Korean Ox Bone Soup (Seolleongtang)


“And now for something completely different,” as the Monty Python skit went. When I was in Santa Clara with Lorenzo, my nephew, we took advantage of an area called “Koreatown”, a stretch of El Camino Real with lots of Korean restaurants, stores and shops. I fell in love with the food. We don’t have Korean restaurants in the south suburbs of Chicago, unfortunately, and I’d have to travel to the north side of Chicago if I wanted some. (Not likely to happen.) So I have set out to learn to cook some Korean dishes to have here at home. I have already made Pajeon (vegetable pancakes) several times for my son and he seemed to like them, as well as my Kalbi and Bulgogi. And last week I made Bibimbap for my daughter and she like that too.

This soup is really soul food for me. I have always loved oxtails and any soup meat with connective tissue, like tendons. The Koreans seem to like those too and include such cuts of meat and bone into their soups. These cuts are no longer easy to find in most grocery stores, and you may have to shop in creative ways to find them. For example, I found that the Mexican butcher shops often have some of these items as there are many soups in their cuisine with beef hooves, tails, and other “nasty bits.” Still looking for some items though. I’m going to have to ask the Mexican butchers if they could get me some Tendón de Res.

I haven’t included many exact measurements. You really can’t put set amounts for this soup as your ingredients list may change from what you can find in the stores. But, no matter. Wing it. You can do it!

The Ingredients:

Beef (Ox if available) Bones
Beef for soup – can also use beef brisket, shank, etc.
Beef Tendon-optional & if available
Beef Hooves – optional
1 large whole Onion
1 head of Garlic
3” piece of fresh Ginger
A fresh Daikon radish – peeled and cut as needed
Whole Black Peppercorns
Water – and lots of it

The Noodles:
Udon, Ramen, or whatever noodles you may have on hand. Boil lightly apart from soup before adding. Having freshly-made noodles will make the soup so much better.

Sea Salt should be served on the table so each person can use the amount they desire.
Chopped Green onions — a lot of these
Kimchee — fresh or bottled
Half-inch slices of Daikon in half-moon sections, pre-boiled for a few minutes.

Cooking Instructions:
Korean recipes stress the repeated washing of all the bones and meat before even beginning the cooking process. Soak and wash the meat to attempt to remove all blood. Once thoroughly washed (and trimmed of any visible fat), cover with water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Discard this water and wash out your pot to remove any greasiness. Add fresh water now to fill the large soup pot and add the onion, garlic, ginger, a large daikon chunk, and peppercorns—no salt. (Better if you wrap these ingredients in cheesecloth. Otherwise, just fish them out later.) Start to heat it up to a slow simmer. Skim off ALL the fat and foam that floats up to the top.

Once the meat is done, take it out and remove it from the bones. Do the same for the tendons. Then put the bones back into the broth and continue to simmer. This soup takes a looong time to cook (hours and hours) and if all goes well, you may even see it change to a “milky” color. Once the broth is complete and the bones just can’t give anymore of themselves, remove them and add back the meat to the broth. (You could also refrigerate this overnight and remove any fat that forms on the top before returning to the stove to finish the soup.)

Boil your noodles slightly in plain water and then add to your broth. To serve, fill large bowls with the steaming broth, meat, and noodles. Place bowls of kimchee, chopped green onions, and sea salt on the table and serve.

Optional: if you have enough daikon and you may want to slice it into half-inch half-moons and boil it slightly. Mix it with the cabbage-based kimchee and add it to your hot, steaming bowl of soup. This was a big hit with me. Love that semi-crunchiness of it!