Recipe Sleuth: Korean Barbecue Beef, Honey Pig-Style

Just in time for Father’s Day, a guide to re-creating some of the tastiest grilled meats around.

Photograph courtesy of Honey Pig.

How we’d love to replicate the entire Honey Pig experience at home—meat sizzling on tabletop grills, flowing Soju, big-name chefs getting buzzy at neighboring tables, bathroom dance music. The stripped-down Korean barbecue joints in Annandale, Ellicott City, and Centreville are favorite stops for industry types, the late-night karaoke crowd, and local families who come to feast on flavorful meats like this tender steak marinated in a pungent mix of soy, garlic, sesame, and chili, from owner Mickey Lee.

For optimal tenderness and flavor, Lee suggests starting a day ahead and allowing the steak to marinate overnight before tossing it on a hot grill. Look for “flanken”-cut short ribs—long, thin slices cut across the bone—at global markets including H-Mart and El Grande International Supermarket (6901 Hechinger Dr., Springfield, 703-256-5201), where you can also pick up fresh-made banchan (side dishes) such as kimchi and spiced radishes. In a pinch, sliced rib eye, available at Whole Foods, will do, too. And don’t be afraid to play fast and loose with accompaniments. “A bowl of white rice is great and simple,” says Lee. “Korean beef goes with just about everything, so feel free to be flexible with your side dishes.”

Honey Pig-Style Korean Barbecue Beef

Serves 4 to 6


5 pounds flanken-cut Korean short ribs or sliced rib eye

1¼ cups soy sauce, regular or low-sodium

1 cup brown sugar

1 small onion, peeled and minced

¼ cup sesame oil, toasted or regular

5 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup water

3 green onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup Mirin (optional*)

1 Asian pear, peeled and finely grated (optional)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

*These ingredients will enhance the flavor and are highly recommended, says Lee, but the recipe works without them.

Marinate the meat:

Sprinkle ribs with brown sugar, giving each side an even coat. (This step can be omitted if you prefer your ribs less sweet). Place ribs in a large resealable freezer bag.

Set aside the sesame seeds and one-third of the chopped green onions (store the latter in the refrigerator). Mix all remaining ingredients together in a bowl for 1 minute. Pour the marinade into the freezer bag with the meat. Firmly seal the bags, squeezing out any excess air, and turn them over to make sure all ribs are evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Grill the meat:

Heat a grill to medium-high and add the meat. Grill short ribs until desired; Lee suggests about 3 minutes per side for medium. The ribs will taste better if you turn the meat only once, so be patient!

Remove short ribs from grill and garnish with the remaining chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Note: Ribs can be served whole or cut into smaller pieces using kitchen shears.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.