Kalbi Ribs and a movie

By John Owen | Apr 11, 2013

The last time I fired a military rifle it did not rout the North Korean infantry.  But it scared hell out of my first sergeant.

It was on a firing range in Japan where we were readying our arms for participation in what became known as United Nations Police Action designed to force the two Koreas to "act nice" toward each other.  Check the latest news reports which will reveal that now – over 50 years later – they are still not acting nice.

I did my part and I'm not going back.  My duties on that earlier date sometimes involved acting as gracious host to the South Korean troops when they visited our camp.

Highlight of the week were movies shown on outdoor screens.  But if weather turned bad the movie was shown in our indoor mess hall. And our South Korean counterparts were invited.

We were halfway through the first reel of the first film when I realized a blue haze was hovering around the screen.  You couldn't actually see it.  But you could smell it.

"It's kimchi," an interpreter told us."

No, that was not the title of the movie being shown that night.  Kimchi was the name of an item on the menu for the South Koreans at every meal.

I had never before encountered kimchi but I knew garlic when I sniffed it.  It was a foreign substance at markets and cafes in Great Falls, Mt.  But when you crossed the Missouri River you arrived in an Italian community known as Black Eagle.

If you dated a Black Eagle girl you suspected she might have dabbed essence of garlic behind each ear.

It was sort of romantic, but not behind the ear of a South Korean machine-gunner sharing a row of seats at an evening movie.

Kimchi is a mixture of cabbage, onions, salted shrimp, red pepper, radish, ginger and fish sauce.  The mixture is dumped into wooden buckets then sometimes buried in the ground for a week, a month or a year before it is determined fit for the dinner table.

But don't make fun of Korean food or manners, members of the Olympic press corps were instructed on my later visit to Korea, during the Seoul Games.

"Koreans eat lots of garlic but don't like to hear disparaging remarks about their food or breath," visitors were told.

We were advised not to stick chopsticks upright in leftover rice, we were told never to refuse a drink of Korean wine even if offered in the hosts' glass, and we learned that a lot of Americans find Korean food irresistible when they are introduced to an entre like:


Kalbi Ribs


2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons sherry

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1 clove garlic

1 small onion

2 tablespoons cooking oil

4 pounds beef short ribs


Heat the sesame seeds in a warm, dry pan just until golden. Peel and halve the garlic and roughly chop the onion. Then toss all the ingredients into a blender with sugar, soy, broth, sherry, ginger and oil.  Blend.

Give the blender another blast.

OK, next you give the ribs several cuts with a sharp knife and toss into a plastic bag.   Add the blender mixture and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Drain meat and cook six inches from a hot BBQ fire until well browned on all sides.   Serves four with the leftover dipping sauce.

Serve the ribs 30 minutes before the night's movie, which happens to be "Flower Drum Song."  Shown in a blue haze.

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