Once upon a time, I had lunch at The House of Kimchi at the Ali Mall Food Court and I was badly smitten with the Korean beef stew. That was decades ago. I’m not very sure if The House of Kimchi is still there but my memories of that richly colored and spicy stew with its complex flavors remained.
After moving to the suburb, I would try to re-create the beef stew. It took all of two attempts: the first version, I posted in the blog in 2006; the second, a much improved stew, I published in 2009.
I have not deviated from the 2009 version, it’s what you see below, but I have discovered a few tricks that vastly improved the texture of the meat, and the color and flavor of the sauce. So, I’m adding a few notes to the recipe. If you’re the kind of reader who dives straight to the recipe without paying attention to the cook’s notes, you’re missing half of the technique.
Tips for cooking beef stew a la House of Kimchi
1. While The House of Kimchi used beef short ribs exclusively, it is even better to combine different cuts of stewing meat. Beef shank, brisket and crest may be combined with the short ribs.
2. For a richer sauce, combine the stewing beef with soup bones. Soup bones are inexpensive and some butchers even give them away as scrap.
3. Instead of parboiling the meat to remove scum, it is an even better idea to roast the meat and bones in the oven. Not only does the roasting remove the scum, it also gives the meat better color and texture. If you don’t have an open, you can sear the meat in a little oil in a very hot frying pan. After the long simmering later, the beef will have none of that “boiled” texture. Instead, the beef chunks will retain their shape better.
4. Why does the ingredient specify unpeeled garlic, onion and ginger? Because the skins add their own natural color to the sauce.
5. What soy sauce is better for the stew, light or dark? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you use the best quality soy sauce you can afford.
Korean beef stew a la House of Kimchi
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms stewing beef (see note #1 above), cut into serving pieces
- soup bones
- 1 whole whole garlic unpeeled
- 4 whole shallots or 1 whole red onion
- 3 thumb-sized pieces ginger (wash and scrub, no need to peel)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 to 4 bird's eye chilies roughly shopped
- 2 bay leaves (laurel)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup white sugar (or more, if you have a sweet tooth)
- salt to taste
- 12 stalks scallions
- 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the beef and beef bones in a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. Roast the beef and bones for 30 to 45 minutes until the edges are browned.
Alternatively, heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok or frying pan and bring to smoking point. Throw in the meat and bones in a single layer and leave undisturbed for several minutes until a brown crust forms on the side that touches the pan. Flip them over and brown the other side.
Transfer the beef and bones into a cooking pot. Pour in just enough water to cover the meat and bones. Add the whole garlic, onion, ginger, chili powder, finger chilis, if using, and bay leaves.
Pour in the soy sauce and stir in the sugar.
If there are browned bits attached to the bottom of the frying pan, pour in half a cup of water and boil gently to loosen. Pour into the cooking pot with the beef and spices.
Simmer gently for two hours or until the meat is very tender.
Halfway through the cooking, taste the sauce and add salt. Do not be tempted to add more soy sauce instead of salt; otherwise, the broth will turn too dark. You do not want a dark brown sauce; you want a reddish brown sauce.
While the beef simmers, toast the sesame seeds. Place them in a small frying pan and set over medium-low heat. Shake the pan often for even toasting (see illustration).
Slice the scallions finely.
To assemble, place two to three pieces of beef in individual soup bowls. Ladle plenty of sauce over them. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallions. Serve hot.
Like any stew, this beef stew a la House of Kimchi is even tastier after it has sat in the fridge for a day or two, or even longer. If you can wait for the flavors to blend better, skip the part about adding the scallions and sesame seeds until after you have reheated the stew. Sprinkle in the scallions and sesame seeds just before serving.
*Republished from the archive — just in case you missed it the first time it was published.