Seolleongtang is a must-try dish for beef bone soup lovers. This Korean beef broth is tasty and filling, making it a great energy booster for breakfast. Just have a small bowl of this bone broth, and you're good to go. Although you would typically eat it during winter in Korea, it is a healthy dish you can enjoy anytime.
This milky broth reflects not only Korean culinary culture but also the economic challenges that were in Korea. In the past, this soup was invented in Korea to increase the food supply and feed many people with very few ingredients.
Many Koreans will have childhood memories of this broth, as their parents would make it for them. Therefore, the soup has a significant spot in the hearts of many Koreans.
Nowadays, people still enjoy it due to its health benefits and taste. It's also cheap to make from scratch.
We tried this warming Korean broth at one of the best Korean restaurants in London. Since then, we've learnt how to make seolleongtang from scratch using a simple recipe. While it does take a few hours to make, there are relatively few steps. It is healthier and fresher than instant packs, and you can alter the flavours according to your preferences.
What is seolleongtang?
Seolleongtang is a Korean soup made of boiling beef bone marrow for several hours until it produces a milky-white broth. This traditional Korean dish usually takes about 10-18 hours to make.
You will find that most 24 hours Korean restaurants will sell this plate. However, you can reduce the cooking time to just a few hours.
Seolleongtang vs Gomtang vs Sagol Gukmul
Many people confuse this delicious bone broth with other Korean beef bone soups. In particular Gomtang and Sagol Gukmul.
There are only slight differences between the 3 Korean beef bone soups. Gomtang only contains a specific type of bone, such as oxtail bone. Meanwhile, Sagol Gukmul broth consists of various beef bones and marrows.
Similar to sagol, this meat-based broth uses a variety of beef bones and marrow. However, what sets it apart from Sagol is the presence of sliced beef brisket in the broth.
Why is it popular?
This Korean beef broth is a staple in many Korean households, especially in winter. This is because it leaves a comforting feeling and keeps you warm in the cold weather. Moreover, it is excellent for satiating hunger and boosting energy.
This healthy soup is also an economical dish that can feed a whole family. As the soup takes several hours to make, Korean households will make more portions for leftovers the next day. So, you can prepare it and eat it for days.
You would typically enjoy this dish with warm rice or cooked noodles. Most Koreans often dump them into the hot broth to enjoy together.
Besides eating the soup by itself, you can use it to make other dishes. For example, the broth works well as a soup base for other dishes such as Tteokguk, Miyeokguk, and tteokbokki sauce. You can even make a Korean-Japanese dish and use it as a tempura udon soup!
This ox bone soup is also a traditional medicinal dish. As the beef broth is rich in nutrients, many Koreans believe it will aid with wound healing.
Seolleongtang calories are also relatively low for something so hearty and filling. Interestingly, it is only about 200 calories per serving. It's perfect for dinners where you don't feel like eating anything heavy.
What does seolleongtang taste like?
Despite being medicinal, the seolleongtang taste is naturally nutty and sweet. It is unlike common Asian medicinal soups that are either too bitter or herby. You can enhance the flavour of this Korean broth with ingredients like salt, pepper, and onions.
Traditionally, people serve this soup plain so everyone can alter their tastes. Therefore, this Korean dish best suits those who dislike bold or spicy flavours.
Although it is naturally plain, longer hours of simmering can make the broth fattier and develop a strong meaty aroma. Due to this, many restaurants add scallions to the soup to cut through the distinctive smell and fatty taste.
Furthermore, you also add pepper to add more flavour. Alternatively, a little red pepper paste or red chilli flakes can also spice it up. However, if you want to enjoy it like a real Korean, remember to eat it with spicy kimchi.
The seolleongtang ingredients you will need are:
- Beef marrow bones
- Beef brisket
- Korean radish
Beef Marrow Bones
Beef or Ox marrow bones, also known as sagol in Korean, are typically used in making this meaty soup. However, you can use other parts, such as the ox foot and knuckle bones. Some cooks combine the bone parts to create a richer broth flavour.
Most Korean supermarkets sell frozen beef bones for bone soups in the meat section. You will also be able to find them at your local grocery store and butcher shop labelled as beef marrow bones.
You can easily find beef briskets in many grocery stores. Beef shanks and pot roasts are great alternatives for this slow-cooked dish if you don't have beef briskets.
Korean radish adds another layer of flavour and reduces the fatty taste in the soup. But you may exclude them if you prefer the pure flavour of the broth.
We recommend adding scallions for a better aroma and taste, but you may also use other aromatic vegetables like garlic. You can exclude these added ingredients if you prefer a more pungent, meatier taste and smell.
Similarly, salt and pepper are only needed if you prefer your dish seasoned. Otherwise, the broth will have no seasoning at all. However, this seolleongtang recipe will also use herbs and aromatic vegetables for a more flavourful soup.
