Milky stock. Knobby bones. Fatty meat. Chewy tendon. Korean Oxtail Soup (aka Kkori Gomtang) is the big pot of cozy that will point you towards home.
When I was a kid, my favourite soup was oxtail soup. Not chicken noodle soup. Or tomato soup. Instead, I loved my Korean grandmother’s soup made from funny looking bones.
My school friends didn’t eat oxtails. I doubted their parents even knew where to buy them. But I loved them, especially in soup. There was a contented satisfaction in chewing the bones and drinking all that milky broth at the end.
Halmoni used to say that you needed good bones to make good soup. Well, good bones but also fat, tendon, and cartilage. The strange bits and pieces that couldn’t be found in any canned soup at the supermarket ensured rich-tasting stock and a super megadose of vitamins and nutrients.
That’s why Halmoni always made sure we drank every last drop. Bone soup is good for you, she’d say. Better than soup made from meat and vegetables alone. Don’t waste any of it!
When I became a mom, I wanted to make Oxtail Soup for my kids. After a few consultations with Halmoni over the phone, I discovered that my favorite soup was actually very simple to make. Oxtail Soup just took time. And finding the right ingredients.
Korean Oxtail Soup also required parboiling. Koreans parboil meat bones when cooking soup. Parboiling requires partially cooking the bones first and is an essential Korean method for making soup.
But in my Western arrogance, I didn’t take Halmoni’s advice seriously enough. I viewed parboiling as a nuisance and waste of time. Why throw away that extra flavor? What value was there in rinsing the meat bones and washing the pot?
A lot, I quickly learned. When I skipped parboiling and instead skimmed the scum that bubbled to the surface, the soup became murky and dark. Bits of unappetizing debris floated throughout the soup that no amount of straining could fully remove. Worse, the flavour was flat and sadly lacking. This was not the milky, deeply flavoured soup of my childhood.
The next time around, I parboiled the bones. Sure enough, I was converted. I became a parboiling believer. The flavour was amazingly complex and rich, the broth imbued with that milky complexion that pointed towards home.
All to say, parboiling the bones is the secret to good Korean soup. 😉
How to parboil bones for Korean Oxtail Soup:
Cover (uncooked) oxtails with cold water. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours so that the blood will drain from the bones.
Drain bloody water. Return bones to the pot. Cover with cold water.
Bring contents of the pot to a boil. Simmer furiously for 3-5 minutes until the water looks dirty and scum rises to the surface.
Drain soup. Rinse bones thoroughly. Wash the pot. Return parboiled bones to the pot. Add cold water, onion, and radish.
Bring to a boil then simmer until the meat is tender and the broth is milky-looking, about 2-3 hours. Now it’s time to eat. 🙂
Make Korean Oxtail Soup for your family and friends! When the weather starts cooling and there’s a chill in the air, nothing says cozy like this comforting soup.
Korean Oxtail Soup
- 2.5 lbs fresh beef oxtails
- 1 lb radish peeled and cut into large chunks (optional)
- 1 large onion peeled but kept whole (for easier removal)
- 8 cups cold water (plus more to add when liquid reduces)
- 1-2 tsps salt (or to taste)
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 4 oz or large handful Dangmyeon (Korean sweet potato noodle), presoaked in cold water (optional)
To Parboil Bones:
- Cover (uncooked) oxtails with cold water. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours so that the blood will drain from the bones.
- Drain bloody water and rinse bones. Return bones to the pot. Cover with cold water.
- Bring contents of the pot to a boil. Let simmer furiously for 3-5 minutes until the water looks dirty and scum rises to the surface.
- Drain soup. Rinse bones thoroughly. Wash the pot.
To Make Soup:
- Return parboiled bones to the pot. Add cold water, onion, and radish.
- Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer with the lid partially on/off. The soup is done when the meat is tender and the broth is milky-looking, about 2-3 hours. Add water from time to time, making sure the liquid doesn’t reduce too much. The bones should always be covered with liquid.
- Remove onion with a slotted spoon. If using Dangmyeon, add drained, presoaked noodles and cook until clear and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add salt to taste and stir thoroughly. Add green onion (you can also serve the green onion at the table) and serve immediately with rice and kimchi.
Like Korean food? Check out Easy Korean Recipes!