In Which I Try To Recreate The Comforts Of Childhood

Last night I made myself a version of duk guk, a rice-cake and beef soup that is traditionally served on New Year’s. I was trying to recreate the remembered pleasure of the soup from my childhood, but I also wanted to adapt it for the adult I am now. As I write this, I’m eating my third bowl of it in 24 hours, so the result was pretty satisfying.

This soup is not any kind of an official soup, which is to say, fans of either soup it’s based on–duk guk or kimchichigae (a spicy kimchi stew)–will look askance at it, I’m sure. I’ve made it twice now. But it is neither of those soups. I don’t know what to call it–duk kimchichigae?–but in any case, here is how I made it, in case you want to try it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. organic stew beef
  • 1/2 package of rice cakes (duk)
  • 8 oz. kimchi (the red variety, with cabbage or cabbage and radish)
  • 1/2 white onion
  • tablespoon fresh-grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • tablespoon crushed sesame seeds
  • tablespoon sesame oil
  • soysauce to taste (about a tablespoon)
  • 30 oz. of water (or to eye)

In a large soup pot, brown the stew beef chunks quickly on medium heat with a little canola oil, and when all the sides are brown, with a spoon remove any excess fat. Add chopped onion and garlic and keep browning on medium heat for about 1 or 2 minutes, so that the garlic and onion soften in the pot.

In a bowl, soak the rice cakes in cold water. Watch out for the “do not eat” freshness packet which may be cleverly hidden among them.

Add kimchi, soysauce, grated ginger and mirin. Keep heat on medium, bringing it to a soft boil and then add the water. Bring to a soft boil again. Add rice cakes, sesame seeds and cover, turning the heat down to a low medium, for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Add sesame oil to soup prior to serving and stir it through. Serve with chopped fresh scallion and, if you like, a chopped boiled egg.

This should make 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your bowls.

If I’ve described this correctly, your end result will be a spicy, tangy beef stew, which contrasts nicely with the soft rice-cakes (and is eventually thickened by them). And you can reheat it the next morning for breakfast and drop an egg in it to poach while it heats on the stove. You normally do serve this with rice but that always seems redundant to me given the rice cakes. But then, it depends on how much you like rice. You could also chop dried nori and put that on at the end. I did not use Dashida but you could–I just didn’t remember to get it at the Korean foods store. But then, I try to avoid MSG and many Dashidas have it. And the flavor is pretty rich without it. Have fun with it.

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