Thursday, October 7, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #4, Korean Spicy Green Onion and Beef Soup, Yuk-gae-jahng (육개장 ): To preserve memory and technique

 For my mom and mom-in-law, for teaching me the techniques

This is my mother-in-law's signature dish. In her hands, simple ingredients of beef, green onions, chili powder and garlic become something complex, delicious and far greater than the sum of its parts.  However, while dating Husband, she never once made this for me, and it was only after I was accepted into the "clan" did she decide that I could taste her soup.  When I jokingly mention this to her, she defends herself saying that we lived on opposite coasts during that time, so cooking for me wasn't really possible.  I think it's really because she didn't think me "soup worthy" until I was actually a part of the family.  The dish, her technique, and her recipe are just that special.

Only now, I'm going to share it with you.  She gave me permission; she said to write it down and share it, if only to preserve the cooking technique for other generations.  She told me to record it so that her grandson's future wife can make it for him, as this is his absolute favorite dish.  Writing it down and preserving it guarantees that he will be able to eat it, perhaps long after Mom and Grandma are gone. (The more liberated woman in me keeps thinking that he can learn to make it himself, but somehow I don't see that happening.)

However, writing it down with precise measurements was completely another story.  I felt like a mad scientist with a piece of paper with a bunch of measurements, my measuring spoons and measuring cups all over the kitchen as I tried to recreate her dish.  I'd made the soup many times with mother-in-law and we worked as a team.  I always made the soup base, as she has said that my soup base is excellent.  (This technique is from my own mother.)  Then together we worked on the rest of the ingredients, but my mother-in-law used her eyes, her hands, and her mouth to measure instead of spoons or cups.  As Mother-in-law was not around, I had to recreate the dish purely based on my memory of how it LOOKED in certain pans and if I was stuck,  I telephoned Mother-in-law for some advice.  In one conversation with her while trying to nail down measurements, she said, "You know how it looked in the pan.  Just match it."  Easy, right?  Not so much.

It took me a couple of tries to get the right amount of seasoning paste.  I made one batch and then mixed it with the vegetables only to discover that I was definitely short, as it wasn't spicy enough.  I had to go back and make more and then remix the vegetable mix to ensure that it had the spicy kick.  It did after the second addition.  Measuring EXACTLY how much water went into the pot was also rather time consuming as I normally just fill my stock pot with whatever amount of water I feel like.  I had to remember all of her steps: the seasoning of each component, the way to make the seasoning paste, the blanching method of her green onions and the logic behind it all.  Seasoning each component ensures that your dish is flavorful and well seasoned and not salty.  Cooking the chili sesame seasoning paste first instead of just adding it to the soup creates a more balanced and enhanced flavor base.  Blanching the green onions removes the sliminess and sharpness of onions.  There is wisdom and experience in each of the steps, garnered from many years of cooking and revising the same dish and it is an honor trying to record and capture all of that wisdom to preserve it for others.  At the same time, putting all of that experience into words and precise measurements was a fun challenge as well.

The only major change from her recipe is that I do not use Korean soup base (dashida 다시다) as it has MSG in it and I like to avoid it for all Korean cooking.  It does add a layer of flavor, but it is not one that I want to get used to or rely on. Most likely the yukaejahng you get when you eat out will rely on a bit of MSG or dashida to make its flavor, but this recipe will be tasty enough without.

I hope you enjoy and that this recipe meets your yukgaejahng needs!

Korean Spicy Green Onion and Beef Soup Yuk-gae-jahng (육개장 )
Makes 7 quarts of soup. (Eat some now and freeze for later. Soup freezes EXCELLENTLY)

Beef Soup Stock
1.5 lbs to 2 lbs beef brisket or flank steak (brisket is more tender)
20 cups of water (5 quarts)
15 cloves of garlic
1 whole onion, peeled

Soak meat in cold water to drain the blood, at least 45 minutes. Meat will lose its bright red color. Drain water and set aside meat.

