, but with all due respect one that doesn't make a lot of sense.

              First off, Koreans would not leave home without their grills. They don't cook on American grills in the west, they cook on Korean-style grills. So they wouldn't need to adapt.

              Second, if they needed to adapt, traditional Korean galbi has a big bone and there would be no problem grilling it on an American grill. There would be no need to change it.

              I think that Koreans in the West adapted the flanken cut to a thinner cut for some reason. There seems to be no record of who did it or where. They might have created the thinner cut on their own or adapted it from Mexicans, or even Germans?

              It's interesting that in Hawaiian restaurants all kalbi is "LA kalbi." I'm wondering if LA kalbi is not LA kalbi at all, it might have been invented by Koreans in Hawaii.

              1. re: Flanksteak

                Like I said just some thoughts I've had with no basis other than some observations. ( I have managed to drop a lot of meat strips that detached from the bone)

                With a little more thought -
                In Korea the kaibi was traditionally made from beef spare ribs and the same base cut was used in soups and braises, and with the additional butterfly or "head and tail" cut was grilled.

                In LA (or Hawaii) someone decided to use beef short ribs (maybe due to lower prices) and discovered that the thin crosscut makes for a more tender short rib.
                These probably became popular with the chefs/cooks as they are much less work than the traditional prep - just thin cut with a meat saw and rinse off the bone chips - no hand slicing each individual rib. Larger quantities could be prepped in less time.

                The short rib "LA Kaibi" spread and made it's way back to Korea where it became fairly popular. Possibly the name was given at this time to distinguish the Americanized prep from the traditional prep, but that is not clear.

                Over the past decade or so, the traditional cut has made a big come back and in some areas is more prevalent now than the LA kaibi.

                1. re: hannaone

                  This all makes a lot of sense to me. It sure sounds plausible.
                  No idea how I would research this, not living in LA. I think the real answer will only come out if I interview the Korean cooks in LA. Or Hawaii! Or Germany!

                  Conventional wisdom says that it started in LA, but some Koreans also say that the "LA" stands for "lateral," as in a lateral cut.

                  1. re: hannaone

                    is the cut of kal bi near that of rib eye? when i taste grilled rib eye, dressed lightly with balsmic vinegar, i and my family taste a sort of kalbi flavour but not for the new york strip.

                    1. re: hae young

                      Yes, the rib eye comes from the rib area of the beef and so has a similar flavor.

          2. I am sure early Koreans in LA discovered the flanken cut and decided to slice thin to use for galbi, Korean style short ribs.

            Read more:


            1. This site makes a pretty convincing case for the possibility that LA Kalbi was invented in Hawaii: