The life-healing, good-for-you soup from my Korean American childhood. Gomtang (Korean Beef Bone Soup) will cure all your ailments in one delicious bowl!
When I was a little girl, I believed in the magical healing properties of Gomtang or Korean Beef Bone Soup.
Whenever I was feeling sniffly or generally poor in health and spirits, my Korean grandmother would make a giant pot of simmering bone soup.
All those vitamins and minerals, leached out from the bones. All that good-for-you collagen and tendon, making your hair and skin look better. Better still, bone soup could cure a host of negative ills: sickness, lack of appetite, and overall general malaise.
A bowl of long-simmered Korean Gomtang always made me feel better as a kid. As an adult, it still does!
What is Gomtang?
Gomtang is the universal, catch-all name for Korean soup made from long-simmered beef bones. The rich, milky-looking broth comes from bones that have been cooked a long time over low heat.
Different from Jjigae or Korean stew, Gomtang is not packed with chunky meats, tofu, and vegetables. The broth is thin and clear with a pearly white sheen. Meat is minimal and usually includes bits of fatty tendon and cartilage. Sometimes, noodles are included. But Gomtang is really all about the broth.
- Beef Bones. A combination works best. I use beef kneecaps and beef marrow bones. Look in the frozen meat section at your local Asian grocery store.
- Beef Tendon. Adds body and the best texture — jiggly and soft. Leave it out if you don’t like it. Look in the frozen meat section, next to the frozen beef bones at the Asian market.
- Onion. The flavor base of Korean Gomtang. You’ll need 2 large yellow onions.
- Bay leaves. Removes the gamey smell of the beef bones.
- Soak the bones in cold water. In a large stock pot, cover the raw bones with just enough cold water to cover. Let sit for 1 hour or up to overnight. Blood and fat particles will leach out.
- Parboil the bones. Drain the water and rinse the bones. Cover with cold water again, just to cover. Boil at high heat for 5 minutes. Scum and other impurities will rise to the surface.
- Drain the pot. Dump out the water with fat and scum. Wash the pot thoroughly with soap and water. Rinse the bones with cold water, one by one, until the bones look clean. Place clean bones into the clean soup pot.
- Boil. To the soup pot filled with parboiled, clean bones — add cold water and 2 large, peeled onions. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. This is not a roiling boil with big bubbles breaking at the surface; this is a vigorous simmer with lots of small bubbles popping up all over. Simmer for a minimum of 3 hours, adding water when it evaporates too much.
- Add beef tendon. Simmer until soft, about 1 hour.
- Refrigerate overnight. *Optional Step.* Cover the soup pot and place in the fridge overnight. Makes it easier to remove the hardened fat, if you prefer a less oily soup.
- Slice tendon. Remove and discard onion, beef bones, and bay leaves. Remove beef tendon and slice into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Add tendon back into the soup pot.
- Garnish and enjoy! Serve soup with a generous amount of chopped green onion and freshly cracked black pepper. Rice and kimchi make perfect accompaniments. Happy eating, friends!
- Add water. As the soup boils, the water will evaporate. Add water to keep the liquid at the same amount throughout the simmering process.
- Add noodles. When serving, add Dangmyeon (sweet potato noodles) or Somen/Somyeon (thin wheat noodles) if you like. Although optional, it’s a classic addition to Korean bone soup.
- Add Dashida. For a beefy tasting stock, season the stock with 2-3 Tbsp of Dashida or Korean beef stock bullion. Optional but a simple way to boost the beef flavor.
Do I really need to parboil the soup bones?
The secret to good Korean Bone Soup is parboiling the bones.
Parboiling removes blood, scum, and fat — leaving behind a clear and clean-tasting stock. Parboiling also gives strength to the bones, imparting a delicious flavor that cannot be replicated.
It will be tempting to skip parboiling the bones, but trust me — don’t skip it!
If you don’t parboil the beef bones, the stock will be murky with lots of unappetizing floating debris. Also, the soup won’t taste as good.
How do you eat Gomtang?
Gomtang is typically enjoyed as a hearty main soup. Every person receives a big bowl of soup. And a smaller bowl of rice. Dumping an entire bowl of rice into the soup is not uncommon. Alternately, you can dunk big spoonfuls of rice straight into the broth as you eat.
Gomtang is usually served with green onions and mineral salt at the table. That way, everyone can season their soup individually — they way they like best.
Also, kimchi. Kkakdugi is preferred — those crunchy, spicy radish cubes are so delicious with Korean bone soup!
Other Soup recipes you may enjoy:
Gomtang (Korean Beef Bone Soup)
- Large stock pot (the largest one you have, with room for at least 20 cups liquid)
- 3 lbs frozen beef bones (marrow)
- 2 lbs frozen beef kneecaps
- 2 lbs frozen beef tendon
- 2 large onions (peeled but kept intact for easier removal)
- 20 cups cold water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp salt (I use sea salt; season to taste if you like it less salty)
- Cover bones in cold water, just enough to cover, and let sit for 1 hour. Blood and fat particles will leach out. Drain the bloody water and rinse the bones under cold running water.
- Now it's time to parboil the bones. Cover with cold water (again), just enough to cover. Bring to a boil and vigorously boil for 5 minutes. Scum and other impurities will rise to the surface.
- Drain the pot. Wash the pot thoroughly with soap and water. Then wash the bones with cold water, one by one, until the bones look clean. Place clean bones into the clean soup pot.
- Add 20 cups of cold water, and 2 large, peeled onions to the clean soup pot and clean, parboiled beef bones. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a vigorous simmer. This is not a roiling boil with big bubbles breaking at the surface; this is a vigorous simmer with lots of small bubbles popping up all over.
- After 3 hours of vigorous simmering (covered), add beef tendon and simmer until soft, about 1 more hour (covered). Depending on the thickness of the tendon, this can take longer so poke with a chopstick to check for tenderness. The tendon should be soft enough so that there's some resistance, but not too much.
- After a total of 4 hours cooking time (3 hrs for the bones, 1 more hour with added tendon), the soup should look milky. Discard onion and beef bones. Remove beef tendon and slice into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Add tendon back into the soup pot.
- If possible, refrigerate overnight. This will allow the fat to harden. The next day, remove the hardened fat and discard. (This is an optional step but will result in a less fatty soup.)
- Season soup with salt. Then serve with a generous amount of chopped green onion, freshly cracked black pepper, and additional salt for people to add at the table. Rice and kimchi make perfect accompaniments.