Korean Spicy Soup – Soon Du Bu

This is some serious ass kicking soup. It is savory, spicy as hell, and is filling while not being heavy. I had this soup at the Olympus Women’s Spa in their Korean restaurant. I walked in and I saw that the cooks were all Korean and that the Kimchi being served looked pretty authentic. I ordered this dish and was blown away by my first bite. It was so hot (spicy) I had to keep putting my spoon down but like a masochist I kept picking it back up and eating more. It is like an addiction and I was hooked on my first bite.

I quickly went home and looked up a recipe on an american food website. I was not very happy with the results. It called for the use of beef broth and a whole lot of soy sauce and garlic. I should probably say that the soup was pretty good, but it didn’t taste anything like what I’d had at the restaurant. It tasted like what it was, an American version of a dish that had been so neutered it was not even comparable to the original.

So I’ve scoured endlessly for recipes and after a lot of research I put this one together from various other recipes. On my first bite: bliss. You would think that hot spicy soup on a hot day wouldn’t be such a great idea, but take a tip from people living in warm climates. It clears the pores and really gets you sweating. After 15 minutes of eating this, you’ll actually feel cooler.

This recipe has two parts. First you make a stock. It will be enough for 5 people. If you prefer, you can use just one serving and refrigerate the rest of the stock for a week or so. And that way, if you like it, you’ll have soup for many days to come with very little work. The second part of the recipe is to take the stock, and marry it with the other ingredients to make the final dish.

For the Stock:

-12 whole dried anchovies (you can find them in Uwajimaya next to the dried bonito flakes)
-1/3 cups of Dashi Kombu or dried Kelp – just eyeball it, it comes in sheets of varying sizes
-5 or 6 button mushrooms – rinsed
-1/2 of a medium onion – peeled
-5 to 6 cloves of garlic – peeled

1) Into a medium soup pot put 5 to 5.5 cups of water and turn on the burner to high. For the anchovies you’ll need a tea strainer or some cheese cloth to wrap it in. We are using it for the flavor but it won’t be eaten. Rip off the heads and throw them into the cheese cloth. Rip from just right behind the head angling towards the belly. We want to rip out and throw away the stomach area. It will make the stock bitter. Keep the remainder of the anchovy and throw it in with the heads. Wrap and tie the cheese cloth around the anchovies so they don’t fall out. Throw it into the pot of water along with the kelp, whole mushrooms, unchopped onion half, and garlic. Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a fast simmer for 30 minutes.

For the Soon Du Bu: the following ingredients are per serving, scale accordingly

-about 3 ounces of raw beef – sliced against the grain, thinly
-1 green onion – sliced thinly
-1/2 carton of Soon Tofu (or any other extra soft tofu you have on hand)
-1 Tbs fish sauce + more to taste
-between 1.5 tsp to 1 Tbs hot pepper flakes or ground
-Soy sauce – to taste
-1 tsp olive oil
-1 egg

-1 cup of soup stock (other ingredients strained out)
-some of the garlic from the stock pot or fresh garlic – minced
-a mushroom or two from the stock pot or fresh mushroom – chopped finely

1) In a soup pan of accommodating size add the olive oil over high heat. Throw the sliced beef in the pan and stir quickly. Before it starts to brown, add the garlic. When it has cooked, add the mushroom. Lower the heat if needed to keep things from burning. If your mushrooms are wet from being in the stock already, you can proabably keep the heat on high. Let things cook for a bit. Add the hot pepper flakes and fish sauce. If you are brave, give it a taste, you want it to be very spicy and salty at this point because we’re going to be adding a lot more stuff to the pot and very little salt. Before it gets a chance to start searing, add 1 cup of the soup stock. Bring it to a hard boil

2) Using a spoon, break up the tofu into large bites. Add it to the stock. Wait for a boil again. Add the green onion and once it is at a rapid boil, quickly turn off the heat. Crack the egg and give it a quick stir to disperse it and break the yolk. We don’t want egg drop soup type eggs. If you pull it off the heat, stir quickly and pour it directly into a cool bowl, your egg will not scramble but will cook and thicken the soup. It will give a wonderful velvety mouthfeel. Pour a tiny drizzle of sesame oil over everything. Serve this soup with some brown rice and soy sauce so people can adust the saltyness as needed. It should be hot and relatively salty.

Here’s a picture of the type of seaweed and tofu you’ll want to use. I found all of it at Uwajimaya:

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