One of the first soups I learned to make after getting married is moo gook (moo = radish; gook = soup). It’s a simple, basic soup that I’ve taken for granted. I hadn’t made it in a while because it’s so convenient to just go to the Korean market and pick it up. Only recently did I decide to make it from scratch, and I have learned to appreciate it once again. I definitely like the homemade version much better.
While growing up, I never much cared for moo-gook. I thought it too simple and bland, especially compared to other Korean soups and stews. However I’ve found that when moo gook is cooked just right, it is quite comforting and warms the tumtum—perfect for winter.
This is a good soup to learn how to make, especially as it’s a “foundation” soup. One can later use the soup and beef for the traditional dduk-gook (rice dumpling soup), or even make other Korean soups like yook-gae-jahng.
Korean Beef and Radish Soup (Moo-Gook) Recipe
Beef shank (sold in Korean markets as “sah-tei ko-gee”)—about 1.5–2 lb.
Korean or chinese radish—about size of forearm
Green onions—5–7 stalks
Soup soy sauce (sold in Korean markets as “gook gahn-jahng”)—about a tablespoon
Memmi sauce—about a tablespoon
Sea salt and pepper
1) Soak beef shank in water to drain out blood for 1-2 hours or overnight. This is an important step because it ensures a clean/clear broth.
2) After soaking, put beef shank into a big stock pot and fill about little less than 3/4 full water; set pot to boil. In the meantime, peel radish and cut to 2-3 cm thick round slices and put into pot. As beef and radish are cooking, be sure to skim off foam and fat that floats to the top to ensure a clean soup. Once water is boiling, lower to mid-heat to avoid overflow.
3) Chop garlic into fine pieces and add to soup when there’s no more foam to skim off.
4) About 30-45 minutes into boiling the meat, remove meat from pot and cut into 3 cm thick slices and add back into soup to cook about 15-20 minutes more. Be sure to clear away brownish residue and foam that floats to top. Remove beef and set aside to cool. Also remove radish, cool slightly, and cut into thin slices (about 5-7 mm thick).
5) Clean green onions, chop off tips on both ends, and cut 5 stalks into quarters lengthwise, and then into 2-3 cm pieces. Add to soup. Cut remaining 2 stalks diagonally to 1 cm pieces and set aside to use to garnish just before serving soup.
6) After about 10 minutes, add a little splash of soup soy sauce (gook gahn-jang) and a little splash of memmi sauce to the soup (about a tablespoon of each). You don’t want to add too much of either because you want the soup to be as close to clear as you can get it. Add a bit of sea salt, but not too much. Over time the soup will naturally get salty.
7) Shred or cut beef into small pieces and add back into pot. Simmer for about 10 minutes more. Total cooking time is about a little more than an hour. If you like really soft meat, cook for closer to 2 hours. Another option is to let the soup rest in someplace cold so you can skim off the fat that floats to the top. And then, bring the soup back to boil.
How to serve soup: put the solids (cooked beef and radish slices) in the center of the bowl, pour broth on solids, and then garnish with a few pinches of fresh green onion pieces. Serve with steamed rice on the side. Encourage guests to add salt and pepper to their own taste.
1) When storing, keep broth separate from beef and radish pieces, so it will stay fresher longer.
2) You can use the broth and beef for dduk-gook (rice dumpling soup) on the next day. All you need to do is bring the broth to boil, thaw out the frozen rice dumplings in cold water (about 3-5 minutes), add the dumplings and beef into the broth and cook for about 5 minutes. Add fresh green onion slices as garnish.