Ttal is a Korean BBQ supper club in Brooklyn, New York, hosted by Jung Kim. She pays homage to her mother's cooking by serving guests (only four at a time) an intimate home-cooked, five-course meal—recreating family favorites that have been passed down over generations. Luckily for us, Jung prepared one of Mama Kim's crowd favorites using Porter Road Korean short ribs, and shared the unique and inspiring story of how Ttal came to be.
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up enjoying my mom and grandmother’s wonderful cooking. They really had a knack for getting the right balance of flavors in each dish they made and nothing was ever measured or written down. All the recipes were passed down by watching our mothers in the kitchen and refined over generations simply by doing.
My family and I moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1989 and there were very few Korean restaurants growing up there, and certainly nothing like my mom’s food truck, Mama Kim’s, which we opened in 2011. Even though most westerners associate Korean food with BBQ, Koreans usually only eat it once in awhile as it’s considered indulgent. Plus getting it right takes a lot of patient marinating time!
With Mama Kim’s, we were committed to bringing great Korean BBQ that was representative of what it should taste like without cutting any corners...and then make it convenient and affordable. My family and I have no formal culinary training but we knew we had dishes that were special. Mama Kim’s was an instant hit and the food truck became a fixture on College Hill and downtown Providence, where we served up Korean BBQ favorites to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) students, residents and tourists. It was amazing to have so many validate my mom’s awesome cooking and I felt so proud. She retired from the truck in 2015 to focus on her other career as a CPA.
Meanwhile, I was getting emails from former customers who wanted to know when Mama Kim’s was coming back, and a lot of them were Brown and RISD graduates who’d since moved to NYC but vowed to go back to Rhode Island if the truck ever came back. This was the inspiration to start my supper club Ttal (“daughter” in Korean), where I could give new life to mom’s recipes. The word quickly spread and it’s been such a fun and unique experience to cook for strangers in my home! Because I host only four guests per supper, I’m able to make everything in small batches with tons of love and attention to detail while using the best ingredients from local farmers markets (and even my backyard garden).
The hands-down favorite dish on the menu is the short ribs which are marinated for two full days. Since so much flavor comes from the meat itself, we always start with top quality. The trick with the marinade is to get a nice balance of salty and sweet without losing the wonderful flavor of the short ribs. I like to get sweetness from fresh fruits like Korean pears if they’re in-season, or Bosc pears for their lovely floral honey note. Saltiness comes solely from soy sauce which adds a savory umami taste along with onion, garlic and ginger. I top it off with a nice drizzle of sesame oil and a splash of red wine, to make a perfectly balanced marinade. The short ribs are cut “L.A. style” (flanken cut) which gives a luscious ratio of meat-to-fat—and we grill it on an electric grill smack in the middle of the dining table where guests enjoy front row action. In the summer time though, we love a good charcoal grill – it’s absolutely the best way to cook the short ribs. We grill them until slightly charred on each side so the fat on the ribs have a little crispiness to them and the meat itself is super juicy and bursting with flavor. There has never been leftover short ribs at the Kim household.