Although I grew up with Korean food, I didn't realize how many dishes I've never tasted or even heard of until I worked with a Korean chef. She exposed me to dishes such as bossam, a stewed pork dish, sam gae tang, a stuffed chicken soup, and even how to make kimchi. Recently, she also reminded me of yuk gae jang, a delicious spicy Korean beef soup. Just like any other Korean dish, this soup requires time and some love, but the end result is well worth it.
Yuk Gae Jang (Spicy Korean Beef Soup)
- 3 lb beef brisket
- 1 gallon water
- ½ onion peeled
- 5 tablespoons gochugaru Korean chili powder
- 3 tablespoons chili oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ lb bean sprouts washed
- ½ lb boiled royal fern rinsed several times
- 1 leek sliced in half
- 12 green onions cut into 3 inch pieces, cut the white stem in half lengthwise
- 20 oz sweet potato noodles Korean vermicelli
- 3 large eggs whisked
- Place beef brisket in a large pot and fill half of the pot with water. Cover and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, removing impurities from beef. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water. Wash the pot. Return brisket to the clean pot with 1 gallon of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add onion to broth. Cook for 2 more hours, adding more water as it evaporates.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining gochugaru with chili oil, sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce. Set aside.
- After 2 hours, turn off the heat and remove onion and beef from soup, discarding onion. There should be about 10-11 cups of broth remaining. Skim the fat.
- Shred beef brisket using two forks. The meat should be tender enough to easily fall apart. Mix shredded beef, bean sprouts, royal fern, and white stem of the green onions with prepared sauce in a large bowl. Mix to combine.
- Bring soup back to a boil. Add beef mixture, lower heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add sliced leeks and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain immediately soak in ice cold water. Squeeze out water and set aside.
- Add top green parts of the green onions and leeks to the soup. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Cook sweet potato noodles according to directions on package.
- Slowly add whisked eggs into the soup, stirring in clockwise motion. Cook for another minute. Season soup with salt and pepper. Portion the noodles into 6 bowls, ladle the soup and serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
This soup, much like other soups, takes several hours to develop a depth of flavor. Don't let this stop you from preparing this meal because it's all inactive time!
The first step is to remove the impurities including the blood from the beef brisket. If you can't find brisket, you can use chuck roast or another type of stew beef. Even though the beef only cooks for 5 minutes, you can see the impurities come out as the water gets foamy. Make sure to rinse the beef and thoroughly clean the pot before cooking again.
After the broth cooks for one hour, add the onion. Keep the onion whole to make it easier to remove later. Two hours later, the broth has achieved some color. You can see the layer of fat on the top that you want to remove. If you like, you can prepare the soup the day before, chill in the fridge and skim the fat the next day. This makes it easier to remove the fat since it will harden on top.
Once the beef stock is finished, remove the brisket and shred it while it's hot. The beef should be tender and fall apart easily, with no resistance.
Now it's time to add some flavor to our soup base. For the vegetables, we have bean sprouts, green onions, leeks, and royal fern. Royal fern is also known as ferndrake root. You can find it at Asian markets in the refrigerated section. There is also the dried root, but you must rehydrate it before using it. This ingredient is key in developing the flavors of the soup.
For the sauce mixture, we have sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, and gochugaru, Korean chili flakes. When preparing your sauce mixture, you can add less chili oil and chili powder if you want a less spicy soup. Gochugaru is a Korean chili powder that is different from chili flakes. Gochugaru is a combination of smoky, spicy, and even a little sweet whereas the American chili flakes are just spicy. Some people like to add gochujang, a Korean chili paste, but I found that adding this ingredient makes the soup taste impure.
While the soup is simmering away, blanch the leeks. The idea behind blanching the leeks is to remove the slimy quality. Immediately dunk in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
You can serve this soup with noodles or rice or even a little bit of both. If you're going to go the noodle route, go with sweet potato noodles also known as Korean vermicelli noodles. This is the same noodles found in the popular dish, japchae.
After all that work, it's finally time to dig in! You can serve yuk gae jang in the summer or winter; it's so tasty that it's good all year round, no matter the weather. Yuk gae jang is all about taking a simple beef broth and developing it into a spicy, earthy soup, loaded with tender beef and slippery glass noodles. Embrace the spiciness and trust me, you'll love it!
For more Korean food inspiration check out this jjampong recipe!