Yukgaejang (Spicy Beef Soup)
This dish was supposed to be for March, but it simply didn’t happen. Has that ever happened to you? I’m no less excited about cooking Korean dishes, but sometimes there just aren’t enough waking hours. I traveled for work a bunch in March and got behind. And we even had a cold snap here in sunny LA for most of the month, so the weather was unseasonably perfect for a hot and spicy soup. And then it got warm and I lost soup-motivation. And then Easter happened and I made a bunch of very non-Korean dishes.
It’s early April, and I’m back! It even got a little chilly, which I felt was a good sign. So I made “yukgaejang” – a super legit spicy Korean beef stew. The level of spice is intense, especially right after it’s done simmering and stewin’. I did notice that it mellowed out a smidge the next day.
I hear that this soup is great for colds, cold days, and hangovers. I don’t know about that, but it is super spicy.
I called my mom and we talked about all kinds of mix-ins. I asked about mushrooms (only if you like the flavor), Korean radish (in some recipes but my mom says nah), zucchini (too soft she says), mung bean sprouts (yeah), tofu (nope, it becomes something else), and napa cabbage (yep). The most important thing is to keep it spicy and to shred the beef.
It starts with aromatics for the broth and the beef:
Add the whole black peppercorn and some soju. I have no idea what the soju really does to the meat, but Koreans think it makes the beef taste cleaner and less gamey.
Then make the sauce. I rough chop the garlic then sprinkle with salt, which helps it soften and crush more easily. We have this awesome tool that you can rock back and forth over the garlic. It’s amazing (pictured below). Also, the sauce takes Korean soup seasoning soy sauce, which is lighter in color and more deeply seasoned (read: saltier) than regular soy sauce.
You’ll also have time to prep the Napa cabbage and mung bean sprouts. If not, then you can do it while the brisket cools on the cutting board.
When the stew is done simmering, remove the meat and let rest on a cutting board. Strain broth into another pot, and discard veggies. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the brisket with two forks or by hand, going with the grain. It’s pretty obvious which way the muscle is going. Then massage with the sauce. Use disposable plastic gloves, and thank me later!
Finish up the soup by heating up a little sesame oil then sautéing the spice-rubbed beef, then add the cabbage, green onions, and chives. Add the broth back in and bring back to a boil. Then it’s ready to eat!
- 1½ lbs beef brisket
- 1 large green onion, sliced whites and greens
- 6 cloves of garlic, whole
- 1 4-6" piece of dashima (seaweed)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 12 cups water
- 2 tablespoons soju
- 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil, reserve for later
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 7 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes)
- 5 tablespoons gukganjang (Korean soup seasoning soy sauce, which is lighter in color and more heavily seasoned than regular soy sauce. If you don't have gukganjang, use whatever you have and then taste and season the soup at the end)
- 1 tablespoon doengjang (Korean fermented soy paste)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
- 2 cups shredded napa cabbage leaves (about 4 leaves)
- 2 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1 large green onion, sliced whites only
- 3-5 small green onions (aka scallions; or substitute chives), sliced whites, greens cut into 1-2" batons
- Wash and dry all fresh produce.
- In a large stockpot, combine all soup ingredients, except the sesame seed oil, over high heat and bring to a boil (takes about 15-20 minutes)
- Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
- Peel and rough chop the garlic, then salt to help mascerate. Continue to crush or mince garlic. Move to a medium bowl.
- To the medium bowl, add remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the cabbage leaves lengthwise.
- Pick through the mung bean sprouts, discarding any damaged pieces.
- When the 45 minutes of simmering is up, remove meat from broth and let cool on a cutting board, resting about 15 minutes.
- Strain broth into a large pot and set aside somewhere warm. Rinse out the stock pot and return it to the stove.
- When meat is cool enough to handle, shred by hand, tearing with the grain of the meat to make long thin strips.
- In a large bowl, combine shredded meat and sauce until thoroughly coated (plastic gloves are helpful)
- In the stock pot, heat reserved tablespoon of sesame seed oil over medium heat until hot.
- Add marinated beef and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add spoonfuls of broth if the pot seems dry.
- Add cabbage and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add spoonfuls of broth if the pot seems dry.
- Finally add sprouts, large green onion whites, small green onion batons, and return broth to the stock pot. Stir all ingredients.
- Bring back to a boil (takes about 10-15 minutes).
- Serve immediately (makes 8-10 cups).