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Braised short ribs may be one of my favorite comfort foods: Cooked slowly, they become incredibly tender while absorbing all the flavors they're cooked with. Comforting and delicious? Absolutely. But summery? Not really.
So when I crave short ribs in hot-weather season, I find ways to lighten them up. Here, I cook the ribs in braising liquid that's inspired by Korean kalbi marinade, then serve them with white rice and a refreshing garnish of green onion and Asian pear.
Like any braise, properly browning the meat is important, since it helps build the sauce's depth of flavor. I find a mixture of low-sodium soy and ponzu sauces works particularly well for this dish, since even low-sodium versions of the former still pack a punch—one that citrusy ponzu helps to take down a notch. Given the overall sodium content, I don't recommend adding additional salt, even when you brown the meat; unless you're an extreme salt hound, you'll likely find the dish doesn't require it.
The additional liquids—mirin and apple juice—lend nuance and sweetness, as does the brown sugar that's incorporated into the sauce. Meanwhile, the short ribs get a touch of nuttiness from some toasted sesame oil. A dash of vinegar helps balance the whole thing out. I prefer inky, mellow Chinese black vinegar, which has an intrinsically smoky character. It's generally available in the Asian section of well-stocked grocery stores; however, rice vinegar is an acceptable substitute. Just be sure you use the unseasoned variety.
Once the meat finishes slow-cooking in the oven, I turn the braising liquid into a quick gravy by thickening it with a little of cornstarch. Just be sure to taste the cooking liquid before adding the cornstarch slurry: if it's too concentrated, dilute it with a little water and/or mirin before proceeding.
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