Yukgaejang is a spicy Korean beef soup loaded with warm earthy vegetables like mushrooms, leeks, and gosari (described below). It should boil for a good two hours to coax out and meld the flavors from the beef and veg. The meat also needs a moment to get tender. It’s worth the time and effort, especially since it’ll make one big batch to reheat over a few meals. Serve it with a bowl of rice, as is traditionally done.
© Emily Hlavac Green
Yukgaejang is a spicy Korean beef soup that really brings the heat.
Important aside: I was smitten by my now-husband over his first bowl of yukgaejang. Something about him crying hot and spicy tears of joy did me in.
There is no substitute for Gochugaru.
Gochugaru, ground Korean chili peppers, is what gives yukgaejang a hearty kick and the gleaming red chili oil. It’s essential to a Korean pantry. Gochu means “chili pepper” and garu means “powder”. To make gochugaru, red chili peppers are ripened on the plant, seeded, and sun-dried before ground either into flakes or powder. Either can be used in this recipe. It’s deeply red, barely sweet and smoky, and range from mild to sizzling hot. Other forms of ground chili like crushed red pepper, paprika, or cayenne pepper are too mild, too spicy, too coarse, too bland, or not red enough to be suitable for this recipe.
Other notable ingredients:
Gosari are immature fronds of bracken, a wild plant that is foraged along the hills and mountains of Korea. It’s typically served as banchan (a side dish) or in yukgaejang. It has a delicate but distinctly earthy flavor. When shopping for it, try fernbracken, bracken, bracken fiddlehead, or fernbrake. It’s available dried, pre-soaked, or fresh. I prefer them dried because they can live in your freezer forever. It’ll need to soak in a hot water bath to get plump, soft, and edible.
Dangmyeon are thin round chewy noodles made with sweet potato starch. For this recipe, soak them in hot water first so the noodles don’t clump together in the pot. Glass noodles, cellophane noodles, or rice vermicelli are good substitutes. Dangmyeon is usually sold in a giant bag, so make japchae next.
Why soak the beef?
Video: Roasted Broccoli Steaks with Tomato Butter and Tapenade (Food & Wine)
When making soups, Koreans typically soak the uncooked beef in cool water. This draws out some of the blood. The soaked beef is drained, rinsed, and then simmered in water, resulting in a clearer broth.
In this recipe I use a pound of beef brisket. It is flavorful and has the perfect texture, but it is also decidedly luxurious. As an alternative, any cut of tough meat that benefits from a long and slow cook works – chuck, rump or round.
Have you tried this yet? Let us know how it went in the comments below!
Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 3 hours 30 mins
- 1 lb.
peeled medium onion, half kept whole and half thinly sliced
dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tbsp.
- 3 tbsp.
- 2 tbsp.
- 2 tbsp.
minced garlic, from about 10 cloves
- 1 tbsp.
- 1/2 tsp.
freshly ground black pepper
- 1 c.
dried gosari, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and cut into 2-inch pieces
leek, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch strips
- 6 oz.
mung bean sprouts
- 1 c.
dangmyeon, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
Cooked rice, for serving
- In a large pot, add beef brisket and enough cool water to fully cover it. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and return beef brisket into the pot. Add 14 cups of water, halved onion, and shiitake mushrooms. Set over high heat until it comes up to a hard boil. Lower heat to simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes without a lid on. Occasionally skim off fat and scum that comes up to the top with a ladle or large spoon.
- In a small bowl, combine gochugaru, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, salt, and black pepper.
- Remove pot off heat. Scoop out beef brisket, onion, and shiitake mushrooms into a medium bowl and allow to cool. Discard the onion. Thinly slice beef brisket into bite-sized pieces, about 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2-inches long. Thinly slice shiitake mushrooms. Return the beef brisket and shiitake mushrooms into the pot.
- Add sliced onions, gochugaru mixture, gosari, leeks, and mung bean sprouts into the pot. Stir to combine. Set over medium-high heat and boil for about 30 minutes. Optional: Add soaked dangmyeon for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Adjust seasoning with additional salt, if needed. Serve with cooked rice.