In a large stock pot (I use an 8 quart stock pot), bring 20 cups water to a rapid boil. Add beef, onions and garlic and reduce heat to a nice even simmer.

Cover and let cook until a chopstick pokes easily into the meat, about 1 hour 20 minutes. (these times can vary based on the meat piece.)

Using a slotted spoon, remove meat, onion and garlic. Set stock aside and set beef aside. Discard onion and garlic.

Garlic Chili Sesame Seasoning
3/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup of finely minced garlic
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Korean chili powder ( gochugahloo 고추가루)
3 tablespoons soup soy sauce (국간장)
2 teaspoon salt
** NOTE - if you cannot get soup soy sauce, then use 1 1/2 tablespoons regular soy sauce and add an additional teaspoon of salt, making 3 teaspoons total.)

In a small saucepan, over low heat, add sesame oil, garlic, chili powder, soup soy sauce, and salt. Slowly stir the mixture over low heat, until the sesame oil is absorbed into the garlic and chili powder and the entire mixture is a fiery red, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

**NOTE This mixture burns VERY easily, and if you burn it, don't try and rescue it, just start over. When making this mixture, just focus on the stirring and don't be tempted to do anything else. Set seasoning aside.

Vegetable Preparation
10 bunches of green onion
1 lb package of fernbrake (gosari - 고사리)

Carefully cut the root end of the green onions.Wash onions well in cold water. The white portion of the onion needs to be cut down the length, so as to separate the individual onion "leaves."

Cut each green onion into thirds.

In a large pot, add about two inches of water to the bottom. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Add green onions to the boiling water to blanch them; immerse the green onion into the water and wilt them, about 90 seconds in boiling water.

Using a slotted spoon, remove onions from the water and place in a bowl. Repeat in the same boiling water until all onions are blanched. (I did mine in three sets.) Set the onion cooking water aside, in case you are short beef broth later.

Open the package of fernbrake (gosari)

Soak in cold water for about 15 minutes. Rinse and drain and squeeze out all excess water from the gosari. Set aside.

Soup Assembly

Take the beef from the soup stock and using your hands shred it. If it is hot, it actually shreds more easily, but you burn your fingers, so I tend to do it when it is cooler, although the shredding can be harder. Place in a bowl.

Add two nice heaping spoonfuls of Chili Garlic Sesame Seasoning and using your hand (with a disposable glove) massage the meat with the seasoning mixture. Set aside.

Take washed rinsed fernbrake (gosari) and to it add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Using your hand, massage the gossari very well, making sure to season every bit of the gosari. Spend time working the seasoning into the fernbrake (gosari).

To the blanched green onions, add the remaining Garlic Chili Sesame Seasoning. Wipe down the pan with the green onions, getting every little last bit. Don't be shy about not wasting that precious seasoning, because that is what is going to make your soup taste yummy.

Using your hands carefully toss the green onion mixture with the garlic chili seasoning until it is all coated.

To this add the seasoned meat and the seasoned gosari. Mix all the ingredients together.

Begin heating your soup again over high heat and carefully add handfuls of the vegetable mixture to the hot broth.  Add any and all liquids that are in the bowl to the pot as well.

It doesn't need to be boiling, but you will eventually get this soup boiling. Add all the vegetables and bring soup to a boil. Allow the soup to boil until the green onions fully wilt and lose their bright color, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.  (If your soup is too spicy or too salty, use the green onion boiling water you set aside to add to the broth to make the soup less intense.)

**NOTE Cool soup and then you can freeze it. Freezes very well. Individual portions are nice to freeze so that whenever you have a craving, you can have a bowl of soup.


Printable recipe


Fuat Gencal said...

Çok leziz, çok güzel ve iştah açıcı görünüyor. Ellerinize, emeğinize sağlık.


Susan said...

I love the step by step with photos..looks yummy!!!

Jammie said...

This makes me very happy! :) thank you! I'll have to call my mom and ask her to send me some gosari. She used to take us gosari picking as kids and this was always my favorite soup...probably because I had picked the gosari! :)

Mommy Lim said...

