Sunday, January 22, 2006

Galbi Tank

It goes to show you can never trust what you see on telly - not even the website of a television station!

There are a few cuisines which I have never tried to reproduce. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps because of my lack of familiarity with the true taste of that country's cuisine. Or maybe I am intimidated by the exotic ingredients or simply that they were unavailable to me. Whatever it is, I have never cooked Korean food.

To be honest, I am not terribly fond of Korean food. Or so I thought until a Korean friend cooked me a homecooked meal and I was absolutely enthralled. All that time I thought Korean food was just kimchi and barbeques! I do like Korean ginseng chicken soup and some of their beef dishes now although some of them can be too heavy for my tastebuds.

The recent Korean drama serial, Jewel of the Palace, took Asia by storm. I had no clue what all these dreamy-eyed women were raving about until I caught the show one night. They had food in it! That was it. I was watching it!

I did not care for the sappy love story, simpering acting or the melodramatic plot but the scenes of the kitchen maids cooking in the royal kitchen were positively engrossing. I was hooked on all the food and also the medicinal practices depicted in this movie. Since then I have experienced sporadic cravings for Korean food. Something that has never happened before till I watch this show.

So recently, when I came across the Korean television channel website, KBS, and discovered that they had a section on traditional Korean food, I was thrilled. I decided to try out Galbi Tang which is a beef short rib soup with daikon radishes. Admittedly, daikon radishes are not my favourite vegetables since the only way I eat them is as a garnish in Japanese food, but I just wanted to try something different. To wok outside the envelop, as it were.

The ingredients looked fairly simple and, at a quick glance, so was the cooking method. I now wish I had studied the recipe a lot harder.

I set forth to Tekka Market to buy the beef short ribs and the obliging butcher cut them to 2 inch cubes for me as asked for in the recipe. After purchasing the daikon radish and the spring onions, I was set as I had everything else in my pantry. This was turning out to be quite an economical meal as the beef short ribs only cost me $5 and the vegetables were less than a dollar!

At home, I started organising my mise en place ... and then it struck me. The recipe is awfully ambiguous and from the looks of it, the beef will be boiled to death. Which means that the beef will be tough and tasteless, no? Against all my misgivings, I decided to try to follow the recipe exactly so I can really experience the true taste of Korean cuisine. I wish I had followed my usual course of adulterating recipes instead. Sigh.

Galbi Tang (Korean Beef Short Rib Soup)
450g beef short rib - cut into 2 inch cubes with bone in

1/3 piece daikon radish
- what kind of lame measurement is that? I used about 1 1/2 cups of daikon because it looked unbalanced otherwise against that much meat
3 cloves garlic
10 whole peppercorns

- I used 18 instead. I did chuck in 10 and when I saw how sad they looked, I got another 8 and threw them in
1 tsp soy sauce

- they did not specify dark or light but since the recipe uses light for the marinate I decided to use light soy sauce as well

2 1/2 tsp light soy sauce

- I ended up using 3 as there was not enough liquid to coat all the meat
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp black pepper

- I have no clue how much I finally used but it was a lot as I found this dish too bland
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced green onion

- I reckoned they meant spring onions

Dipping Sauce
4 tbsp hot chilli pepper powder
- are there any other kind?
3 tbsp beef stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
- again no indication of what kind so I assumed they meant light soy
3 tbsp minced green onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
Sesame seed with salt, pepper, salt to taste

1. Cut deep slits into the meat

2. Let the meat bleed out in cold water. (Their words)
3. Blanch the meat in hot boiling water to clear any residual blood
4. Cut up the daikon into 3cm or 1 1/2 inch chunks
5. Place the beef in a pot and cover it with water to completely submerge it
6. Bring to the boil and skim off the scum.
(At this point I know the meat is going to be drained out of whatever flavour it has)
7. Lower the heat and let it simmer
(With what? It's going to be water-flavoured beef at this rate!)

