yook gae jahng – spicy beef and green onion soup

seoul searching no. 8 – yook gae jahng

after a long night of hard drinking, i always need a “chaser,” something to eat at 2, 3, 4 am, that i always say is going to keep me from being too hung over when i get up in the (late) morning. there are many other hangover prevention measures out there. but somehow, over many drunken iterations, it got twisted: drink water; no, drink gatorade for electrolytes; no, electrolytes are salt, so eat something salty. and this is how i ended up reasoning with myself that grease and salt “cuts through the alcohol.” it’s a great excuse to get french fries or nachos at naughty hours.

my mom’s yook gae jahng, ready to eat

but, drive-through windows and benito’s only really “do” because negotiating wilshire blvd. all the way to koreatown is pretty risky by the time i’m in need of a chaser. what i really want, what really does prevent that hangover, is a korean soup. the broth rehydrates, the spice clears the head, and the salt wipes that liquor coating from the tongue. everyone has their favorites: suh-lung-tahng, gom-tahng, gal-bee tahng, dduk mahn-doo gook. my favorite is a super spicy beef and green onion soup, yook gae jahng.

just looking at yook gae jahng makes my mouth and eyes water – it’s spicy. the beef broth a deep reddish brown from ko-choo-kah-roo (korean chili powder). nowadays, i’ve seen recipes with jalapenos and other hot peppers to increase the heat. it makes me sweat. it numbs my tongue and throat. when it’s so hot it hurts so good, i know i’ve got the stuff to sober me up since tuesday.

beef, green onions and noodles in the pot

every restaurant has a version of it, and every korean cookbook has a recipe for yook gae jahng, but nothing comes out quite like mom’s. her recipe is hard to document, since it’s done by taste, as are all korean foods. she makes an enormous pot of it, then freezes it single-serving size containers. all i have to do is let it defrost in the fridge, then heat it up on the stove top. how cool is a mom who actually gives you hangover cures?

yook gae jahng
12 oz. – 1 lb. beef brisket
beef bones for stock
8 – 10 c. water
5 – 6 green onions
1 cup cooked dahng-myun (transparent noodles)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 3 tbsp. koh-choo-jahng (red pepper paste)
1 – 2 tbsp. koh-choo-kah-roo (red pepper pwder)
1 – 2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 – 2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1. wash meat and soup bones. place in large pot with water and bring to boil. turn down heat and simmer ~2 hours, skimming foam and fat, until beef is tender.
2. remove meat from broth, cool, then cut and shred meat into ~3 in. long stips
3. wash and cut green onions into 3 in. long pieces and
4. mix together garlic, hot pepper paste, chili pepper powder, salt, black pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, and saesame seeds into paste.
5. combine paste with shredded beef and return to broth with green onion pieces
6. bring broth with beef, green onions, and noodles back to boil, then serve hot.

adding a big scoop of rice into the soup bowl when serving makes it a perfect regular meal, too.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Josh April 3, 2005 at 1:18 am

This is one of my FAVORITE Korean dishes! You have some informative & entertaining blogs here on a great topic … FOOD. Thanks for all of the great info. BTW, I discovered you site by clicking a link from one of your postings on chowhound.


2 sarah j. gim April 3, 2005 at 5:00 pm

hello hello josh! yes, and i could use a bowl of yook gae jahng right about now! i love it when it’s so spicy hot that i’m sweating. how horribly awesome is that?!?!


3 Josh April 12, 2005 at 9:10 am

hey Sarah … wiping the brow and or nose of sweat with the lil’ napkins from the dispenser on the table is a good sign that you’re enjoying your dish.

don’t forget the incesssant “slurping” or “sucking of air” that goes along with hot (ie temperature and spice factor) soups … another *tasty* sign …


4 Anonymous January 31, 2006 at 2:09 am

This is my favorite soup of all time! I love and must have it with an egg or two. It’s so spicy that it seems like it would stay hot forever. Love it!


5 Anonymous August 30, 2006 at 4:24 pm

I also see some bean sprouts and kimchee in the photo though…should I add these too?


6 sarah September 8, 2006 at 5:54 pm

oh yes! after the beef, the broth, and the noodles, you can pretty much add anything you like. we put in green onions (scallions) and bean sprouts. i think my mom also put enoki mushrooms (totally not traditional, but who’s keeping track, right?)


7 Anonymous September 30, 2006 at 8:40 am

thx for the recipe! i’d like to try this one soon! :)
thx a lot


8 Anonymous December 4, 2006 at 8:59 pm

Can’t wait to try this recipe – had it for lunch at a Korean restaurant in Zurich and came home to search for the recipe. Yuuuum!!!


9 Anonymous December 29, 2006 at 3:55 pm

I will have to try your mom’s recipe, my mom puts slices of turnip (daikon…not the pickled stuff) in hers…they get tender kinda like potatoes, oh so good! I don’t think she uses the kochujang tho. Maybe that’s why hers is never as red as the ones I get at the restaurants lol It’s my all time favorite soup, total comfort food!


10 Amy June 30, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Hey there, I was so pleased when I found your recipe, and I’m all set to try it out. Only problem is, I happened to read your post about the yook gae jahng you had at Typhoon that was seasoned with chap-sal kochujang, and now I’m worried I’ve bought the wrong kind. I’m technically Korean – adopted – but darned if I can read the language, so I just grabbed some Wang brand red pepper paste. It does list malt syrup as an ingredient. Is that all right, or do you recommend another kind?


11 sarah July 2, 2007 at 4:52 pm

amy: i think you’ll be fine because red pepper paste, regular koh-choo-jahng, does have some sweetener in it. the chap-sahl koh-choo-jahng would have “sweet rice” listed as an ingredient, so it sounds like you’re ok. :) good luck, and you’ll have to let us all know how it turns out!


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