Tuesday, June 16, 2020

[Food] Yukgaejang (육개장, Spicy Meat Stew)


[Food] Yukgaejang (육개장, Spicy Meat Stew)

Yukgaejang (육개장, Spicy Meat Stew)

Ancient Koreans were not very fond of meat diets; they usually gained energy and protein from abundant bean and seafoods instead of meat. The meat diet flowed into Korea in the 13th century through the Mongol Invasion but it still remained uncommon because Korea's major religion at that time was Buddhism. Even the 16th century's Chosun Dynasty prohibited the butchering of cows because cows were a very precious tool and resource for farming.

So Koreans cooked stew with dog or an old cow for a party or a patient. They added strong and bitter spices and seasonings to remove the pungent smell of meat, and thick green onions, mung-bean sprouts, bracken, taro branch, red chili and more. This traditional recipe has passed down to today, except for dog meat :)

Yukgaejang is also famous as the dish eaten by King Soonjong who was the last king of the Chosun dynasty. The Master chef of Chosun palace served King Soonjong a bowl of yukgaejang when King Soonjong was in deep sorrow and pain after losing the kingdom to Japan. The anecdote tells of King Soonjong eating yukgaejang with tears running down his cheeks.

These days, Koreans enjoy eating yukgaejang in all seasons regardless of the weather. In contrast with traditional recipes, chicken or beef is used for today's yukgaejang and is still very spicy and hot. Koreans usually eat yukgaejang in summer because its spicy taste builds an appetite and the meat gives energy and stamina to those who are exhausted from the heat.

However, yukgaejang is not an easy dish to cook. Every vegetable has to be chopped and seasoned with spices, and the meat has to be fully steamed and torn into small pieces. Then every prepared vegetable, seasoning and meat is boiled for several hours in beef stock. To cook a delicious yukgaejang quickly, your hands must be very busy. More than 10 years ago, I cooked it with one of my friends. I remember deeply thanking my grandmother who cooked yukgaejang by herself for me every time I visited her after finishing cooking yukgaejang.

Nevertheless, yukgaejang is a very popular traditional Korean dish :) Its spicy, savory and meaty flavors are more than enough to awaken one's spirit and body :)

Kalguksu (Hand-made chopped noodles) in yukgaejang, it's as good as eating yukgaejang with steamed rice :)

Korean home-made yukgaejang

Do you love spicy and meaty soup? Try yukgaejang, it will fill your tummy :)

Bon Appétit!