As I am getting older, winter becomes less and less favorable to me. I must be forgetting one of my childhood wishes. As a child, I always prayed for a cold winter – so cold that it would snow and I could build a snow man. (I grow up in the southern part of Korea where it snowed provably once every 10 years. There were occasional snows but more like a flurry kind) I think I was 10 years old. I woke up one morning and, for the first time in my life, I saw the whole world in front of my eyes covered by a pile of white snow. I never thought “white” can be so beautiful. It was almost magical and even more magnificent. I, my sisters, and all the kids in my neighborhood ran out and rolled over in the snow. It snowed a lot that our feet and ankles were actually sinking in the snow. I didn’t have snow gears like snow boots or snow gloves. I eventually got soaking wet but didn’t care. I remember looking at my hands turning red and almost frozen, it did actually hurt. But it was was so much fun to play with snow that I endured all the pain. None of us had a breakfast and our parents didn’t bother to call us either. We were having a time of our life. A time that only came once in 10 years. After all the exciting plays, I went back home with my sisters. We were finally hungry and very cold. And there was familiar smell coming from the kitchen. It was this Beef and Bean Sprout Soup. My mother was simmering a big pot of soup on the stove for us. Oh, how comforting it was! Every winter she often made this soup but it was this snowy day I remember that the soup tasted the best. This soup is very easy to make. Beef and bean sprouts are simmered in a flavorful stock with a little bit of Korean chili flakes. You will find how quickly this soup can warm you up in the cold winter. If you like spicy soup, your will love this. And this happens to be so Korean, of course! First, slice beef thinly. Any beef part that has a little fat attached would be ideal. Get these Korean ingredients. Korean soy sauce for soup, anchovy sauce, sesame oil, and Korean chili flakes(powder). Place beef slices in a mixing bowl, add Korean soy sauce for soup, black pepper, sesame oil, and minced garlic. With your lovely hand, toss and squeeze the beef to incorporate with seasonings. Set aside. Clean your sprouts in the water to remove the unwanted skin off . (You know the greenish gunk on the yellow head?) If, I mean if, you have some extra time and want to immerse your love into this soup, it is a very good thing to cut off the skinny tail part of the sprouts. This is a perfect chore to do as you watch TV. I sometimes let my kids to do the job. It is not mandatory, so don’t worry if you are in a rush. Heat a little oil in a soup pot and saute your beef until no longer pink. Pour water and a large piece of dried sea kelp (dashima or konbu). Bring the stock to boil. You will see lots of scums floating on top as the stock boils up. Using a spoon scoop them off as much as you can. Now, much better looking, isn’t it? Remove the sea kelp from the soup. Scatter the bean sprouts over and sprinkle Korean chili flakes, I used only 1 tablespoon but you can use more if you want spicier. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Looking good!! Now, this anchovy sauce is the secret flavor that no one will guess. I promise that your soup won’t be fishy, but it will make the soup tastes so much better. Add some sliced Asian leeks (or green onions) and simmer 3 more minutes. Sprinkle lots of freshly ground pepper and season with Korean soy sauce for soup, and you are all set. Go grab some hot rice from your rice cooker and kimchi out of the fridge. Enjoy your soup with them. I hope your hard day will be rewarded with this bowl of soup and find a home-style Korean comfort in this season. I did with mine. I don’t get excited much for snow anymore. I worry more about road being slippery and dirty afterward. I must have lost my childhood innocence. But having a soup like this, it brings a different kind of magic – a magic that takes you back to the past and savor the moment of pure innocence. Can’t believe another year is passing by. Hope all of you are having a memorable last day of 2013. And wish you a very Happy New Year!!!
- Slice the beef thinly across the grain and place in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of Korean soy sauce for soup, sesame oil, black pepper, and garlic. Toss all together and set aside.
- Bring a heavy bottom pot to the medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the beef mixture and cook until the beef slices are no longer pink. Pour water and add the dried sea kelp, bring to boil. You will see some scums floating on top. Reduce the heat to low and scoop out the scums with a spoon.
- Remove the sea kelp and add the bean sprouts to the pot. Sprinkle Korean chili flakes and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes. (Do not open the lid during the simmering time)
- Add the Asian leeks (or green onions) to the pot and stir. Add anchovy sauce and simmer for another 3 minutes.
- Add1 tablespoon of Korean soy sauce for soup to season. Taste the soup and season more with Korean soy sauce for soup accordingly to your taste.
- Lastly sprinkle lots of freshly ground black pepper over the soup. Serve the soup hot with rice and kimchi as a side.