Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Korean Oxtail Soup - Gohlee Gook (꼬리국): A Mini Lesson

Especially in Korean cooking, I feel that the way a dish comes out can dramatically change based on technique.  I always thought I knew how to make Oxtail Soup/Gohlee Gook, since I always came home and it was boiling on the stove.  Big deal.  No problem.  I can do that.  What's the big fuss over it?  It wasn't until I was living in HK, and I started making the soup that I realized that there might be more to it than met the eye.

The ingredients - simple.  Beef Oxtails.  A few cloves of garlic.  An onion.  The cooking time?  To make it really great?  More than 5 hours.  A few steps in between?  Why yes.  But nothing is hard or impossible, but it does take a bit of care to make good soup.

However, investing the time into making a good gohlee gook will yield the following - a ton of soup, and in addition, you can probably get two or three quarts extra of soup base to make other delicious Korean dishes like mandoo gook (which tastes MUCH better in gohlee gook broth than in any other), Spinach soup with deunjahng base (된장시금치국) or even good ol' dduhk gook (떡국).    You can simply freeze containers of this fantastic soup base and if you ever need it, you can have it ready in an instant.  

Equipment Needed 
A large stock pot.  (Mine is an 8-quart pot.)

Skimmer (to skim off scum and fat.)  I love this one.

Strainer (handy at the end to keep things nice and clean in your broth)

Storage containers for your extra soup broth.  I'm slowly moving to glass, but haven't made the complete changeover yet.  Will do so to something like these.  (I've seen these at Costco.)

A teapot or another pot with which to boil water with.

Korean Oxtail Soup - Gohlee Gook (꼬리국)
Makes a lot
Time - 6-8 hours

2 to 2.5 lbs of oxtail - try and choose pieces that are medium, without much fat, good red color, and not too many humongo pieces
1 onion - whole, but peeled
6-7 cloves of garlic - whole, but peeled

Put oxtail meat in stockpot.  Cover with plenty of cold water.  Allow to sit for about 1 hour.  (This is to drain the blood from the meat.)

After an hour, or so, the blood from the meat will have drained into the water, looking something like this.

Drain all the water and rinse the meat.  Add enough water to cover the meat one more time.

Place pot on stove on high heat uncovered.  Boil for about 20 minutes, until you get gunky water and it is brown and yucky. (It can actually be browner and gunkier than this, which is good because it means you are getting out all the extra blood and even helping to get rid of some of the fat.)  Drain all of this liquid and individually wash each piece of meat and get the pot nice and clean.

Fill the pot with fresh water, and add an onion, a handful of garlic cloves and the oxtail.

Cover pot, place on high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat enough so that it isn't boiling over, but a good rapid boil is what you want.  Allow to cook for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, check the soup.  You will have lost some volume of liquid.  Skim off any foam and fat that you see.  (you want to see less foam than this, especially if you did the soaking and the initial first boil, but I must have skimped out on the time of the initial first boil.)

After skimming all the foam and fat, continue boiling soup and add to it, more BOILING water to bring the volume back up.  (do not add cold water, for my Korean ancestors have said that it basically means that you are starting over with the soup.)  Continue boiling for another 2 hours. This would put the soup at 3 hours total.

Check soup at 3 hours. If the oxtail is tender, and starting to fall of the bone, you have cooked the meat enough.  If not, then cook for an additional 30 minutes.

This is what my soup looked like at 3 hours.  I actually prefer my soup to be whiter and milkier than this, but you CAN serve the soup at this stage. 

But I like to use this broth as a base for other soups.  I carefully ladle it out through a strainer into a container so that I can freeze it for another day.  I like to use the strainer to catch any extra bits of meat or even bits of garlic and onion that may have already begun to disintegrate.  Cool the soup for 1 hour and then put into the freezer to use for later.  You can also serve the soup with meat at this stage.  If you cook the meat for more, then you really just lose the flavor of the meat but you increase the flavor of the broth.  I usually serve some of the meat at this point with some of the broth.

Replace pot onto stove and then once again add BOILING water to bring the volume up.  Continue cooking for an additional 2 hours (5 hours total) until you get a more milky and more opaque color. 

I like the milky soup, really mushy pieces of meat.  You get this at about the 5-6 hour mark of cooking the meat.  You can continue to add boiling water if the water level drops too much.  Serve soup with salt and chopped scallions on top.
Printable recipe


unjung said...

This is a staple at my house. My children ask for it as "yellow soup". They never tire of it!

clare said...

I am really loving your blog, I just stumbled upon it today...just curious about this oxtail soup. Are there no other seasonings that go into it; no salt, etc.?

Joanne Choi said...

Clare - I like to serve it with salt on the side - people can season it as they wish with salt. I guess I'll have to put that in the recipe. thanks for that catch.

Sumin said...

This looks so good but is there a printable recipe for this?

Joanne Choi said...

Sumin - I'll put a printable recipe on there now. I didn't know that I had forgotten to do it.

Soo said...

hey you!! so i made this and the broth wasn't milky "white". it turned out more milky "yellow" after about 6hrs. and i also had to pour hot water like 5x so i think the flavor is more on the bland side. what did i do wrong??

Intsangity said...

Interesting method of making this broth. It might be the Chinese method or it might be my mother's method, but I always brown the ox tail in a pan first. I don't do the initial soak and boil. I just brown the ox tail in a dutch oven with some oil and then when the meat is done, I add boiling water to the whole thing.

I stumbled across your blog from Eugene.

Kim said...

After the soup is done, how do you save the leftovers? I usually make a huge pot and sometimes the leftovers get a little mucky.

kim said...

thank you for this recipe, my family enjoys it very much. we made a batch and tastes absolutely delicious. we season the soup with salt and chopped green onions when served, accompanied by a bowl of white rice.
our side dish is spicy korean kimchi and others.


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