Ox-bone soup

Seolleongtang 설렁탕

Ox bone soup is very popular all year round in Korea, but especially in the winter. This is my mother’s recipe. When I was young, sometimes in the winter she used to make us drink it every morning and every night until we got tired of it. “It’s good for your body, take some, you will grow taller” : )

In Korea, ox leg bones (called sagol 사골) are very expensive. When I came to America for the first time about 20 years ago, I couldn’t believe these bones were so cheap!

The milky broth is achieved by simmering for hours and hours. There’s no rule for how many hours you have to boil it, but you need simmer until you get a milky broth, and the bones are smooth with no more meat sticking to them. All the bone marrow should be boiled away so that there’s a cavity in the center of each bone. The inside of the bones should look like a sponge.

Koreans like to joke that if a Korean husband sees his wife making this soup, he starts to get nervous. He knows he’s going to be eating the soup for days or even weeks!

“Why she is making this? Is she going to leave home for days? Maybe she will visit her parents or take a trip with her friends?”

So, when he sees the wife boiling bone soup, he may say ask: “Where are you going?” : )

It’s served with rice and kimchi; you don’t need many side dishes when you serve this. If you keep this soup in the fridge, and warm rice in the rice cooker, and some kimchi and beef portioned out in the fridge, you’ll have instant meals for a long time, all you have to do is heat it up. I heard that some American housewives do a similar thing with lasagna. They make a big batch before they go away, so their husbands and children will have delicious food to eat until they come back.

Don’t ask me: “Maangchi, I want to make only 1 bowl of this soup.” This is the smallest batch of ox-bone soup that I can imagine! I used to make it with 10 pounds of bones: ) So just make a lot, and eat it over a few days.

Ingredients (for 6 servings)

2½ pounds of ox bones, 2 pounds beef flank (or brisket or round), water, Korean radish (or daikon radish), onion, green onions, kosher salt, black ground pepper, toasted sesame oil.

Directions

  1. Soak the ox bones and the beef in cold water for 20 minutes to remove any blood.
  2. Rinse bones in cold water a couple of times to remove any bone chips. Drain the water.
  3. Boil 14 cups water (3½ quarts) in a large pot
  4. Put the bones and beef into the pot of boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and take out the bones and beef. Get rid of the water.
  6. Rinse and drain the meat in cold water to remove the excess fat.
  7. If you only have one pot to use, clean it thoroughly with kitchen soap.
  8. Put the bones and the beef back into the pot
  9. Add about 12 cups of water (3 quarts), 1 medium size onion, and 1½ pounds of peeled radish to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  10. When it starts boiling about 20-30 minutes later, lower the heat to simmer for 3 hours.
  11. Turn off the heat and take the beef and radish out of the pot. Leave the bones behind.
  12. Put the beef and radish into a bowl.
  13. Pour the brownish broth out of the pot and into a large bowl. We’re going to keep boiling these bones and collect the broth into this collecting bowl as we go along. Keep it in the fridge during this process.
    If you have a larger pot, you could keep boiling the bones and adding water over hours and hours, but with a small pot we need to do it in stages and collect in this collecting bowl.
  14. Fill the pot with water again (about 3 quarts) and boil over medium high heat for about 20 minutes. When it starts boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours.
  15. Turn off the heat, open the lid, and pour the broth into the collecting bowl. It will be a lot whiter than the first time we poured it out. 
  16. Fill your pot with water again and boil over medium high heat for about 20 minutes. When it starts boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours.
  17. Turn off the heat, open the lid, and pour the broth into the collecting bowl. This time it will be really white, but thin.
  18. Cool down the collecting bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Keep it in the refrigerator for several hours until all the fat floats to the top and gets solid. This is going to be our bone soup.

Let’s serve!

  1. Take the bone soup out of the fridge. Remove the solid fat from the top with a spoon or strainer.
  2. Slice the cooked beef thinly, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut radish into ¼ inch thick slices
  3. Reheat the bone soup and ladle the soup into a serving bowl.
  4. Add a few slices of the beef and radish to the soup. Serve with warm rice and kimchi, along with chopped green onions, minced garlic, kosher salt, and black ground pepper.
  5. Add some salt, chopped green onion, and black ground pepper to the soup. Mix it well with your spoon. You can add warm rice to the soup and enjoy!*tip: The amount of salt you put in depends on your taste, but I suggest starting with 1 ts and adding more if it’s too bland.

Spicy version:

  1. Tear about 1 cup worth of cooked beef into thin strips. Put them in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 2 tbs chopped green onion, 2 ts soy sauce, 2 ts hot pepper flakes, a pinch of black ground pepper, and 2 ts toasted sesame oil. Mix it well with a spoon.
  3. Ladle the boiling soup into a serving bowl and add a few slices of radish and the mixture of seasoned beef.
  4. Serve with warm rice, kosher salt, and kimchi.

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140 Comments:

  1. Hi Maangchi! I was wondering if it’s the process of pouring out the broth and refilling it with water, that makes the broth milky white.

    I made it, let’s say, the lazy way: I just boiled the bones in a large stock pot with lots of water. I ended up with a very yellowish broth, not white at all!

    Thanks :)

  2. OrionUnas Victoria, Canada BC joined 5/11 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maanchi, it is me again, elusive Orion looking for help! I recently learned that my girlfriend (from korea) may be expecting my child. Well, I am very happy to hear this, and I would like to celebrate by cooking some delicious food for her. In Korea, what is recommended I cook to promote a healthy baby, and to help my girlfriend’s struggle?

    I thought maybe a soup, but is there something better?

    Thank you very much!

