The Korean phrase ‘ulken hada’ (얼큰하다), which means ‘it is refreshingly spicy’, is a phrase appropriate for any season. In summertime, Koreans enjoy bowls of hot spicy soup to sweat out the heat. And in the winter, hot spicy soup is consumed to warm up the body. Yukgejang (육개장, shredded beef soup), is the perfect “refreshingly spicy” soup to warm your body.

Gosari (고사리) is the primary vegetable in yukgejang. Gosari is the Korean word for bracken, or fiddlehead ferns. Only the young shoots are eaten.  Sometimes they are sautéed in garlic and set on the dinner table as one of the optional banchan (반찬) on the dinner table, but most Koreans recognize gosari as a crucial ingredient in bibimbap and yukgejang.

I don’t think gosari has any wondrous medicinal benefits, other than as a good source of some minerals and fiber. Someone told me that in the old days Koreans used gosari as a meat substitute, although it’s not a good source of protein. Also, of note, gosari eating populations maybe linked with high rate of stomach cancer.

My girlfriend’s question about the gosari in my bibimbap inspired me to make some yukgejang. Personally, I don’t like making yukgejang, as it is too time intensive. I also think purchasing the ingredients costs more than ordering it at a Korean restaurant. But if you are serving more than two people, do not trust the restaurant ingredients, and/or just want to make this wonderful soup, this is how you do it.

Yukgejang (Korean Shredded Beef Soup)

Main Ingredients:
4 qts. Water
1/2 lbs. Gosari (saeng gosari – 생고사리) *
2 lbs. Flank Steak
6 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 medium Onion, sliced
6 stalks Green Onion, chopped into 3-inch pieces
1/2 lbs. Mung Bean Sprouts, rinsed
2-3 Tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
3 Tbsp. Korean Chili Powder (Gochugaru)

2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 lbs. Pyogo (Shitake) Mushrooms, sliced
1 oz. Dangmyun (당면) or about ½ lbs. reconstituted in warm water.
2 tsp. Hondashi or Dashida**

Total Prep Time: 2-3+ hours

Serves: 4-6

1.       Bring about 4 quarts of cold water along with the flank steak in a stock pot

2.       After about 30 minutes to an hour, take the steak out and put it in a bowl to cool

3.       Skim the blood and other impurities from the beef stock

4.       Add garlic and onion to the stock, and salt and pepper to taste

5.       When the flank steak is cool enough, shred the beef into long strips of about ¼ inch in width

6.       Add beef and gosari into the soup (pyogo mushrooms goes in at this time)

7.       Skim for additional blood and other impurities from the soup

8.       After about an hour of boiling under medium heat, check for more impurities, then add the chili powder, mung bean sprouts, and green onions

9.       Adjust the seasoning or add water to taste with salt (hondashi or dashida, if necessary)

10.   Add the beaten eggs in the soup at the last minute, stir (not too much), and then serve

* Notes: Use saeng gosari to save time. If you can only find the dried kind, soak it in water overnight. You may also cut the gosari and shredded beef into 3 inch length to match the green onions and mung bean sprouts.
** Use hondashi or dashida only if you messed up on the water levels. I do not believe in using them as soup base, but as a flavor enhancing agent of sorts. I mainly use them when I’m pressed for time.

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