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Feb 18, 2007 05:46 AM

Korean New Year Soup

I'm looking for your best rice cake (not mandu) soup recipe as well as tips and tricks because I've commited to bring soup to my son's school for Lunar New Year. We won't be celebrating until Wednesday so I've got time for a couple of trial runs and I could use some alternate recipes to try.

Some of the recipes I've found are essentially beef soups with rice cake ovalettes and green onion. Others require an anchovy broth like the one I use as a basis for my spicy seafood soup. Is this some kind of regional variation or are there just two different ways to make the soup?

Either way, any hints and recipes will be a huge help!

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  1. p.s. you can also use the brisket instead of separate beef to put into the soup. You just mix it with the seasoning and toss it in.

    6 Replies
    1. re: alex8alot

      This is what my mother does, and now what I do. I simmer water with a big piece of brisket for 1.5-2 hours. Then I take the brisket out and shred it, mix it with some soy sauce, chopped garlic, chopped green onion, and red pepper. It then goes on top of the soup with dduk (and mandoo if you like) right before serving, along with shredded roasted seaweed and pan-fried egg. My mom basically fries a few eggs in a big circle, and then cuts diamond shapes out. The colors of the shredded beef, seaweed, and egg look pretty together. You wouldn't know it to look at most Korean food in the U.S., but Korean food for fancy occasions is supposed to be "pretty." Probably won't be feasible for your school meal to have all these garnishes around, but the everyday version is to add chopped green onion and garlic and an egg or two at the end, stirring it so the whites and yolks get mixed up and cooked, and then garnish with the seaweed. A little more of a stew, but my favorite comfort food.

      1. re: AppleSister

        That recipe sounds a lot easier than cutting the beef into little pieces while still raw, which I think is more standard! Nice hint. (I'd be interested to know the effect on the taste of the broth-- I've been told that seasoning and frying the meat before adding the water builds the first layer of taste in the broth. But it's really a very subtle broth anyway, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it really doesn't matter)

        a compromise between lovingly cut egg diamonds and cloudy mixed-in egg soup is to whisk the eggs (maybe with a little salt) and pour enough into the bottom of a fry pan to make a thin sheet, cook until set (ideally don't let it brown!), flip it out, and repeat until all the egg is cooked. You can then julienne these omelette sheets and sprinkle some on top of the soup for a pretty garnish.

        Also, don't forget to taste for salt at the end-- a lot of Korean soup recipes are quite bland, on the assumption that you'll add more salt to taste after it's finished.

        1. re: another_adam

          Oh, I should have been clearer. My mom also whisks the eggs and fries in a pan to make a thin sheet and then cuts out the little diamonds. But yes, julienning would be easier, though the diamonds are not as painful as you'd think. You just slice on the diagonal one way, and then on the diagonal the other way.

          The other quick and dirty tip I have is similar to what another_adam is saying. If you don't have time to simmer for an hour or so, you can get thinly sliced bulgogi meat and then cut it into thin strips. This is easier if the slices are frozen together; I almost shave off the strips. Then I sautee the strips in the bottom of a pot with some soy sauce, about 1 T. or so, and then when that's done, I add the water and let it come to a boil before adding the rice cakes and dumplings. Like another_adam, I agree that you shouldn't worry too much about the exact amount of soy sauce. Err on the side of too little, and then add salt to taste at the end. The crunchy saltiness of the seaweed garnish also adds flavor.

      2. re: alex8alot

        oh god, did the whole recipe not get posted? I typed it all out, and added the P.S. and now that is all I see? Did it get erased? If you would like the recipe, I would gladly type it out again but I don't want to repeat if you already saw it.

        1. re: alex8alot

          Hi Alex,
          I'm sorry to say that I cannot see the recipe you posted, it seems that you lost it before you hit 'post'. I really do need as much help as I can get! I can pretty much follow the recipe from AppleSister - but I probably need help with quantities particularly for the soy sauce, I find that when I make Korean soups on my own they turn out either very bland or just not 'right' and I think it's because I don't know how to manage the soy sauce!!

          I was served a bowl of the soup that used julienned egg whites and egg yolks and I think that is the method I'll use for school because it will be easier than decorative cuts but still orderly!

