My daughter called me the other day and asked me to post my Bugeo (dried pollock) Gook (Guk) recipe because she wanted to make some for herself in her dorm. This is always one of the first things she asks me to make when she comes home from college. Bugeo Gook is also one of the easiest and quickest Korean soups to make and is very popular because of its soothing and tummy warming taste. When I write these posts, sometimes I really wish there were more English words that can accurately describe the various ways Koreans express taste and texture. Koreans often describe the taste of this soup as 시원하다 (she-won-hada) which, when literally translated, means “cool” or “refreshing”.
How can a soup that is piping hot be “cooling?” But when Koreans eat a soup that somehow feels like it reaches all the way down to your stomach, leaving you a clearing feeling, we say it tastes 시원하다. I looked up the word in the dictionary and it listed the following words – cool, refreshing, reviving, invigorating, clean, clear. And I would say it is the combination of all these words and more that expresses the true taste sensation.
The quality of the bugeo makes a huge difference in the taste of this soup. We get our bugeo usually from Korea so I can’t tell you about any specific brand I buy here but my advice is to buy the ones that are not too dry and not too hard (when they are too dry, they become hard like rocks and taste like paper) Buy those that are still a little soft and moist. If you can taste one before you buy, that is the best. It should taste good just by itself. If it tastes kind of like nothing, then it is too old and too dry and lost its taste. The color is not all that important because it is hard to say which ones are better with just the color. Because HwangTae (yellow dried pollock) is popular and is also more expensive, some sellers actually color their dried pollock with food coloring.
OK, let’s get cooking…
Cooking Time: 20 min. Prep Time: 10 min. Servings: 2-3
- 2 handfuls of Bugeo (dried pollock) strips or 1 whole Bugeo
- 5 C anchovy stock
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 C sliced Korean radish (daikon radish is also OK) – optional
- 1/4 onion, sliced
- 2-3 green onions
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 T chopped garlic
- salt and pepper
1. You can either use a whole Bugeo and cut it into 1 1/2 inch pieces or tear them into strips like the picture on the right.
Strips are easier to eat when cooked so I like using strips. You can sometimes buy bugeo strips in packages so you may want to buy them instead of going through the trouble of tearing them into pieces.
2. Prepare anchovy stock. See my tips page on how to make stock in advance.
3. Prepare the vegetables. Cut radish by first slicing a 1 inch thick round piece. Then cut it into halves and then into square pieces. Cut onions and green onions as shown below:
4. We are ready to start the soup! Turn the heat to medium high and add about 2 handfuls of bugeo strips (shown below):
5. When the soup starts to boil, lower the heat and add onions, radish and garlic. Stir and let it simmer for 15 minutes or so until the radish and onions are fully soft.
6. Add green onions. After they have cooked for a couple minutes, add the beaten egg to the soup. Season with about 1 tsp of salt, taste it and adjust to taste. Because the pollock is salty, you will not need a lot of salt. Sprinkle some black pepper.
7. Add sesame oil and turn off the heat. Sesame oil loses a lot of the flavor and aroma when it’s cooked so remember to add it at the very end right before or after you turn off the heat.
Some variations and tips –
- add a dried red chili pepper or some red chili powder to spice things up
- some people like to add tofu (1/2 C or so) and/or soy bean sprouts (kongnamul 콩나물) to the soup to add extra flavor and texture
- you can use water instead of stock if you don’t have anchovies
- if you find that the soup doesn’t taste as good, chances are you haven’t put enough bugeo or garlic. Increase these amounts and most likely your soup will taste much better.