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Best Kalbi - After Tastes & After Thoughts

After The Kalbi Kong, we had plenty fun discussing the results and other kalbi related stuffs. Here are some of the comments and thoughts from judges, family and friends relating to The Kong.

  • One judge said, "I didn't have a good idea of what true kalbi really is." So what is true kalbi? Is the kalbi from Korean sit-down restaurants like Sorabol, Choi's Garden, Million, or Shillawon the "true kalbi" or is the kalbi from the little plate lunch places "true kalbi?" 
  • Do the plate lunch places adjust the traditional Korean kalbi recipe to satisfy the taste of local folks who are more used to Japanese style teriyaki sauce? Maybe the kalbi competitors at The Kong was more like teriyaki short ribs rather than traditional Korean kalbi.
  • Would kalbi in Korea taste different from Kalbi in Hawaii or the mainland? Kinda like how Hawaii teriyaki taste different from teriyaki in Los Angeles and from teriyaki in Japan. What's the difference between kalbi from Korea and Hawaii style kalbi?
  • Some judges commented a great deal about the quality of the meat in their scoring. Is the meat quality (i.e. thickness, tenderness, fat content) what really matters in kalbi and not so much the marinade? Is the marinade just there to enhance the meat flavor or is the meat a vehicle to taste the marinade?
  • Many people at The Kong were surprised that Yummy's came in second place ahead of many favorite hole-in-the-wall kalbi spots. Some thought because Yummy's had expanded so widely throughout Oahu, the quality must have declined...similar to some other expansive plate lunch chains. How did Yummy's expand to so many locations but still keep the quality of their food so high?
  • There was lots of agreement among the judges that Kum Chee had the best meat quality while Young's Kalbee had the best tasting sauce. If the meat from Kum Chee was combined with the sauce from Young's would that be the ultimate kalbi?
  • How come Kiawe Grill ranked near the bottom? Most were shocked by this because plenty folks enjoy eating their smokey grilled meats. Some of the judges commented that there was some strange spices, maybe 5 spice, in the marinade that threw them off. 
  • The control entry, May's frozen kalbi, came out near the bottom as we predicted showing the results had some level of credibility.
  • 3 out 9 judges picked Kum Chee as their #1 favorite while 4 out 9 picked Yummy's as their #1 favorite. If we ranked the kalbi according to this, then Yummy's would be #1. I guess some judges gave Yummy's lower scores (ranging from 5.4 to 8.3) that pulled down their average score, while Kum Chee got consistently high scores (ranging from 6.3 to 8.2) from all the judges. Our stats guy did a statistical analysis that showed the standard deviation for Kum Chee was pretty low (.75) which shows a fairly strong agreement among the judges scoring. Yummy's standard deviation was slightly higher(1.12) which showed more disagreement among the judge's scores. We might say that Kum Chee's kalbi was appealing to the judge's despite their individual ideas of what kalbi should taste like. If, by chance, our pool of kalbi judges is an accurate representation of local taste in general, then would Kum Chee kalbi be appealing to local folks in general?

Best Kalbi - Final Results and Rankings

The Kalbi Kong took place on April 18, 2009. Ten kalbi behemoths locked horns in a WOW Grinds Blind Taste Test. For those who were keeping up with our kalbi competitor list over past few weeks, you'll notice the current competitors have changed slightly. Due to a technical oversight, we switched out some competitors. A few days before the tasting, we called around and found out Kim Chee II, Jin Joo and O-bok only serves big bone (one bone) kalbi. "No mo 3-bone!", they all said. Since this was a 3-bone kalbi taste test, we couldn't include them. So we substituted three worthy competitors Bob's Bbq, Kum Chee Korean Buffet and Kiawe Grill. The big bone kalbi challenge will be saved for another day. This kalbi battle was met with mixed feelings and even "dissapointed" some of our judges. In the end, only one kalbi was crowned The Kalbi Kong. Click "read more" to see the results.


Long Live The Kong - Results Coming Soon

The Kalbi Kong took place on Saturday, April 18, 2009. Eight kalbi from some of the most popular Korean bbq's, one wildcard/control entry and one home cooked entry went head to head in a blind taste test. Nine everyday local folk judges sampled each kalbi and gave their honest opinions about each one. For us hardcore kalbi fans, the results humbled us. We thought some of our favorite kalbi spots would place in the top least. But never happen. While we're preparing the results to be posted, we put together some video highlights of The Kong.  LONG LIVE THE KONG!

Another WOW Grinds Home-Cooked Challenge!

The man on the left issued a monster of a challenge by saying, in a WOW Grinds Blind Taste Test, his home-cooked kalbi can rate against some of the best local Korean bbq shops. If you look real close at the man, you might be saying what I said, "eh the man no look his kalbi going compete against the legends of local Korean kalbi?" And you right. He no more any Korean inside him, but he said he got his secret recipe from an old Korean lady so, "no kal-bi get action!" Thanks for issuing this challenge and making the kalbi taste test more interesting. If he wins, he wants to be named "King of Kal-bi" on You are on...I hope you win!

And forget, check out the poll in the left sidebar and vote for your favorite kal-bi to compete in the upcoming kalbi blind taste test. The ones with the most votes going compete. Mahalos!

The secret 24-hour marinade... Pop em on the supa hot sui grill...
Gotta have some small kine koge action... And then, grill the marinated onions too...

Best Kal-bi Blind Taste Test-Vote For Your Fave To Compete

Mahalos to all you guys who went vote for what the next blind taste test should be. Looks like going be Best Kal-Bi (3 bone). Oh yesssu!

While we trying to lock down one location for the kal-bi taste test, we need help coming up with a solid list of the "best" kal-bi to include as competitors. In the left sidebar you can vote for your favorite kal-bi to compete for the title. I already added some kal-bi that I heard was ono. If your favorite is not included yet, leave a comment with your suggestion. Most likely the 7 to 10 kal-bi with the most votes will be included as competitors.