A milky beef bone soup that is rich, creamy and amazing on it’s own or used as a base for Korean dishes to amplify their flavors.
What is it?
There’s a few types of beef bone soup in Korea: seolleongtang (설렁탕), gomtang (곰탕), and sagol (사골). The difference between the three are the types of bones or meats that are used for the broth.
- Gomtang often is used when a specific type of bone is used i.e. “Oxtail” gomtang.
- Sagol soup is made with a variety of beef bones and marrows. This is most often used as the base for other stews and soups.
- Today, we’ll focus on seolleongtang that is most commonly seen in Korean restaurants in the US. Seolleongtang uses a variety of beef bones and marrow but also includes a beef brisket in the broth that will be sliced and served with the soup.
All three are often interchangeably referred to as the differences can be a bit blurred. Ultimately, the milky soups are achieved through hours of boiling! This broth is a staple for most Korean moms and big batches are made at once which are then frozen for several months of enjoyment. It’s most common in cold winter months as there is a lot of belief that the beef bones will provide energy and strength during the cold days.
I’ve attempted three times to achieve the milkiness in the instant pot but have come to the conclusion that it will not happen! I’ve tried it on high pressure for 2 hours, low pressure for 5-6 hours, and again but the milkiness will not come! You’ll have really great tasting beef broth that can be a great base for Vietnamese pho, or any standard clear beef broths that are still great! But no milkiness. Any recipes that state “seoullungtang for instant pot” is only getting you to the clear broth! Don’t be disappointed like I was.
- Soak. You must soak the bones for 3-4 hours, or overnight preferred to draw out the redness.
- Parboil. You must parboil the bones to get rid of any of the impurities from the bones.
- Moderately Boil for Hours! You will need to boil for several hours (not just simmer). Simmering, will only get you to a great gelatinous clear beef broth. It does not need to be at a high boil, but a moderate medium boil where bubbles are consistently rumbling within the pot.
There’s no real rules or recipes on bones vs water as it’ll depend on how much water evaporates during the cooking process. The recipe below will provide some foundation but as long as you use enough bones and boil for long enough to achieve the milky broth, you should have some amazing broth ready!
Ingredients for Broth
- 3-4 lbs cut beef bones (leg, marrow, knuckle)
- In Korean or Asian grocery stores, there’s often a section either in the freezer or meat section of “sagol bones” or cut beef bones
- When in doubt, ask the butcher
- 1-2 lbs beef (flank, brisket, pot roast)
Ingredients for Serving (and Enjoying!)
- I prefer white rice with this broth but you can enjoy with any rice that you prefer.
- Chopped scallions (green onions)
- Cooked noodles (rice or glass noodles) * optional
- Cook noodles separately in a pot according to package. Add to hot broth.
- 2 inch thick slice of Korean radish * optional
- I prefer the soup without radish for the pure flavor of the broth. Some enjoy it including the radish to add another layer of flavor. Reheat 1-2 servings in a small pot with beef bone broth and a piece of radish. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the radish is fully cooked through. Serve otherwise the same.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Much of this may be needed depending on how seasoned you enjoy your food. The broth has no seasoning at all.
Enjoy the broth with a bowl of warm rice. Often, we dump the bowl of rice into the hot broth to enjoy together. Top with a lot of scallions (I like about 2 scallions per bowl!), add cooked noodles to your bowl if using and season with salt & pepper to your liking. If you want to be like a real Korean, enjoy with spicy kimchi!
Seolleongtang (Korean Beef Bone Soup)
- 3-4 lbs (1.3-1.8 kg) beef bones leg, knuckle, marrow
- 1-2 lbs (450-900 g) beef flank, brisket, pot roast
- water **note in instruction on amount
- chopped scallion
- cooked noodles (rice or glass noodles) *optional
- 2 inch thick slice Korean radish *optional
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Place the bones in a large bowl or pot with cold water and soak for 3-4 hours at minimum, preferably overnight. This will soak out the redness blood from the bones. Cut off very fatty pieces from the bone.
- In a separate bowl, soak the beef for about 3-4 hours. The beef does not need to soaked overnight. I prefer not soaking it for too long or it may lose some flavor. (Only the bones overnight is preferred).
- Place the bones in a large pot with enough water to cover all the bones. Bring the pot to a boil and continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes. Keep the lid off during parboil to rid of any odors. (No need to parboil the beef slab).
- Drain the water. Rinse and clean each bone under running water so the pieces are clean. (You can use a brush or your hands to clean the bones of any brown bits).
- Place the bones back into a clean pot. (If using the pot that was used for parboil, make sure to wash it cleanly with soap). Place in the beef slab. *The amount of water here is not important. Add enough water to cover the bones and then some more. Should be about 4 quarts (3.75 Liters) of water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to about medium to medium high heat. Make sure the broth continues to moderately boil. This is KEY to bringing out the milky broth. Continue to cook the broth for about 4-5 hours. The broth will be clear at first but will turn milky as it boils for longer. Add more water as needed to keep all the bones covered while boiling.
- ** Take the beef slab out after about 1 ½ to 2 hours when the meat is fully cooked and soft. Set aside and cool.
- Pour only the broth out into a large bowl to cool. Set the bones aside.
Optional Step - Repeat!
- Optional but recommended: You can repeat this process to boil more broth with the same bones about 2 more times. Fill up the pot with the bones and water (about 3 quarts or 2.75 Liters). Bring it to a boil and moderately boil until the broth is milky again. After the 2nd time, the broth may not become as milky. For the third time, use a little less water than the first two batches.
- Once done, combine all the batches of broth to combine all the flavors.
- There will be some fat from the broth because of the fat on the bones. You can use a fat separator or you can cool the broth in the fridge overnight. This will harden the fat on the top and it can be scooped out. This makes the broth taste better.
- Reheat the amount of broth you want to immediately enjoy.
*Optional to add a 2 inch slice or two of radish when reheating. I prefer without but others enjoy the additional flavor to the beef broth.
- *Optional: Cook glass noodles (dang myun) in a separate small pot according to package. Add to hot broth.This is a very common step at restaurant but we often skip at home.
- Add hot broth into a large bowl. Slice a few pieces of the meat slab and add to the hot broth to soften the meat again (you can reboil in the broth as well). Optionally, add a serving of rice or glass noodles into the hot broth.
- Top with chopped scallions and a generous portion of salt and pepper to taste. Traditionally, each person seasons their own soup as they wish. Enjoy with a bowl of hot rice and delicious kimchi.
- *Freeze leftovers in ziploc bags. Use as a base for any Korean stew or soup to replace the water or anchovy broth! It will result in a richer flavor for any dish.