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Lindsey Edson ″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

Passport & Plate - Yukgaejang - Soup for Seoul

South Korea | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos

1 ounce dried gosari, (fernbrakes) - yields about 1 cup rehydrated
1 pound beef brisket, (or flank steak or shank meat)
1/2 onion
8 ounces Korean radish
14 cups water
8 ounces sukju, (bean sprouts)
3 dry shiitake mushrooms, soaked (or fresh shiitake or oyster mushrooms)
2 - 3 bunches scallions
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons gochugaru, (Korean red chili pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons guk ganjang, (soy sauce)
1 teaspoon doenjang, (Korean fermented soybean paste)
1 teaspoon gochujang, (Korean chili pepper paste)
salt and pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten


How to prepare this recipe
1. Add the gosari and 4 cups of water to a small pot. Boil over medium heat, covered, until tender. Turn the heat off and let it cool in the cooking water. When ready to use, rinse in cold water and drain. Cut into 4-inch lengths, removing tough ends of the stems, if any.

2. In a large pot, bring the meat (optional to brown in a pan first), onion, optional radish, and garlic to a boil in 14 cups of water. Reduce the heat to medium, and skim off the scum. Boil, covered, until the meat is tender enough for shredding, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Pull a string of meat off and check the tenderness. Remove the meat and cool. Discard the vegetables, reserving the stock in the pot. Spoon off any visible fat.

3. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred into about 3 to 4-inch strips.

4. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water for a minute. Wash with cold water and drain. Cut the scallions into 4-inch lengths. Thinly slice the soaked mushrooms.

5. In a pan, heat the sesame oil until hot over low heat and stir in the chili pepper flakes. Turn the heat off as soon as the oil starts to turn red and the chili pepper flakes become a bit pasty. This only takes a few seconds. Try not to burn the flakes!

6. Add the meat, fernbrakes, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon soup soy sauce, and garlic. Combine well.

Serve and enjoy with optional rice, kimchee and bean sprouts.


The story behind this recipe
“I’ve never been to my homeland,” my best friend, Hoo Chun spilled. After grieving together when her Korean mother left this earth, we knew a trip was not only tempting but required. “Let’s book a flight,” I responded, famously. We were comforted by this and a piping bowl of spicy Korean beef soup that Hoo Chun was obstinate on perfecting. Her mother had only left her with recipes, but not the secrets buried in them.

Seoul and its vibrant prowess welcomed us home. The dichotomy between tradition and innovation stood together in stillness as we snaked in and out of the dynamic city. Hoo Chun was struck by a cultural relevance to her heritage and I was captured by culinary whimsy. Giddy, we followed our taste buds from one steaming market to another, watching mackerel broil in red pepper sauce and eggs crack over bibimbap. “My Umma would make this!” She pointed. I made note, like any good friend.

The familiar food comforted us in ways little else can. Enchanted, we skipped eagerly to teetering street vendors, leaning in to hear bartering of ingredients like fernbrake fiddleheads and wise elders debate preparation methods. We learned from the locals and our tongues on what made a dish superior to its sister by tasting Korean radish and shellfish. The spices revealed everything.

Worn by stimulated senses we readied to leave, but Hoo Chun stopped, “Do you smell that?” I tilted my head to see if I could see what she was tracking. Lured by a smell that wafted from a small restaurant with its doors flapping open we followed, entranced. “You like soup,” a woman smiled with a toothless grin. “Come,” she beckoned. We found ourselves minutes later, welcomed into a large kitchen of a thousand mothers preparing food for the next day.

Oils heated, onions sautéed, and beef browned. A pot of boiling water with gochujang chili enlivened the kitchen. “Can I taste this Yukgaejang?” Hoo Chun asked tenderly. “Of course, I’ll teach you everything I know,” the mother answered.

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