What Is Kalbi Short Rib Loco Moco with Black Garlic Gravy?
This mouthful of a dish takes the classic Hawaiian loco moco and swaps out the hamburger patties for tender kalbi short ribs. The dish is served with white rice and topped with a black garlic gravy and fried egg. You get a hint of sweetness from the short ribs, which is tenderized with kiwi, a full, rich profile from the gravy with a tangy, balsamic-like kick from the black garlic, and of course creaminess from the fried egg.
Where’d It Come From?
Loco moco comes from the tropical islands of Hawaii, while kalbi (beef) short ribs originated in Korea and black garlic has a disputed origin story all over Asia. Together, you get this nice blend of Asian / Islander flavors that make for a savory, zesty and slightly sweet meal.
Origins of the Kalbi Short Ribs
In southern California, where I currently live, kalbi short ribs are cut through the rib bone as you can see in the photos. With the thinner cut, it makes it easier to marinate. This is different from traditional Korean galbi (the Korean word for “rib”) which is much thicker and cut alongside the rib bone.
Suwon galbi short ribs are a specialty in the Gyeonggi-Do province of Korea. It’s been said that Suwon galbi started in a restaurant that opened its doors in the 1940s called Hwachunok. At the time, Suwon had the largest cattle market in the country, which makes sense why Hwachunok decided to serve up the sweet and savory beef short ribs. The galbi quickly gained popularity.
Origins of Black Garlic
As with many foods, black garlic’s origin is controversial and highly debated. A farmer reportedly found an ancient Korean recipe for black garlic, which suggests that these fermented bulbs began in Korea. However, it is also known that black garlic has been consumed for centuries in Japan (where it is often used in ramen) and in Thailand where it is believed to extend a person’s lifespan.
Origins of Loco Moco
The loco moco is a comfort food staple in Hawaii. Its origins are objectively agreed upon by everyone and no one has debated about it ever. Just kidding – like black garlic, there are multiple tales of where it came from.
One story suggests that it came about in the 1940s in the Big Island town of Hilo. Local restaurant owner Nancy Inouye wanted to make a menu item that the neighborhood kids could afford. Once she threw the dish together and began writing it on the menu board, she asked her husband what they should call it. His response: “The kids are crazy. Call it loco moco.”
Others say the name came from the first boy who ate it, whose nickname was Loco.
How’s It Made?
Don’t be scared off by the passive prep time. Black garlic takes a long time to make, but almost no effort. All you need to do is put it in a rice cooker or slow cooker on warm and let it sit for two weeks. It’s as passive as it can get!
Once the black garlic is ready, the short ribs will need a few hours to marinate and the rest is quite quick. It’s just a matter of grilling the ribs, frying the egg, and creating a simple gravy that incorporates the potent, flavorful black garlic.
Makes: 4 servings | Passive prep time: 2 weeks / 2 hours | Active prep/cook time: 20 minutes
1 bulb of garlic (you will need to start making the black garlic 2 weeks in advance – see instructions below)
2 lbs kalbi-style short ribs
4 tbs brown sugar
6 tbs soy sauce
4 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp crushed garlic
3 tbs rice wine
1 whole fresh kiwi – pureed in a blender or food processor
½ onion – sliced
2 cups of dry white rice (prepared from package instructions)
2 (14.5-oz) can of beef broth
2 tbs butter
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
Flour for thickening
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: Green onions for garnish
Start making the black garlic TWO WEEKS in advance. Place a full, unpeeled bulb of garlic in a rice cooker or slow cooker. Set to warm (not low) and allow to cook for 2 weeks. You will be using only ½ the bulb for this recipe.
Apply brown sugar evenly to short ribs and set aside.
In a bowl, combine soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and rice wine – mix together.
Add kiwi puree to beef and massage it into the meat to tenderize.
In a freezer bag, combine all of the above ingredients with onion and toss it around a bit. Refrigerate for 2 hours, flipping the bag after 1 hour.
Remove short ribs from bag, allowing excess juices to drip off and grill until cooked.
For the gravy, bring to a boil beef broth, butter, worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Turn down heat to a simmer.
Dissolve some flour into water and slowly whisk it into the gravy until you achieve a desired thickness.
Mince black garlic and add it into the gravy.
Fry eggs immediately before plating.
Add rice to a bowl, topped with kalbi short ribs, gravy, fried egg and green onions.