YAY! Thank you for doing this! gonna attempt to make this weekend!

Joy said...

That looks great. My mom loves this type of soupl

Sassy Girl said...

Awesome awesome AWESOME!!! I love this dish and was clueless on where to even start! Thank you SO much for sharing it. What a humble gesture. I'm not much of a cook but I will definitely try to make this.

tara said...

OMG! God bless you for giving out this recipe!! Will definitely try it :)

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this recipe! so excited to try it!!

jieun said...

This is one of my favorite meals! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I made the mochi cake the other day and it was received with rave reviews by my parents, who rarely rave about my baked goods. :)

Kyung said...

Thanks for the step by step recipe. This is my husband's favorite dish and we don't have a decent Korean restaurant in our small town. I can't wait to try it!

Eun Joo said...

Thanks for posting this. I really love it and am happy to have a recipe for it. Do you ever add dang myun or egg to it?

Joanne Choi said...

Dangmyun is a nice touch - but cook it separately to prevent it from soaking up too much of your soup broth. Just pour hot soup on top of cooked dangmyun and that is the best way to enjoy it. I don't use egg, mainly because my son is allergic, but if you like egg in it, feel free to add it.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this recipe! i'm definitely going to give it a try sometime soon.

Amy (Sing For Your Supper) said...

This is beautiful!! Lovely post- you'll definitely have my vote!!

Anna said...

Great post, loved the recipe... that must be so yummy. Good luck in this round. You totally got my vote. Have a great week.

Mariko said...

That is what that fern looks like at the store! I always want it for my bi bim bap but I don't know what I'm looking for.
I'll be back to vote!

Amelia PS said...

I love that you got permission to record this for posterity!

Janet said...

When would you add bean sprout? (kong namul) Do you think the taste of the soup would change if I did not add the gosari namul? My mom always makes it with gosari and I always pick that out.

Sippity Sup said...

okay! I don't know what this is, but I can see from the photos that I would like it. GREG

Winnie said...

This looks so fabulous! Voted :)

Amy K. said...

My all-time favorite soup!

riceandwheat said...

Love this! I've never really tried to make Korean soups at home even though I love eating them. But now I know how to - thanks Joanne! That soup looks so lovely ... I can't wait to try it out!

Joanne Choi said...

@Janet - my family doesn't do bean sprouts. if you did, I would blanch them first (sort of like the green onions) and then use them in place of the gossari. Season them as I do the gosari and then mix it all together and then put it into the soup. My family does do mung bean sprouts (sookchu nameul) so that is how I would do them.

Food Lover said...

That looks really yummy, can't wait to try it, thanks & wish you good luck :)

CrystalsCozyKitchen said...

I sent a little red heart your way - Good luck!

FlyingRoo said...

Such lovely generosity from your mother in law deserves my vote - cannot wait to try it!
Good luck and hope to see you in the next round, just so we can get another chance to learn another secret mother-in-law recipe :^)

alice said...

we LOVE yukgaejang! this tutorial is awesome. btw i found out we have a friend in common (amy c.!)


jen cheung said...

Excellent post - you got my vote for this! Good luck :) Feel free to hop over to leave a comment :)

Have a wonderful day!
jen @

Savory Sweet Living said...

I never had this soup before but I know I would like it as I love spicy soup. Thanks for sharing your family's recipe. You got my vote and good luck!

Leila Hamilton said...

wow, yum! good job, fantastic dish, great post..voted! ;)

Leila@Barbarian Table

Lick My Spoon said...

This looks so yummy, and this recipe could replace a week's worth of dinners. 20 cups of water? That's dinner party-sized! Good luck this week, voting for you!

Lick My Spoon

hudson umma said...

i hope to make this sometime soon. i just need to set aside the time ;). how the heck do you have time to do all this?! we so appreciate it! you rock!

Daily Spud said...

I can safely say that I've never had this soup but that's not to say that I wouldn't want to give it a try. I meean, who wouldn't want to taste a sip of memory preserved?

Janice said...

