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!

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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, salt, black ground pepper, 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, 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 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, salt, and kimchi.

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137 Comments:

  1. k_b joined 4/11 & has 1 comment

    To make the spicy version of this soup, can I use the kimchi red pepper flakes I have?
    Or do I need to buy a different kind?

    Thank you : )

  2. JoJo2013 Talent, OR joined 3/13 & has 1 comment

    Thank you soooooo much for this recipe! I am originally from LA and I grew up in the Korea Town area. This is my favorite KOREAN soup, I live here in Oregon now and there are no Korean restaurants so it’s been at least 8 years since I’ve had this!!!! Can’t wait to make my own!

  3. MeeAe Colorado joined 2/13 & has 11 comments

    Ok for those of you who are confused about ox bones vs beef bones, they are basically the same. They still call the grocery cuts of bone “ox” still, but it always was just male beef cuts. Nowadays the same male cattle that have been castrated are known as steer. They are used for meat. They are all the same. Beef. The only males not castrated are called Bulls, and they are only kept un-castrated for the sake of breeding (those lucky ones :) so…ox bones are beef bones.

  4. amgranad FL joined 2/13 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi, Is this the same as ox-tail soup? Have you tried using a pressure cooker for this? Does it make a difference?

  5. Oboro-chan Indonesia joined 1/13 & has 1 comment

    Hello! I made this one with your recipe last month for my friends and they love it! But the thing is, my broth doesnt look as milky as yours.. I wonder why? I followed every instruction you made.. Is it possible that i didnt soak the meat and bones long enough?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,670 comments

      That’s normal. yes, the first batch will be brownish but the second and the third batch will be white milky broth. Please read step 13.14, and15 in the recipe.
      “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.
      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.
      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.”

    • Jin Na Texas joined 7/13 & has 1 comment

      Hi! My first attempt in making this soup didn’t turn out milky either but I got a milky one on my second try. I used beef leg bones and boiled it in moderate boil. It is in moderately boiling it that you get the milky results. I also refilled it with water once the level of the water down. I put the soup in the fridge to coagulate the fat and so it made it easier to remove. I put the rest of my soup in the freezer future use. Hope that helps.

  6. neha0405 GA joined 1/13 & has 1 comment

    hey i was curious about if you could use cow leg bones instead of ox bone will it be ok? By the way the dish looks delicious.

  7. MichelleKim California joined 11/12 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    So I am about to try your ox bone soup recipe but with oxtails instead of regular beef bones. My question is, can I still achieve the white milky broth with these oxtails??

    Thanks!

  8. cnsal321 USA joined 11/12 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes.
    I have a question on step 9 and 10.

    9. When it starts boiling about 20-30 minutes later, lower the heat to simmer for 3 hours
    10. Turn off the heat and take the beef and radish out of the pot. Put them into a bowl or container. There may be some white milky broth left in the pot. If so, pour it into a large bowl.

    Are you saying that after step 9, almost all the 12 cups of water will be gone ? only a small amount left that i can save ?
    thanks.
    Ann.

  9. sugarpunch joined 5/11 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi! My dad doesn’t eat beef because he’s allergic, and my mum thinks cows are cute, so she doesn’t eat beef either. Will pork bones work also in giving the broth a milky white texture?

    I know if I use pork bones instead, it won’t be called Seollongtang anymore, but the soup just looks so nutritious and I want to cook it for my parents. Thanks!

  10. tingc888 california joined 8/12 & has 2 comments

    Can this be made with a slow cooker instead of on the stove?

    • tingc888 california joined 8/12 & has 2 comments

      I guess I can respond to my own question since I decided to try it out. The answer is no, slow cookers do not work. I don’t have an explanation to the reasons why, though (maybe the agitation of boiling water is needed?). The broth came out a deep brown after 12 hrs, so I think slow cooker is a good way to get a western-style beef broth at least. :)

  11. gail79 Adelaide, Australia joined 5/12 & has 4 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    I understand the recipe is called ‘ox-bone soup’ but are beef bones the same thing? Or can they be substituted? I’m not entirely sure if Australian butchers have ox. I don’t want to spend all that time boiling bones and find out that i’ve gone out and bought the wrong thing. Wanna make something warming and comforting before our winter here in this hemisphere ends! Thank you.

  12. joie philippines joined 7/12 & has 2 comments

    hello maangchi, i just wondering if there’s any substitute of the ox bone for making the ox bone soup. i’m barely thanks for your reply. i just love your website.

  13. Sylvia joined 9/08 & has 78 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    I am giggling to myself, this is my third post about seolleongtang, I actually make it often. Sometimes I use it as a base stock for muguk.
    Today I am making a pot of ox bone soup for my mother who will visit me this week. We have just found out she has a rare cancer that is making her bones weak. This soup will be good for her bones because it is full of calcium.
    She is not Korean but enjoys Korean food.

  14. Kerry NY joined 3/12 & has 1 comment

    Hi, I have a question… In steps 4-6 why do you boil for 10 minutes and throw the water out? nutrients aren’t lost that way are they? And why do you rinse off spare fat then, too? I see the soup ends up with plenty of fat so its not to avoid fat or anything… I’m sorry for the questions, I’m new to cooking and can’t wait to be trying this fabulous sounding recipe. For nutrition i will be buying some 100% organic grass fed/finished beef bones & knuckles to make a super-nutritious broth and this looks perfect.

    Thank you for your advice/insight.

  15. indelibledotink Honolulu joined 5/11 & has 19 comments

    wow does this take a long time to make! i got the milky broth with the third boil of soup. there is a depth of flavor that is really tasty!

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