seoul searching, no.10
i came across a very scary item in the market the other day - instant suh-lung tahng. now, i am quite familiar with all the just-add-hot-water products out there, and i'd be lying if i didn't admit to surviving on maruchan instant lunch for four years in college. but instant ramen is as normal, accepted, everyday food as pop-tart are accepted as breakfast. there are even mashed potatoes from flakes and risotto from desert dry to (supposedly) delicious.
but now it's come to suh-lung tahng, and i just can't accept it. how can something that takes hours, even days, to cook be made into an instant, out-of-the-bag meal? it comes in one of those new ways to package food - the vacuum sealed bag. tuna went from a can to these bags, and now suh-lung tahng. pour it into a bowl, add water, and microwave. granted, my mom makes korean soups by the gallon, puts them into single serving sized containers and freezes them for us to defrost and eat later, but that's different.
suh-lung-tang is thick, opaque, almost creamy beef marrow stock made from simmering beef bones and meat and nothing else for hours and hours over the stove. the stock goes from clear water to a white opaque, with all the juices of the meat and broken down collagen and fibers from the bones. these days, more and more suh-lung tahng is made from a simple beef broth made from boiling water and meat without the bones, but it doesn't have the opacity nor the creaminess. it's hard to explain how it can be at once brothy and crisp, yet thick and hearty.
this isn't one that mom made often, since it takes more than a day of attentive cooking of the meat and bones down down down. but moving to l.a. during my high school days and living close to a large korean population, we were able to go to restaurants and order it. now, it's also one of those soups, like yook gae jahng and gohm-tahng, that prevents hangovers after a tri-venue drinking tour of korean nightlife.
suh-lung tahng comes to the table in a dark, glazed clay pot, accentuating the whiteness of the stock. the beef that was used to make the stock is sliced and added back to the soup, along with sliced green onions. sea salt, pepper, and chili powder are served on the side, to season the soup to each person's taste. oftentimes, there is dahng-myun (thin clear potato starch noodles), and still people add their rice to the soup at the table. the soup is not spicy at all, even with the addition of chili powder, so suh-lung tahng is eaten with kimchee and ggak-doo-gee (radish kimchee), too.
after suh-lung tahng, it's probably a good idea to lay down, not because you've been drinking, but that hearty stock and the beef will give you a killer food coma.
though it's unlikely that i'd take the time to make it myself (i see myself making kimchee before boiling bones for two days), here is a modified-for-today recipe for suh-lung tahng from mom (happy birthday!)
1-2 lbs. beef bones with meat and marrow
1-2 lbs. beef brisket
sliced fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic
cooked dahng myun
garnish and seasonings
green onions, sliced
1. bring bones, meat and water to boil in a large pot, turn down heat, add ginger and garlic, then simmer for several hours until meat falls off bones, skimming fat and foam (this may take all day)
2. remove bones and meat, let cool, then cut beef brisket into thin slices across the grain, return to pot with dahng myun and heat to boil
3. place several slices of beef, dahng myun and soup in bowls. serve with salt/pepper, chili powder, sesaem seeds, and sesame oil for people to season the suh-lung tahng to their own tastes
4. also serve with kimchee and ggak-doo-gee for spice