Friday, November 26, 2010

Seollangtang: Korean oxbone soup (an imperfect, but tasty first attempt)

In August, my friend Patrick took me on a food tour of Koreatown in L.A. I first met Patrick in 2008 during our summer internship at the Star Tribune. Patrick is a "real" Korean compared to me, and helped me out when I decided to attempt to make mulnaengmyun the first time. (I got the package home only to find I couldn't read ANY of the instructions)

Korean restaurants are usually based around 1 dish: ramen restaurant, kimbap restaurant, bossam restaurant, etc. In America, we're big proponents of having a spectrum of food on the menu.

Our journey in L.A. began with seollangtang, or Korean oxbone soup. I was immediately taken with how thick and meaty the broth was, and overall, how delicious the concoction was.

I checked on my go-to source for Korean recipes, Maangchi but at the time, she didn't have a recipe posted! (there were, however, three or four postings in her "recipe requests" forum begging for a recipe and video)

Then last week, Maangchi heard our cries, and posted her recipe, photos and video of seollangtang. I had yesterday off for Thanksgiving, so I decided to give it a try, starting Wednesday and continuing on Thursday.

The basic premise of seollangtang is you boil ox leg or ox tail bones for a long period of time to extract the marrow and calcium, turning the broth a milky white color.

So, I soaked the bones, par boiled them to remove dirt and scum, rinsed them, and then threw them on to hard boil for three hours.

Yeah, that clock says 12:12. I started this process at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. And yes, the broth DOES look painfully brown and beefy.

I pulled the meat from the bones, replaced them in the pot, and called it a night.

So, I left the pot out on the porch overnight (no room in the fridge!), poked around online for answers about why my soup wasn't turning white.

Bright and early thanksgiving morning I ran back to the market where I purchased two more packages of oxtails and one package of beef feet (something I had read or watched online referenced beef feet, so I figured I'd give it a try).

I had to go through the soaking, washing, boiling, rinsing song-and-dance once again, then started my pot up again. Then we had to go to Thanksgiving dinner, and when we returned, I lit the burners once again.

Luckily, the broth started to lighten (as evidenced here, at 9:42 p.m. on Thursday).

At this point, the broth had boiled for 6 hours on Wednesday night, two hours on Thursday morning, and about one hour on Thursday night. I let it go another hour or so, then finally decided to to taste the soup and see where it was at.

It wasn't perfectly milk-white, but it was tasty and meaty. So, once again, I called it a night. I brought it for lunch today (the first photo) and it was pretty darn good.

I might throw the pots back on the stove for another couple hours tonight, but for now, I recognize it was an imperfect first attempt, but the results were still tasty.


  1. wow, the soup looks so thick and well made! Congratulations!

  2. Aw, thank you Maangchi!! It is delicious!! We are still eating the soup for dinner (thankful for having a chilly chilly porch to leave the big soup pots out)

  3. I too followed Maangchi's recipe, but ended up with brown, not white, broth.

    After seeing your posts on the Maangchi forum, I saw that you hard boiled your bones. I simmered mine per Mangchi's instructions, but to no avail.

    The one observation I noted was that the bones I used (beef knuckle bones) left some very dark brown remains. Perhaps they had too much blood trapped within that did not leach out during the par boil?

    Thankfully, the soup is still delicious!