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.
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.
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.