Wanted to let you know that i made this dish a few weeks ago. Considering it took me two days to make this (one day for the broth and the next day to finish it up), I can say it was worth it!

This dish is SO delicious! Anyone reading this, and on the fence about giving it a try...belive me when i say...IT'S WORTH EVERY BITE!

carol said...

thank you so much for posting the recipe! i think i added too much water because it doesn't taste just quite right? do you have any suggestions on what i can do? thanks!

hkw said...

Joanne, my friend recently turned me on to your blog, and I've just spent the last few hours reading through your posts and deciding what to cook this week! My husband and I LOVE yuk-gae-jahng and I never even dreamed of trying to make it myself until now! As a Korean-American newlywed, I'm trying to get into cooking Korean food for my (non Korean) husband, and your recipes are so helpful!

Thanks, and keep it up!

Quick suggestion - I first clicked on the "Korean recipes" link at the top of your blog, and I think there are more recipes you've detailed (like this one) that should be added to that link! I only found this one by searching for "Korean" on your blog.

Anonymous said...

I really really had high hopes for this recipe. I made this today but unfortunately found it to be too spicy.

As I was making it, I thought to myself that perhaps 1/2 cup of red pepper was too much. The finished product is good but it has so much heat you can't taste anything after a few bites. I can take a lot of heat in my food (I had kimchi jigae yesterday) but I took a Zantac after a bowl of this soup.

Thanks for posting though. My family lives off of your chocolate donut-muffin recipe.

Joanne Choi said...

@ Carol - sorry for the late reply. You can make an additional half recipe of the seasoning paste - and then slowly add it to the soup spoonful by spoonful until you get the flavor concentration you want.

@Anonymous - I am sorry you found it so spicy that you had to take a zantac...YIKES! That being said, Korean chili powder can vary in spiciness degree quite a bit. I buy one that is milder (actually my mother or my mother in law procures it for me) so I have one that is not as fiery as some that you may get in the supermarket. Next time, just add half of yours, and then taste the mix when you season all the vegetables and stuff together. If it is too bland, then add more at that juncture. You'll figure out the best ratio of your chili powder to the rest.

Jen (Tastes of Home) said...

How kind of you to share a family recipe :) This soup looks so yummy and thanks for the step by step photos and precise instructions. Can't wait to give this a try!

Me, the hubby, plus 3 said...

This is one of my all time favorite soups and it's always been such a treat when my mom would make it. But I never thought I would take on such a task because it looked so intimidating. But your step by step recipe with photos convinced me that I could do it.

I made this yesterday and let me tell you, it is SO good! Just like my mom used to make. The flavors are so deep and delicious. It was the first time my hubby was trying this soup and he couldn't get enough. The spiciness was perfect. Even my little ones (2 y/o & 6 y/o) liked it. I cooked some dangmyun separately and added it to the finished soup. (I add white rice in my soups too but that's just me) There was enough to share with my parents so I had my dad stop by and pick up a small pot to take home to my mom who was working late. Even they complimented me... and my mom is one of those Korean women that don't give out compliments lightly, she'd rather complain or find something negative. My dad was amazed that I had made that soup!

Thank you for making it so easy to follow along and helping me make such wonderful homemade dishes for my family! So thankful that I stumbled upon your website through a google search for a recipe... You truly are a blessing in my life!

Anonymous said...

I love yukgaejang and eat it about once a month. Just wanna say that I made this a few months ago and it was hella good! This is by far the best recipe I have come across. Thanks for sharing!!

asdfl said...

I made this recipe and although I love spicy, this one was waaay too spicy for me and my husband but the flavor was fantastic! I ended up pouring in a lot more water to dilute the spiciness. I didn't know that there were varying degrees of spiciness when it came to kochugaru but that's good to know! I'll have to keep that in mind when I make your other recipes. I made your korean spicy braised chicken recipe last night and halved the amount of kochugaru and the spice level was perfect for us. thank you!

Audrey said...

I made this today, and it was so good. this recipe rocks!


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