The elderly gentleman at the next table insisted there was no way I would finish the short ribs by myself, and so, in a fit of egotism, I spent the next two hours setting out to do exactly that.
Pride, like a glass vase, is always only one hard shove away from shattering. For weeks I had watched my confidence teeter precariously as all the foundations on which I was building my life seemed ready to crumble, as every sentence I wrote came out of the womb pockmarked with ugly words. My landlord wanted to sell my apartment. I feared losing my home. The threat of having to sweep up a thousand broken pieces made my confidence teeter all the more, and I wanted, desperately, to feel in control again.
And so here I was, taking on a stranger’s dismissive remark as a personal challenge. The first few ribs are easy—they’re delicious, after all. Number six is where it starts to get hard. In the last stretch, what kept me going was the mechanical rhythm of snipping the meat from the bone and alternating with bites of kimchi or sips of broth: a mindless, dogged push to the end. Plunking the ninth rib into a metal bowl, I thanked the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant I terrorized in college for preparing me for this moment.
No one, save the waitresses, was there to see me finish. But accomplishment, insignificant as it may have been, gave me a little hope that willpower can still triumph. That the next time I stared at a blank computer screen or a blank ceiling for hours and felt like giving up, inspiration would strike. That I’ve still got it.
Galbi jjim, Korea’s delectable take on sweet-and-savory braised short ribs, is the specialty at this casual joint in central Gangnam. Come hungry if you come alone, as even the smallest order is plenty for two people. The light broth and kimchi served alongside the ribs will help you cut through the unrepentant meatiness of the dish.
Name in Korean
588-9, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
02 3446 5539
Around 30,000 KRW per person