A modest beef soup fit for a king, but not a clientYou’ve probably heard this joke before, during a business lunch.
An executive at a Korean company took a foreign client out for dinner to a humble restaurant serving seolleongtang, or beef bone soup. Of course, as far as the Korean host was concerned, this was an unusual treat, clearly intended to impress his client. He thought that businessmen visiting Korea were so used to fancy meals at five-star hotels and “extra service” at room salons that a humble meal like seolleongtang could be a refreshing experience for an outsider.
The client seemed to enjoy his soup, which was served with rice and radish kimchi. But after finishing his portion, he put his spoon down on the table and asked his Korean host, “Where is the main dish?”
Seolleongtang certainly is a modest dish. It was traditionally served in outdoor markets, because it’s filling and easy to prepare. Its name originated with King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty, who was said to have butchered his plow ox and boiled the meat with salt and green onions on his way back from Seonnongdan, where he’d gone to pray for an end to the country’s drought.
Seolleongtang is made by boiling beef and knee bones in water for several hours. It’s known as a tonic or “stamina food.” But over the past few years, its reputation has been in decline.
It’s become a general rule that you eat seolleongtang at home, not at a restaurant. This is because too many restaurant chefs have been caught using MSG or powdered non-dairy creamer ―the kind you add to instant coffee ―to color the stock. Fear of mad cow disease, which it is said to be transmitted by way of cattle bones, has also caused more Koreans to shy away from it.
Personally, I have never been particularly fond of eating beef soup, whether at home or in a restaurant. If I feel like my body needs protein, I’ll order a steak or lobster, not meat bathed in soup.
But about a year ago, a friend and I saw a bad action film and decided to hit a seolleongtang restaurant in the Jongno district afterward. After devouring a large bowl of meat soup like real carnivores, we realized that our nausea had been soothed.
It was truly a marvelous experience. We knew then that there was a lot to be said for the power of stamina food.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 400g beef knee, 400g beef bones, 200g beef leg, 200g beef shank, 200g beef brisket, 4 cups of water, 1 whole garlic bulb (peeled), 1/4 radish, 1 ginger root, 1/2 onion, small amounts of salt, diced green onions, crushed garlic and pepper. Serves 4.
1. Soak the beef bones, leg and knee in cold water for an hour. Discard the water.
2. Wash the beef brisket and beef shank and put them in a pot with the bones, leg and knee and four cups of water.
3. Add the radish, ginger, garlic and onion to the pot. Boil over a high flame for about an hour.
4. Take out the brisket and beef shank. Skim the oil off the water.
5. Season the soup with salt, green onion, garlic and pepper. Boil for a while longer.
6. Serve in a bowl with beef shank and brisket on top.
From miz.naver.com, Delicook
by Park Soo-mee