Food is something that’s always associated with some sort of memory for me. Each bite connects me to a particular person, or a time in my life, or a distinct emotion.
Whenever I bite into buffalo wings, the spicy and vinegar-y taste reminds me of my best friend from college and the year we lived together in the halls of Pem East. Hot and sour soup reminds me of my pregnancy because I craved that for about 3 months straight. My soul feels surrounded by my family whenever I eat handmade mandoo (Korean dumplings) and kalbi (Korean short ribs) because of all the times that my mom, grandmother, and great aunts would gather in my grandparent’s kitchen to make hundreds of dumplings that would later go into their restaurant’s popular wonton soup. Every bite of kimchi takes me back to my grandmother sitting on the floor in front of a huge silver basin with the baechu (Korean cabbage), salt, and red pepper flakes. I am almost transported to the very spot in our kitchen that these kimchi making sessions took place.
Living across the country from my mom and grandmother make it hard to replicate those foods since they didn’t cook with recipes or cookbooks. It was all just learned through standing besides them in the kitchen – watching, prepping, tasting, and experiencing. Korean food was something scary for me to even attempt to make except for some of the basic things like making rice in a rice cooker and knowing how to pick out the good kimchi at HMart. After having Ninjette, though, I was really inspired to try to come up with the recipes to make the things I used to love to eat as a child. I scoured the internet for Korean recipes and called my mom and grandmother to get their base of ingredients to create, by taste, the very foods that invoked those precious memories. The only thing that I could not really conjure up was some of the Korean soups. In particular, I really wanted to eat gohlee gook (Korean Oxtail Soup). I had no idea where I could even buy oxtail, so I was at such a loss. BUT, my dear friend, L, came to the rescue after I gave birth and made me the oxtail soup!
I treasured every slurp of it. It was the most delicious thing ever and I wished she had me a magical pot that would never disappear! However, in a few days, the milky soup was all gone. A few years went by before I decided I was going to attempt it.
Thanks to modern technology and wonderful Google, I stumbled upon a site called Week of Menus that had a rough recipe for the soup! I immediately went out to HMart, purchased my oxtails, and made this soup. It came out PERFECT. Just like my grandmother’s – just like my friend’s – no adjustments really necessary.
This soup takes all day to make, so I don’t make it often, but whenever I do, it reminds me of the day that L brought over an entire pot of this to me. It’s our friendship – nestled in the bowl of this delicious soup.
Without further ado, here is the recipe:
Korean Oxtail Soup
Adapted from Week Of Menus – Click here for WoM’s recipe.
Serves 6-8 people with leftovers
- 2.5 – 3 lbs of ox tail
- 1 whole large onion, peeled
- 10 cloves of garlic, slightly smashed
- 5 stalks of green onion, sliced
- Salt to taste
- Large stockpot (the one I use is usually about 8 quarts or more)
- Smaller stockpot
Steps to make:
- If your ox tail is frozen, thaw in your refrigerator the night before. Put the oxtail in your large stockpot or another large bowl and cover with water. Let it sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour to drain out the excess blood.
- Rinse the ox tail pieces in cold water and wash out your stockpot, if used to drain the ox tail. Put the meat in the large stockpot and cover with water. Boil on high heat. (You could skip this step, but it’s beneficial to get all the brown gunk out and helps to keep the broth clean.) You can check after about 20-30 minutes.
- Rinse the ox tail – be careful because they will be hot! Set aside. Clean the large stockpot.
- Put the rinsed ox tail, onion, and garlic in the large stockpot and pour in about 5 quarts of water. Cover the pot, boil on high heat. After about 20 minutes or so, turn the heat down to about medium. In the smaller stockpot, fill with water and put it on the back simmer burner and bring it to a boil. You will need the boiling water to add to the soup after it cooks down. (*I put the garlic and onion in a mesh basket that closes so that it doesn’t disintegrate all over the place. You don’t have to do this at all, but I like to do this.)
- Around 1 hour, you want to check the soup – there may be extra foam and fat floating to the top and you want to skim that off. If you’ve rinsed the ox tail well from the first few steps, you usually don’t have to do this. Add the boiling water from the small stockpot to the large stockpot so that you are back up to the 5 quarts.
- Boil it for at least 2-3 more hours. You will know that the ox tail is ready when the meat is falling off the bone.
- The longer that you boil the soup, the milkier looking it gets. If you want to get it milkier, remove the meat that has fallen off the bone and set aside. Just leave the bones in boil.
- When serving the ox tail soup, sprinkle with plenty of sliced green onion and let people salt their soup to taste. I like to use the rock salt rather than the fine salt.
You can serve this with rice and some radish kimchi – it’s heavenly and perfect for cold days and nights!