Hearty, comforting, and FULL of big flavor. This recipe for spicy Yukgaejang is just what you’ve been craving.
Most non-Koreans have never eaten Yukgaejang, much less heard of it. Yukgaejang is a spicy Korean beef broth filled with all kinds of wild vegetables: green onions, bean sprouts, daikon, and Gosari.
Wait, what is Gosari? Gosari is fern bracken or fiddleheads. Basically, they are the baby shoots of wild, young ferns and a beloved Korean vegetable. They grow everywhere — forests, parks, the side of the road. Once you start looking for them, you’ll see them all over the place.
My Korean American childhood is filled with memories of picking Gosari. It was one of those weird things you did as an immigrant. You’d be driving along when someone would spot Gosari. Then the car would pull over and everyone would pile out, ready to pick as many as possible. It was fun but also slightly embarrassing. (How do you explain picking wild baby ferns on the side of the road to friends who eat green beans out of a can? Honestly, you can’t.)
Back then, Korean ingredients were rare and hard to find. I think that’s why foraging seemed like such a great idea. But nowadays, Gosari can easily be found at Korean grocery stores.
- DRIED. Gosari is most commonly available in dried form, ready to be rehydrated at home. Like beans, they require an overnight soak and then boiling before it’s ready to eat.
- PRE-BOILED + BAGGED IN WATER. Gosari can also be found pre-boiled in a vacuum sealed bag, in the refrigerated section. I think this is the easier, modern way to buy Gosari. It won’t keep as long as dried Gosari, but it doesn’t take as long to prep, either.
- FRESH. Fresh Gosari is rare and found in the produce aisle. Sometimes you’ll find in its pure, raw form. Other times, you’ll find it lightly parboiled, drained, and packaged in styrafoam with plastic wrap. Fresh Gosari depends on seasonality and each particular store (some sell it, some don’t).
However you acquire Gosari, it’s delicious. And an essential ingredient to one of my favorite Korean recipes: Yukgaejang!
I love Yukgaejang. I grew up eating it. I order it at Korean restaurants. I cook it at home. But, to be completely honest, it’s not the easiest soup to eat.
Yukgaejang is not a docile, well-mannered Korean soup that you sip demurely while wearing your best clothes. Yukgaejang is a chewy, tough soup. There’s lots of texture from the tangle of wild vegetables. There’s lots of spicy oil that’s sure to splash every which way. You’ll be chewing longer than you think, slurping and splashing more vigorously than you thought possible, and wiping flecks of spicy broth from your chin and forehead.
Eating Yukgaejang is probably not a first date dish and most definitely not a polite affair. But is it worth? OF COURSE IT IS!!
I like to think of Yukgaejang as the rowdy, down-to-earth cousin that makes everything more fun. The one who arrives to family events a little bit tipsy and gets the party going. Full of life and gusto, a little rough around the edges and wild — yes, Yukgaejang is everyone’s favorite family member. And this Yukgaejang recipe will satisfy every last craving for spicy, spicy, spicy. Enjoy!
Yukgaejang aka Korean Spicy Beef Soup
- 1 lb beef flank steak or beef brisket
- 1 large onion (or 2 small ones) peeled + halved (keep halves intact for easier removal)
- 1/2 lb Korean radish or daikon peeled + cut into thin half moons
- 10 cups water
- 1 cup dried Gosari (wild baby ferns) (or 2 cups rehydrated/fresh Gosari)
- 6-8 green onions trimmed into 2-inch segments, white parts halved
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup Gochukaru (Korean dried chili flakes) (use 2 Tbsp if you like things less spicy)
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce (not the low sodium kind)
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp mirin (Korean sweet cooking wine)
- For dried Gosari: soak overnight in cold water. The next morning, drain and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and slightly chewy. Drain, chop into 2-inch pieces, and set aside.
- For pre-boiled, vacuum-packed bags of Gosari: drain gosari in colander. Rinse well with cold water. Chop into 2-inch pieces and set aside. (You can freeze the rest of the drained Gosari and save for later use.)
- For fresh Gosari: Korean markets sell fresh Gosari in the produce section, already boiled and cooked. Simply chop into 2-inch pieces and set aside.
- Add beef, onion, and water to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer (covered) for 30 minutes. Add radish and continue cooking (covered) about 30 minutes more. At this point, the beef should be tender and shred easily. The radish should also be somewhat soft and translucent, but not fully cooked.
- Remove onion and discard. Remove beef and set aside to cool. When the beef is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized strips, going along with the grain (not against the grain). Set aside.
- Mix spicy sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add beef strips, green onions, and Gosari. Add spicy sauce ingredients and mix until everything is well coated.
- Add spicy beef/Gosari/green onion mixture to soup and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, to let all the flavors meld. Add bean sprouts and simmer for 5 minutes more.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot with rice and kimchi.