    Orion.

  3. Urahara Canada joined 8/11 & has 5 comments

    Hello Maangchi,
    I’m trying to find Seolleongtang in your books but I can’t find it in either of the 3, is it scheduled for book #4?

  4. bec_lee Sydney, Australia joined 8/11 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I love your website! How would I adjust this meal for 45 people? I have to cook a meal for our church in two weeks time and I was thinking of making this but didn’t want to stuff the meal up!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      ow ow, this soup is a great choice for a large group! This recipe is for 4-6 serving and it says “2.5 pounds of ox bones, 2 pounds beef flank (or brisket or round),” so you will need about 28 pounds of ox bones (about 13 kilograms and 22 pounds of beef brisket.

      Make a lot and boil it for a few days until you get milky broth. Add more water as needed. Take the meat out when it gets tender and keep it in the fridge. Otherwise, the meat will be overcooked and it will turn mushy.

      Serve with rice and kkakdugi. Check out my kkakdugi recipe that I posted today. https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kkakdugi

      If you serve this soup for the people, please update me and upload the photo, if you can.

      • bec_lee Sydney, Australia joined 8/11 & has 2 comments

        Yeah – I had a chat with my mum. My mum is going to cook beef soup this week (because we don’t want to have 45 hungry people if I stuff it up!). I will then give your recipe a try and if it works, will make it for church next time (will definitely post a pic of this!)

        Thanks so much Maangchi! :)

  5. shanluvkfood Singapore joined 7/11 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!!! I tried this recipe yesterday and it was super yummy!!!!! Though I couldn’t find Ox bone in Singapore so I substitute it with Ox Tail, It still turned out pretty good!!!
    (Ox tail can’t make the soup look milky white tho). My husband loves Korean food so much that I’ve tried making dishes from your website quite a few times. All the recipes I’ve tried here were great successes. Thank you very much!!!

  6. I’m going to try this recipe sometime this week :)! How much do ox bones usually cost? I was at my local Korean market today and it was about $0.70 a pound, is that a fair price?

  7. skseoul3 oahu joined 7/11 & has 1 comment

    When I make this, I tend to get a lot of yucky looking reddish/brownish crud in the broth. I thought maybe I didn’t soak the bones and meat in cold water long enough to remove the blood, so I tried soaking for few hours, and still same result. What am I doing wrong?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      Nothing wrong.
      Did you do the step 14 in the recipe?
      “Fill your pot with more water and boil another 2-3 hours”
      Repeat this 2 or 3 times. The first batch is usually a little dark, but the second and the third batch will be whiter.

      The first batch of soup is usually not milky. If you like to see the difference, pour the soup from the first batch into a stainless bowl and set aside. Then fill the pot with cold water and boil it for hours. You will see the color of the soup is so milky and white. Then add the soup from the first batch to the second batch. This is the method for making a large quantity of bone soup.

      Basically if you keep boiling the soup and adding more water, the soup will get milky.

  8. Tokki123 Rural nsw Australia joined 6/11 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi – I boiled my sa-gol for >20 hours….and it’s still not milky white!!!
    It tastes alright, and leaves a sticky feeling on your lips? (when cooled in the fridge, it actually turned into jelly…) what did i do wrong??

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      Hello Tokki123! : )
      “when cooled in the fridge, it actually turned into jelly…)” It sounds like yours is well done! Add more water and keep boiling until it gets milky.

    • Buttercup California joined 6/11 & has 1 comment

      There is quite a bit of collagen in some cuts of meat like oxtails. (I haven’t tried cooking ox bones but I think it pretty similar– maybe just less collagen. Seems like you got a collagen-filled piece though!) Collagen turns gelatinous in the fridge. Just heat it up and it will be fine. It should dissolve. You can also dilute it with water. The sticky felling is also just the collagen. Yum!

  9. Hello. What is the red spicy paste called in korean that you use to put in this soup to make it spicy? It is like a paste texture.

  10. beccaeats vancouver,bc joined 5/11 & has 1 comment

    I wanted to say thank you for this recipe! I’m going to try it soon. I had this at a Korean restaurant yesterday and I could not figure out how they got the soup so white!

  11. JamieF New Zealand joined 1/11 & has 120 comments

    I am going to make it today – I can’t believe it takes 12 hours! Longest soup ever. I bought the ox bones at the Korean grocery in Wellington – it is made by a Korean butcher in Auckland and was expensive ($18 for 1.3 kg).

  12. Sylvia joined 9/08 & has 78 comments

    Rainy, rainy night, I’ve got a big pot of bones on the stove, we will have delicious soup tomorrow.

    Also, I was thinking that Korean women must have a lower rate of osteoporosis because of all the calcium in this soup.

  13. Hi Maangchi I made the Ox bone soup Yesterday and I got it. I didn’t lower too much the hit, I put medium low hit, and it cooks really well =) I would like to show you a picture but I don’t know how

  14. Hello. Big fan of your site. I’ve admired the pictures and recipes for awhile now. Had Seolleongtang at a restaurant called Sul Lung Tang where I live in Washington state. I fell in love, lol.

    There’s an H-Mart nearby, so I bought some beef shank bones and Korean radish. I plan on simmering my bone soup tomorrow, as I clean the house. I’m excited but a little nervous that I might not get the milky color desired, as some people have had problems. I’m sure it will be delicious either way.

    Thank you for this recipe, and all the work you put in to this website.

    -Derek

  15. yanchi Atlanta, Ga joined 1/11 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    How come I can’t get the milky white consistency in the ox bone soup? I let it simmer for 3 hours and it is still yellowish looking.

    Thanks.

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