sullung-tang: Korean beef knucklebone soup

homemade sullungtang: aka beef knucklebone soup, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.


This soup is one of those “special” soups not because it takes a lot of skill to prepare, but because it takes so much time to make. I like to boil this soup for at least 8 hours, until the gelatin falls off the beef knuckle bones in soft and savory pieces that float in the millky white broth and then melt in your mouth.

I love this soup–it is a childhood comfort dish for me–but it has become one of those dishes I make while the hubby is out of town; the concept of beef knuckle bones is just not that appealing a thought to most Western palates.

What’s a “beef knuckle?” It’s the cow’s lower leg, including the hoof itself. It is damn tasty. You do not know what you’re missing if you’re saying “ewwwww” right now, you savage beast. 😛
aka beef knucklebone soup

The house is filled with the savory, gamey aroma of the soup while I boil it for hours and hours, checking to see if the gelatin has softened (it starts out solid, then it becomes very very chewy and tough like tendon, and then ultimately something soft and delicate (you can feel the give of the gelatin under a spoon). The soft and delicate stage is what you want).

This soup takes a lot of patience, but on a homebound, cold winter day alone, this is a comforting activity. Keep simmering, putter around the house, wait for soup, savor smells, feel the anticipation. When you serve it to someone who KNOWS what this soup is, they’ll feel the love–after all, it took you 8 hours (or more) to make this soup!

Today, I’m feeling the love for myself! I think I need it–for some reason I’ve been in the doldrums. Life seems complicated and loud–so I decided to reach for a simple, soothing soup with a good dose of patience. For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been focused on one thing: this soup. Yah. Like dudes diminish their focus to a video game for a day, I’ll tunnel on soup, thank you.

aka beef knucklebone soup

As with many Korean dishes like sam gye tang ginseng chicken, this soup is known to have medicinal qualities. My health-conscious mother always told me this was “bone soup, with lots of calcium!” It does have a lot of calcium. (Today, it’s been healthy to me in other ways).

Haha–bone soup! Because were totally Americanized kids, she didn’t tell us WHICH bones until we had fallen in love with the soup.

Some people like to add sliced daikon radish to the soup (I do, too–though I didn’t have daikon radish at home this time). The essence of the soup, however, requires very little but the beef knucklebones (called “sagol or “tongani” at Korean grocery stores).

Recipe follows after the jump…

Korean Beef Knuckle (or Knucklebone) Soup: Sullung Tang

2 pounds beef knuckle bones (sagol or togani)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
salt to taste
lots of water

optional: 1 daikon radish, peeled and cut into thin 1 inch squares

In a large bowl, soak the bones for a couple hours in cold water, drain and set aside. Fill a heavy stockpot with water and bring to boil. Add bones. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off the impurities with a slotted spoon. Decrase teh heat to low and simmer for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Add the radish, garlic, and green onions to the pot and bring to a boil. Decrase the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.

Serve with bowls of rice and kimchi. Serve with salt and black pepper so your guests can adjust the seasoning to their liking.

12 responses to “sullung-tang: Korean beef knucklebone soup

  1. i may be ‘western’ but at this time of year, there’s nothing i crave more than sullung-tang!!! i think i own the exact same pot as you, so i’m taking it as an order to make some this week.

  2. I like this soup a lot.
    Now I can make this on my own.

    Thanks a lot

    Sharaga, Toronto

  3. Hi. Sounds lovely. Can you tell me what the initial cold-water soak does for the beef knuckle bones? Thanks!

  4. soaking the bones in cold water before cooking makes it so the marrow turns a nicer creamy color instead of an ugly gray. i think this is because soaking removes blood from the bones. for the purpose of consumption, the soaking step isn’t absolutely necessary but it is recommended.

  5. Thanks! It’s been on overnight. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the recipe, I LOVE this soup. It is one of my all time favorites. I was wondering if you have ever tried making it in a crock pot, does that work? I was thinking maybe then I could start it in the morning and it would be done after I got back from work.

  7. Wow, this is quite a treasure. I bought a knucklebone from the butcher today (I live in the Scottish Highlands) and I’m having my weekly Korean food night tomorrow. Looks like I will be making this soup! I loved it when I lived in Korea (and I’m a white Scottish ajumma)

    xxxxxx ^__^

  8. OH MAN do i remember going over to my gramma’s place and having this when i was a kid. And i do remember the hours and hours she spent boiling it overnight. The thing is now that i’m older and live away from home, leaving the burner on for 8+ hours doesn’t seem that safe to me while i’m gone from the house.

    Is there a way to apply this recipe using a pressure cooker to shorten the time? seeing as how they can be used to do pretty much the same thing with chicken broth and their connective tissue

  9. I tried this a few weeks ago, it was lovely. Making it again tonight.

  10. Pingback: Ushering the Lunar year (or ahem, Autumn) in with a bowl of soup | Muffin Top

  11. To answer the question about soaking the bones-yes it’s to remove the blood so the broth looks cleaner (no blood/debris). Take it another step after the cold soak I bring bones to a boil, then discard the broth and foam. rinse thoroughly and start with fresh water. The broth will be creamy white! good luck!


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