          1. re: Kater

            alex8alot probably has a more exact suggestion, but here's my rough estimate:

            - 1/4 lb beef for 6-8 cups of water (it's not exactly a thick-with-meat soup, which is probably good if you're making it for hordes of kids)
            - I would slice the meat into small pieces and marinate briefly with a small amount of soy (about 1-2 teaspoon, just enough to get a little all around) and a drizzle of sesame oil. fry the meat until brown then add the water. (or use AppleSister's suggestion about skipping all this and boiling it directly and shredding later)
            - when it has boiled a while and the meat has released its flavor into the broth, add rice cakes to soften, and diagonally cut green onions. (sorry, not sure how to estimate amount of rice cakes, it's until the soup is fairly full of them!)
            - use salt at the very end, to taste (I find it takes a decent amount, since it's a subtle soup). you can also use part soy and part table salt, but that will turn the soup browner. the real "new year" version is supposed to emphasize white, and is a fairly light soup.

      3. OK, I can't thank you all enough!

        I made the soup and it turned out beautifully. I decided to go with the brisket method because I thought that would give me a better chance of getting the broth right! I wound up buying a piece of brisket and a some beef shank meat from my nearest Korean grocery where I got some additional coaching. (It's kind of sad that it takes so much input to accomplish a single dish but I was nervous about getting it 'wrong'!) Per the market owner I washed the meat and boiled it twice, discarding the liquid from the first boil. I'd read this in other Korean cookbooks I own so when she told me insistently to wash and boil twice, I listened!

        I was able to get fresh rice cakes and added them per Adam's instruction and let them cook for while while I made the egg diamonds. That was not so hard and looks very pretty! Then I put in the green onion, oh and I also put shredded seaweed on top.

        Oh, also I strained the stock through cheese cloth a couple of times (while shredding the beef) because it looked too cloudy.

        Because I needed to transport this I had to assemble it all together and to me the result if just delicious but I would like to serve it at home so that I can put each bowl together nicely.

        I'm not sure if this is a dish that is made only once a year, but I don't care I'm going to make it again soon. It is so delicious and healthy. I'll probably make the next batch with sliced rib eye so that I can become familiar with another method.

        Also I'm wondering if I could put in a little hot red pepper - it seemed like AppleSue's recipe included it but then I wondered if she meant red pepper, the vegetable. At any rate, if it's OK to add a little bit of hot pepper I think I will.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Kater

          sorry I was too late with the recipe! I didn't see your post in time. I am glad it worked out and as for red pepper, go for it! That is one of the things I love about Korean food and why I started cooking these dishes first: anything goes!

          1. re: Kater

            glad it turned out well! It definitely doesn't have to be just a new year's soup--as noted above, a more day-to-day "hearty" version might have the eggs dropped in and stirred around to cook in the soup. One made at home and served relatively quickly is also nicer since the rice cakes stay nicely toothsome and don't get as soggy. (though nothing wrong with soft and disintegrating, too, if you like that).
            I'd agree, add any kind of pepper (or whatever else) you like! The most traditional format, I think, would be just a smidge of pepper "threads" or thinly sliced dried red peppers, that don't dissolve in the soup. (As opposed to flakes, which would disperse, or powder, which would dissolve and turn the soup red). But experiment, have fun, and find what you like!

            1. re: Kater

              So glad it worked out for you! I meant Korean red pepper flakes to toss with the shredded brisket meat--not enough to make it really hot, just to have a pleasant sensation and a little extra color. But I agree with alex8alot and another_adam, Korean food is flexible and all about adjusting to your taste. And even though it's traditional for New Year, it was my version of spaghetti growing up, the easy thing my mom would make if she didn't have time to do anything else. It's funny, I didn't really care for it when I was living at home, but now that I live alone and far away from her, it's the Korean dish I eat the most.

              I'm curious about the draining and reboiling method. My mom does that to "clean up" when braising short ribs, but I've never considered doing that with brisket. I'll have to try that sometime. Also, I minimize cloudiness by skimming off the brown foam as it boils. I forgot to mention that, sorry!