Just when I thought I had perfected my spicy Korean beef stew a la House of Kimchi, I am now modifying the recipe because I changed a few things. Instead of chili powder, I used gochujang (Korean spice paste). And I added a tablespoon of rice vinegar to the cooking liquid. The result was just magnificent!
For those of you who are not familiar with this dish, let me just make it clear that this might not be a Korean dish at all. Most probably, it is an adaptation (or an interpretation) of a version of Korean beef stew by a fantastic cook at a stall in a food court.
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. According to Google, there is a House of Kimchi at the SM Mall of Asia and another at the Lucky Chinatown Mall in Binondo, but I am not sure if these are reincarnations of the Ali Mall House of Kimchi or if these are totally different establishments using the “House of Kimchi” name because of the reputation it has built. I haven’t been to these newer establishments. I only have memories of that richly colored and spicy stew with its complex flavors remained.
The 2006 recipe
After moving to the suburb, I would try to re-create the beef stew. It took two attempts: the first version, I posted in the blog in 2006. That’s how it looked.
My photography skills weren’t all that good at the time, obviously. My plating skills were even worse. But, trust me, my family loved my first version of Korean beef stew. I got the balance of spicy and sweet right, the color was the same and, most importantly, even back then, I knew just what cut of beef to use.
The second, a much improved stew, I published in 2009.
The 2009 recipe
So, my photography and plating skills had improved somewhat too.
And just what were the improvements in the 2009 recipe? There were five.
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.
This is the third and, hopefully, the final version.
The 2017 recipe
I have already mentioned that I substituted gochujang for the chili powder and added a little rice vinegar. The third modification has to do with the soup bones. Adding soup bones to the pot takes a lot of space and you need a huge pot to accommodate the meat and bones. And, once the beef stew is done, it’s a hassle to have to fish out the bones so that they don’t go into the serving bowl. What’s the solution?
Use bone broth. I keep stock of bone broth in half-gallon containers in the freezer. I used the contents of one container for today’s Korean beef stew a la House of Kimchi.
- cooking oil for browning
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms stewing beef (short ribs, brisket, crest or shank, or a combination of two or more of these cuts) cut into serving pieces
- 8 cups bone broth
- 1 whole whole garlic unpeeled
- 2 whole shallots or 1 whole red onion
- 2 thumb-sized pieces ginger (wash and scrub, no need to peel)
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 to 4 bird's eye chilies finely sliced
- 2 bay leaves (laurel)
- 4 to 6 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste) (the amount depends on how hot you want the dish)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup white sugar (or more, if you have a sweet tooth)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- salt to taste
- 12 stalks finely sliced scallions
- 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Heat about three tablespoons cooking oil in a wide and deep thick-bottomed pan.
Brown the beef, in batches if necessary, turning the pieces around for even coloring.
Scoop out the browned beef and discard the oil.
Put the beef back into the pan.
Add the whole garlic, shallots, ginger, peppercorns, bird's eye chilies, bay leaves, gochujang, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.
Pour in the bone broth.
Bring to the boil. Set the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer the beef two hours or until the meat is very tender.
Halfway through the cooking, taste the sauce and add salt if the sauce isn't salty enough. 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).
To assemble, place four to five 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.