kkori gomtang {oxtail soup}

 
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it wasn’t until i made kkori gomtang for the first time until i learned i am capable of having a fit of rage in the kitchen.

the other day, while i was facetiming my mom who was with my grandma, i thought that it would be a fun idea to have them be my audience of 2 for an impromptu cooking show for this kkori gomtang. it started off kind of amusing because when i held up my big ol’ radish to my phone so that she my grandma could see what i was cooking with, she asked me what i was doing messing around with a slipper. oh grandma, this isn’t a slipper, it’s moo!

as started to peel the moo with a knife, she leaned in closer to the phone, squinted her eyes, and said that i must not be that experienced at cooking because i was doing a bad job peeling the skin off the vegetable. my mom and i gasped because it’s been years since that last time my grandma had been in the kitchen, and also because she has alzheimer’s. we thought that she wouldn’t be able to process much of what i was doing because she can’t remember anyone’s name, but she can straight up tell you when you’re doing a bad job peeling the skin off a moo.

i moved on to trimming the fat off the oxtail, and as i sliced through the dense pads of fat, my grandma asked why i was toiling over this work and commented under her breath that it would be so much easier to buy it. a few minutes later, she kind had to eat her lunch so we hung up the line but i was left alone with a daunting pile of fatty meat to skin. not to be a sap, but i couldn’t help but sulk into sad feelings of realizing that my grandma will never know that a lot of what i do on this blog is in large parts due to her influence in my life through the time we spent together in her kitchen and my grandfather’s garden.

i was still on oxtail piece #5, super dreading trimming the rest because my hands were starting to cramp and i felt a deep blister forming up in my knuckle from hacking away with scissors and a knife for half an hour. maybe it was a combination of being a bit demoralized and exhausted, but i really wanted to stop. i wondered if i could take the rest of what was untrimmed and take it to the butcher and outsource the job or maybe just pick off the fat while eating the soup.

i wonder why i cared so much about having to do the best fat trimming job anyone has ever seen. my hands were getting really slippery from the fat, and my blood was running hot with impatience. maybe my grandma was right – maybe this is all a huge waste of time and energy and it’s better to just take a train up to koreatown and call it a day.

i finished trimming after 45 minutes, and it was finally time to boil, skim, and monitor the stock pot for…another 3 whole hours. i just needed to see it through, and wanted to see how finishing this grueling process would tell me something more about why my grandmother who doesn’t remember much still instinctively can tell anyone that it’s not a good idea to make gomtang.

i honestly wish that i could tell you that gomtang is easy to make, but i haven’t discovered any shortcuts about it yet. this whole experience felt like a rite of passage to realize that my mother and grandmother didn’t have the resources to outsource the grueling process of trimming fat off the meat of a cow’s tail or maybe even a pressure cooker to speed up the boiling process, but they still endured the process of making this soup because it’s delicious and they wanted their husbands, children, and grandchildren to reap the health benefits of amino acids, collagen, calcium, and magnesium that come from extensively boiling oxtail bones.

no rational human being today would go out of their way to make this soup in both the traditional and correct way, except if you’re a bit crazy and do things because your emotions pushed you off the cliff to do it. this soup is really just reserved for those who you really really love and would go out of your way to do all this work for.

i’m sure that once you give this recipe a go, you’ll also develop a deeper appreciation for whoever in your life made gomtang for you. i for sure did.

xo, christine

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kkori gomtang

ingredients

4 pounds cut oxtail

1 medium sized mu peeled and cubed into 1.5 inch thick pieces (korean radish)

4 sprigs green onion chopped

kosher salt to taste

black pepper to taste

water

notes

oxtail prep

  1. remove blood: take the oxtail and give a good rinse under cold water. place in a large bowl with enough water to cover the oxtail. after about 30 minutes, enough blood should have leeched out. rinse off and toss into a stock pot

  2. fat trimming: this is the most labor intensive part that i was complaining about that you should try and outsourcing to your butcher. but if your butcher won’t, start by patting the oxtail pieces dry with a paper towel and trim off excess fat using scissors and a knife. be careful here because the fat not only makes everything more slippery, but the fat can also be stubborn so alternate your tools by using a knife to get larger pieces off and scissors to snip easy chunks of off. once you’re done, give yourself a pat on the back and pour yourself a glass of wine

  3. boil off the blood and initial fat: once all the fat has been trimmed (* sending you high fives from my laptop to your screen *), toss meat into a stock pot with enough water to cover + about 2 extra inches of water. bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes. discard the water and give the meat a good rinse under cold water

the broth (finally)

  1. boil, skim, boil, skim: toss boiled oxtail back into your rinsed stock pot with 12 cups of water. rule of thumb here is 3 cups of water for every pound of meat. bring up to a rolling boil for thirty minutes. bring heat down to medium, skim initial fat off the surface of the water using a large flat spoon. discard the fat. boil on medium heat for another hour and a half - skim the fat off. at this point, toss in the cubed mu (radish) and boil for another 30 minutes

  2. concentrate the flavor: your oxtail and radish have probably provided all the flavor off from the 2.5 hours of boiling. now is the time to reduce the stock down to get a more concentrated flavor. remove the meat and softened radish from pot and set aside. bring the pot up to a medium-high heat and a stronger boil for 30 minutes. once the flavors have been concentrated enough to your liking, then add salt - i used about four tablespoons of kosher salt, but my advice here is to salt in increments, taste, and continue seasoning to your tastebud’s satisfaction

  3. refine: if you want a clean broth, straining will be necessary as i’m sure there’s little floaties of fat and meat that make your broth a bit dirty looking. i covered a large bowl with a cheese cloth, but another idea to use common items is setting a paper towel over a colander set over a large pot. there’s also lining a funnel with a paper towel, i don’t know the sky is the limit here! but do this in the sink just in case you have spillage.

  4. assembly: slice the mu into thinner slices and place inside of a serving bowl with a piece or two of oxtail. then ladle over the stock, top off with green onions and black pepper. serve with rice and kkakdoogi (cubed radish kimichi)

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