Every winter my mother simmered bone marrow soup for two days saying that there was no better food than bone marrow soup to withstand the harsh winter of my hometown in Korea. She believed that bone marrows have a magical power to strengthen our physical resistance to fight against the cold.
Maybe her belief was right, or maybe it was the tremendous amount of clementine oranges we ate during the winter. For any reason, we spent most of our winters without much sickness.
There are several types of bone marrow soup in Korea. Selungtang (설렁탕), Gomtang (곰탕), and the Sagol-gook (사골국) are the common names you might heard of if you like Korean bone marrow soup. The main difference is the type of bones used and the addition of meat in the simmering process. Sagol soup is made with bones only and the marrows inside the bone makes the soup quite milky. Selungtang contains chunks of beef such as brisket or flank steak simmered with the bones. Gomtang is general name of bone marrow soup that can be considered in both ways.
Gomtang can be made with cow’s head bones, tail bones, or leg bones. Here I made ox tail bone marrow soup. We call it Kkori-gomtang (꼬리곰탕). Ox tails are available in many grocery stores.
You will need to soak the ox tail bones in cold water for 1 hour.
within 30 minutes, the water will turn bloody. Change the water and continue to soak.
Rinse the bones and cut off any visible fat and skin.
Mix the bones with some water and boil for a few minutes.
Then, drain all the water. You will need to pre-boil these bones before the actual cooking to get rid of unpleasant smell and impurities from the bones.
Now add clean water again to the bone and simmer. The amount of water is about 3 times the volume amount of bones. Just eyeball it.
Simmer for 6-7 hours.
Now you will see the water turned into slightly milky broth.
Take the bones out and pull all the meaty parts off the bone. You will add the meat back to the broth and chill it. The bones will go back to the pot and add more water again to simmer for the second time, another 6-7 hours
I added a little less water this time and the broth seems much thicker and more opaque. Take out the bones and add the broth to the first batch.
If you want, you can simmer the bones again for the third time. Then you can discard the bones.
Chill the broth and meat overnight. You will see the hardened fat on top. You will want to remove the fat unless you have a different idea.
Now you have jellied marrows that can turn into soup when heated.
You will need to season the soup after it is heated. All you need is good salt (sea salt), pepper, and some chopped green onion.
Koreans like to add rice to the soup and serve with either/both well fermented radish and cabbage kimchi. So comforting and good~!
Yes, it takes nearly two days to complete, but you can make a whole batch to last. The bone marrow soup freezes beautifully and can last months. I use the broth as base of other kinds of soups, and even in risottos. They are fabulous. In fact, I will share a simple recipe that can turn Korean rice into fabulous risotto with this bone marrow soup.
So, next time when you see some ox tails, pick a couple of packets and try. It is worth the effort!
- 2 packets (about 3-4 lbs, 1.5 kg) ox tail bones
- salt and pepper
- chopped green onion
- Soak the ox tail bones in cold water for 1 hour, changing the water half way.
- Cut off any visible fats or loose skin attached. Add the bones to a large pot and add water to cover the bones completely. Bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the bones and discard the boiling water. Rinse the bones with water.
- Put the bones in a pot again and pour water that is 3 times the volume amount of bones to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, cover with a lid, and simmer for 6-7 hours over low heat.
- Take the bones out of the pot and let them cool. Collect the broth in a large container and cool as well. When the bones are cool to touch, Pull the meat off the bones and add to the broth. Keep the broth and the meat in a fridge.
- Return the bones to the pot and pour the same amount (or a little less) of water to the pot. Simmer again for the second time, 6-7 hours. Drain the broth and combine with the first batch, and chill.
- You can simmer the bones again for the third time if you wish. Follow the same step.
- When the broth is chilled overnight, you will see hardened fat on top. Remove the fat. You will have jellied bone marrow and meat pieces on the bottom.
- To reheat, simmer the bone marrow soup in a pot until hot. Ladle into a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper according to your taste. Sprinkle some chopped green onion. Serve hot with rice and kimchi.