8. Once it is boiling again, add the daikon, spring onions (So soon? Wouldn't they be deader than Liberace from such overcooking?), garlic (I assumed they meant the whole cloves) and the whole peppercorns (Now you flavour the meat after it's been boiled to death? I was not impressed but I pushed on)

9. Take the daikon out when cooked and cut into 1/3 inch chunks
(What? What was the point in adding it earlier then and in that size? Why didn't they just cut the damn things into 1/3 inch in the 1st place and add them in only at this stage? Because now all you'll get is overcooked daikon! For goodness sake ...)

10. Put the daikon and beef in a bowl and add the marinade and toss well to coat (there was not enough marinade so I added in another 1/2 tbsp of soy. By now I was thinking this recipe is silly, so I tossed in the garlic as well because I knew the beef was going to need all the flavour and tenderising it needed)
11. Set aside
12. Chill the soup to harden the fat so you can remove it
(At first I thought this may be a tad unnecessary but then I thought it is a much healthy option although it makes the recipe that much more time intensive)
13. Once you have removed the fat, reheat the soup.
(At this point you are supposed to add the minced garlic but I didn't as I wanted it to work a little longer on the beef and daikon)
14. Season the soup with the salt and pepper. (I found the soup still so bland that I added in half a cube of beef stock instead as well as the salt & pepper)
15. Bring the soup to the boil

16. Add the beef and radish
17. Bring to the boil (again???) and serve hot

That's it?? I was incredibly disappointed. I think this culinary treatment of beef short ribs is nothing short of criminal. There are no clear indications of time measurements, daikon were also abused and there is really no logic that I can think of for the cooking processes listed.

The dipping sauce tried valiantly to salvage the tough and tasteless meat but it was just inadequate. Which is what this whole recipe is. Inadequate. If I had not added the beef stock cube in the broth, it would have tasted like watered down Bovril. The daikon were overcooked and mushy and I just knew I had to salvage this meal somehow.

I broke a duck egg on top of some steamed rice and sprinkled some spring onions on top. I then ladled the soup over the egg to coddle it. I plated the daikon and ribs around the egg so that it looked like the sun that had fallen to the earth.

This did give the dish some added dimension and taste but I must say it still was not my favourite dish. The meat was so tough that I knew I would have to cook it a lot longer in order to pass muster, i.e. my lips again. I ended up drinking most of the soup and eating the daikon with the egg and rice.

I am going to "reconstitute" this dish tomorrow as I have so much left over. However, as is, this dish gets a 5/10 for taste and a 8/10 for health since we removed the fat.

Well, that will teach me to trust what I see on the telly ... website.

Categories - In Hot Soup, Meat Me For Dinner


Blogger Anthony said...

Ha what a storming critique.

The treatment of the beef ribs does seem odd. What I think is that they've taken a recipe for oxtail, which does require all that soaking etc. You shouldn't have to do this with beef ribs (or at the most, brown them a little in the oven first)

9:23 am  
Blogger MM said...

Yeah ... I was that pissed off!

I totally agree with you. If the cut was an oxtail it may have warranted such culinary misconduct but what did the short ribs ever do to the Koreans???

Nice to hear from you ... er, no pressure about the meme. I'm so subtle ...

12:38 am  
Anonymous M-J said...

While i've yet to try out this recipe but at a hurried a glance it looks like the soy sauce should be in TBSP instead of TSP(you can increase the amount to taste).I'd imagine this recipe was written by a Korean so bear with their lack of detail as they wouldn't know any better. I'd recommend Sempyo Korean Soy Sauce. You can get them from some specialty supermarkets, some of the Jusco supermarkets might stock them. Daikon is used to sweeten the flavour of soups in Korean cooking. You can eat them if you want to but bear in mind it's not a feature of the dish. Minced garlic is added later to give it a more robust kick.Unlike in Chinese cooking,garlic is often eaten raw or minced and mixed into cooked vegetables in Korean cooking.The longer the soup simmers, the more tender the meat gets and the more flavourful as you boil out the flavour from the bones. From experience beef ribs get tough if not boiled long enough. i'm not sure about the part on boiling the daikon and then cutting them out after cooking it first.i'd have to check with my Korean mother :-)

9:53 am  
Anonymous stu said...

the dish is acually very good, they had you cook it too long. If you want some good korean dishes just google korean recipes, there is one called korean cookbook.

3:35 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home