What Does Korean-Southern Fusion Look Like? A High-End Salisbury Steak.

C as in Charlie's Seoul’sbury steak recipe doesn't belong in a Hungry Man

May 12, 2023 5:49 am
C as in Charlie's take on Salisbury steak.
An elevated take Salisbury steak has arrived in NYC.
C as in Charlie

Typically found in hospital canteens, school cafeterias and the compartments of TV dinners, Salisbury steak actually traces its roots back to the Civil War and Dr. James Henry Salisbury. During the war, Dr. Salisbury began testing his theory that living on a single food could boost wellness by feeding Union soldiers with upset stomachs “the muscle pulp of lean beef made into cakes and broiled.”

Years later, the good doctor published his findings in The Relation of Alimentation and Disease along with a recommendation that sick patients eat broiled ground beef at every meal for health reasons. Likely actually the cause of many upset stomachs, his 1888 book also included a recipe for what we now call Salisbury steak.

While Dr. Salisbury’s namesake dish is American, other countries have very similar versions including Germany’s frikadellen and Japan’s hambagu. In Korea, a somewhat close Salisbury substitute is fancy beef patties called tteok-galbi, which essentially translates to rice cake ribs.

Made with meat removed from beef short ribs, tteok-galbi is actually served with rice instead of rice cakes but takes that portion of its name from the method by which the circular patties are kneaded and formed. Originally a dish for royalty because it was believed it was not fitting for a king to bite meat off of a bone, tteok-galbi has a loftier status in Korea than Salisbury steak has in the U.S.

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Childhood best friends David JoonWoo Yun, Steve JaeWoo Choi and Eric JaeHo Choi, the team behind the Korean-Southern fusion C as in Charlie that opened in New York City in the fall, grew up in Atlanta eating a hybrid version of both dishes that was made in the Choi home using leftover hamburger patties that had gone unsold at the family’s American-style diner. A popular dish at the restaurant, Seoul’sbury Steak, pays homage to the dish the Choi brothers remember eating in their childhood home.

“There weren’t a lot of Korean supermarkets in the area where we grew up. There was nowhere to buy Korean ingredients, so we had to substitute American ingredients instead,” Yun tells InsideHook. “We went to school in America, so we were very familiar with American taste. Our parents were more used to cooking Korean food. Growing up eating both, I think it was kind of natural for us to blend the two.”

C as in Charlie's take on Salisbury steak.
C as in Charlie has a fancy recipe for Salisbury steak.
C as in Charlie

Served with a galbi jus on top, C as in Charlie‘s Seoul’sbury Steak arrives on a bed of Gruyere grits that nod to the Southern cuisine the guys grew up eating in Atlanta. “The Gruyere grits are a key component because we never have the steak by itself in Korea. We always have white rice,” Yun says. “We encourage our guests to have every bite with the grits to get a balance of cheesiness with a little bit of sweetness from the sauce. We recommend having all that mixed together in each bite.”

As it turns out, Yun and the staff at C as in Charlie often need to educate customers about the dish — and not just because of its unorthodox name. “We thought everyone in New York would know the original Salisbury steak, but I was surprised not a lot of people had actually had it before because the city is a melting pot. Some people are a little confused because it’s not really a steak, but we let them know the story and where the inspiration comes from. Some people are more looking for the story behind the food rather than the food itself. It’s not something they expected or were looking for and it’s really fun to see our customers surprised and satisfied.”

Seoul’sbury Steak

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 50 mins

Servings: 1 plate

  • For the Steak Patty
  • Ground beef (80 lean/20 fat) (2.5 oz.)
  • Japanese panko breadcrumbs (1.5 tbsp.)
  • Egg (1)
  • Caramelized onion (1/3 cup)
  • Black pepper, freshly ground (1 tsp.)
  • Salt (2 tsp.)
  • For the Sauce
  • Bone broth (0.5 tbsp.)
  • Soy sauce (1.5 tsp.)
  • Sugar (2 tsp.)
  • Water (1 tbsp.)
  • Butter (1 cube)
  • Garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • Ginger, minced (1 tsp.)
  • Black pepper, freshly ground (1 tsp.)
  • For the Sauce
  • Grits (1/3 oz or 1 2/3 tbsp.)
  • Heavy cream (1.5 oz)
  • Salt (1 tbsp.)
  • Gruyere cheese, grated (1 oz.)
  • Unsalted butter (2 cubes)
  • To prepare
    1. To make the sauce, mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency.

    2. To make the grits, bring heavy cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add grits gradually, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook grits over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are tender and creamy. Add grated Gruyere cheese, unsalted butter, and salt to taste, and whisk until cheese is melted and fully incorporated. Keep warm until ready to serve.

    3. To make the steak patty, combine ground beef, Japanese panko breadcrumbs, egg, caramelized onion, black pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix well until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Form mixture into hamburger patty form.

    4. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grill the hamburger patty in the oven for 8 minutes, then flip it over and grill for an additional 5 minutes, or until cooked to your desired doneness.

    5. To assemble, place the grits on a round plate. Add the cooked steak patty on top and pour over the sauce. Serve immediately.


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