How to make seolleongtang
The process of making Korean ox bone soup only requires three main steps, but each step takes quite some time to do. Those three steps include soaking the bones and meat in cold water, boiling, parboiling, and boiling.
Soak in cold water
Firstly, cooks prepare the bones by soaking them in cold water for 3-4 hours before boiling them. You can also soak it overnight. You would do this particular step to draw out blood from the bones.
After that, they would rinse the bones and drain the water. The beef brisket is also soaked in cold water to draw out blood.
Once you have drawn out the blood, the bones are parboiled over high heat to medium heat for 5 minutes. This is to remove impurities or brown bits and further clean the bones.
Boiling over medium heat
This step takes the longest. You will have to boil the beef bones in a pot for several hours.
Seolleongtang takes so long to make because you must boil it until you get a milky broth. Besides that, you must ensure that the bones are smooth with no meat stuck to them.
You should boil them until a cavity is in the centre and the insides look like a sponge. There is no fixed boiling time, but Korean cooks let it moderately simmer for 10 hours for the best texture.
Why isn't my Seolleongtang white?
You will not get the perfect milky broth within just 1-2 hours. Your broth will turn white once you let it boil for at least 5 hours. The longer you cook it, the milkier your outcome will be.
Start boiling the broth over high heat, then slowly reduce it to a gentle or moderate boil. It is essential to maintain a gentle boil for the best milky broth. It should be less volatile than a hard boil but more vigorous than a simmer.
You can use a slow cooker to make this healthy ox bone soup and save yourself from all the hassle in the kitchen. However, it will take a little bit longer to finish.
For the best results, slow-cook the first batch of broth for 12 hours on a high setting. Then, slow cook the second batch for 24 hours on high setting.
Reducing the fat content
Removing the fat makes your Korean beef bone soup taste better. You can remove fat from the broth by using a fat separator. Alternatively, keep the broth in the fridge overnight until the fat solidifies. Then, scoop them out with a spoon. Since it is a winter dish, some Koreans would put it out in the cold to solidify the fat.
You can also remove the fat by letting the Korean beef broth simmer over medium heat. Just pour it into a clean pot and let it simmer before serving. The fat will float at the top, and you can skim it off with a skimmer spoon.
Maintain water level
Check the water level repeatedly to ensure the bones stay soaked in the liquid. Most of the water will evaporate if your stove is too strong. Therefore, add more cold water into the pot if the water level gets too low.
The broth can last up to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator. However, it can last up to 3-4 weeks if kept in the freezer.
Store the leftovers in Ziploc bags and keep them in the freezer. Once you're ready to enjoy them, reheat 1-2 servings in a pot by bringing it to a boil for 15 minutes.
What to do with leftover Seolleongtang
You may also use leftovers as a base for any other Korean stew or soup. For example, beef bone broth makes an excellent substitute for anchovy broth.
Do not throw away the cooked bones. You can reuse them to make a few more batches.
We recommend using them for up to the third batch. Batches made with fresh bones may not have the perfect milky texture, but the subsequent batches will be much milkier.
Seolleongtang Recipe (Korean Ox Bone Soup)
- 1 kg beef marrow bones
- 500 g beef brisket
- 500 g Korean radish (peeled)
- 1 onion
- Chopped scallions
- 5.5 l water (for boiling)
- Cold water (for cleaning the bones and meat)
- Soak the bones and beef in separate bowls containing cold water for at least an hour. Then, rinse the bones in cold water to remove any bone chips. Rinse the meat to remove excess fat and keep it in the fridge until ready to cook.
- Boil water in a large pot. Place the bones into the boiling water and let them boil for 5-10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and drain the water. Rinse the bones and clean the pot to remove any brown bits. After that, put the bones back into the pot.
- Add in onion and peeled radish. Fill up the pot with cold water but leave some room for boiling. Then, allow it to boil over high heat for 20 minutes before lowering it to a medium heat. Let the bones cook moderately for at least 5 hours until the broth becomes rich and milky.
- Add the chilled meat and continue to boil for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender. Then, remove the meat from the broth. Let it cool, and thinly slice the meat to add to the soup when serving.
- Pour the broth into another pot through a colander and let it cool.
- Add rice or noodles in a serving bowl, add the sliced beef, and ladle the milky broth on top. Then, sprinkle some chopped scallions over the broth and season with salt and pepper. Serve it hot with kimchi, and enjoy your seolleongtang.
- You may soak the bones and beef in cold water overnight to drain out the blood.
- Check the water level in the pot from time to time to ensure that you cover the ingredients with water. You may add more water if the water level is too low.
- You may cook another batch of the dish once the first batch is done. After pouring the first batch into a separate pot, leave the bones in the used pot. Fill it again with fresh water and boil it over high heat for 20 minutes. Then, lower the heat to moderately boil for 3-5 hours until the broth turns rich and milky. Lastly, pour the milky broth into the pot containing the first batch through a colander and mix them well.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and is only a rough estimate.
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