I’ve blogged previously about Korean sam gye tang, an herbal, medicinal chicken soup. But tasty as it is, that is not the chicken soup I grew up on. (One of the reasons being that children aren’t always served sam gye tang, as ginseng is supposedly overpowering for children).
I grew up on North Korean chicken soup with “ohn bahn.” Ohn bahn is a spicy chicken mixture that sits, garnish-like, atop clear chicken broth and rice, in a deceptively simple composition. But it is so much more than garnish–it is the heart of this soup’s flavor. It is this spicy chicken that brings the spirit of this chicken soup alive on my tongue, spicy and flavorful, often bringing a vigorous line of sweat to my upper lip as well as endless delight and comfort.
This particular soup has made me VERY picky about chicken soup. I had not realized how close my heart and tastebuds lie to North Korean food, but apparently that is the food of my heart and childhood, just as it was the food of my mother’s childhood, which started in Pyongyang in North Korea where this dish originates.
And while I grew to make and adore Jewish chicken soup, with fluffy matzo balls (I like “floaters” not “sinkers”), chunks of celery and carrot, garnished with dill…North Korean Soup with Ohn Bahn is THE pinnacle of chicken soup for me. (And it goes without saying that Campbell’s chicken soup has always brought a big frown to my face. Like I said, I am a chicken soup snob).
I thought long and hard before sharing the directions to making the soup here–but why not share what I love with others? I would be thrilled to proliferate a family recipe.
RECIPE FOR NORTH KOREAN CHICKEN SOUP WITH OHN BAHN
Sorry for the approximation style of this recipe, but I just make this by tossing a handful of this, that, and mixing together, tasting as I go…so here is where you can start. Most of the making of this dish is tasting as you go, making sure the flavors meld–you want to make sure it’s plenty spicy, so don’t skimp on either the garlic or the Korean red hot pepper flakes.
1 whole chicken, thawed
8-10 cups water (or thereabouts)
1 package tofu
About a handful or two (or more) of Korean red hot pepper flakes
5-8+ cloves garlic
1-2 bunches of scallions
Bring water to a boil. Add chicken and tofu. Bring to a simmer. Pick out tofu when it floats. Keep chicken cooking until it is cooked. (meanwhile, skim the water of the “scum”)
When chicken is cooked, lower heat and shred the chicken meat. Shred it very finely.
Put shredded chicken in a bowl. Add mashed tofu. Add hot pepper, garlic, scallions and salt–and mix everything up by hand. Taste–it should taste a bit salty but not be overpoweringly salty. And the chicken mixture should have a substantial amount of hot pepper in it.
Serve–put rice in the broth and top with the ohn bahn. Mix up and eat! MRMMMMMm!