Comfort Food: Recipe for Korean Brisket (Jjang-jo-rheem)

Korean Brisket

Jjang-Jo-Rheem (Korean Brisket)

Today seemed like the perfect day to make jjang-jo-rheem (Korean brisket). Rainy and a bit cold, the weather reminded me of winter in the Pacific Northwest. When I think of the Pacific Northwest, I think of my former college and Boston roommate, Kar-yee, who now practices family medicine at OHSU. One of her favorite comfort foods is jjang-jo-rheem.

When I was living in Boston with Kar-yee, my mom would send us jjang-jo-rheem—especially knowing that sometimes it’s just tough to motivate oneself to cook, and ordering out every night can be cost-prohibitive. Jjang-jo-rheem is a nice panchan (side dish) to have around because it lasts awhile (or not, if it’s really good) and the sauce can be used in many ways.

On a basic level, it can be eaten as a side dish with rice. Kar-yee would combine some some butter/margarine or sesame oil with her rice, shred some of the brisket, and then add a little jjang-jo-rheem sauce, and then mix it all together. Sometimes we’d make fried rice with the jjang-jo-rheem and frozen vegetables, and then wrap it up in an omelette. I later found out that it’s called “omo-rice.”

The jjang-jo-rheem flavored soy sauce can also be used in making dipping sauces for mandoo (Korean potstickers) and bin-dae-dduk (Korean bean pancakes). The brisket and garlic (and peppers, if you add that) add another dimension to the dipping sauce that you can’t get any other way. Pure heaven!

Today I made some jjang-jo-rheem and dared to give my mother-in-law a taste. She approved and even took a jarful home.

Jjang-Jo-Rheem (Korean Brisket) Recipe
4–5 lb. beef brisket, trimmed of fat
About 6–8 cups of water (or enough to cover meat in the pot)
2 bulbs garlic
3–4 cups Kikkoman Shoyu Soy Sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
Optional: 6–8 long green peppers—non-spicy kind

1) Cut brisket into  4 in. x 3 in. chunks. Make sure it’s not too thick (aim for about 1-1/2  to 2 in. thickness). Put in stock pot and add enough water to cover meat. Set pot to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15–20 minutes. Be sure to skim off foam and fat that floats to top.

2) While waiting for pot to boil, peel garlic.

3) After about 15–20 minutes, remove half of the water that’s in the pot and set aside (this should be used in making beef stock later or discarded). Add soy sauce (final ratio of water to soy sauce should be about 1:1—you may choose to keep more of the water to make it less salty, but the saltiness prolongs the shelf-life), sugar, and whole garlic cloves, and simmer for about 45 minutes more.

4) Cool for about an hour before storing in jars. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Notes:
1) My husband’s family does not add sugar when they make jjang-jo-rheem; they believe it toughens the meat. I tend to disagree. I think a bit of sugar is needed to offset some of the harsh saltiness of the soy sauce. What makes the sauce good is its slight sweetness.

2) Brisket comes as point cut or flat cut. The point cut of the brisket is more tender than the flat cut because it is a bit thicker and has more fat. This, too, can have something to do with how tough or tender the final result is. I also read in an America’s Test Kitchen book that the trick to keep briskets from drying/toughening up is to keep the heat level between 250–300 degrees (low simmer).

3) When serving, you can cut the meat into slices (perpendicular to grain), or shred with the grain. My preference is hand-shredding. As a panchan, it is served cold with a bit of the sauce. Be sure to remove the fat that floats to the top before serving.

4) MIL says one can make jjang-jo-rheem with skirt steak as well; says it’s softer meat.

(Updated 10/9/11)

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