Korean Wife Camp: Korean-Style Chicken Soup

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korean wife camp recipes

My usual staple chicken stock recipe is courtesy of the domestic goddess to end all goddesses, lady Ina Garten herself. (Bow down, people, and hail your queen.) But her method, while delicious and consistent, requires a whole day and night of time and energy. Which I can spare maybe once every three or four months in pursuit of a ginormous bulk batch of her nectar. It’s kind of a lot of work.

In between those times, this Korean-style chicken soup, or dak guk (닭 국), adapted from Maangchi.com) takes but a laid-back hour to make, and is incredibly soothing and delicious given how dead easy it is to make. I mean, who ever heard of one-hour chicken stock that was full-bodied and tasty as hell?! It’s almost good enough to completely supplant my beloved Barefoot Contessa stock. Almost. 

What I also love about this recipe, is that it makes better use of the ingredients, and produces less food waste. It always chaps my ass to fish out, strain, and throw out (or even compost) the stewed-past-death chicken carcasses, dried out meat, and baby-food mush veggies when making Ina’s recipe… but this one avoids that, giving second life to the ingredients that make it so flavorful and hearty in the first place.

dak guk korean chicken soup recipe

What you’ll need:
(serves 4)

For the broth:
2 chicken breasts (I’ve made this with boneless, skinless breasts and, as pictured, a spatchcocked double breast on the bone. Both were totally delicious, so it’s up to you! I use breasts because they’re healthier, and easy to shredm… but you could use legs, if you’re more of a dark meat connoisseur.)
16 whole cloves of garlic – skinned. (Do you know about this method of peeling large quantities of garlic? You’re welcome!)
1 medium/large onion – halved and quartered, skin on
2-3 Tbs ginger – sliced roughly
16 cups water
2 Tbs fish sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – wayyy less additives than others. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)
1 Tbs salt

For the chicken topping:
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper – ground
2 Tbs sesame oil

For optional spice:
2 Tbs gochugaru powder
2 tsp sesame oil
cayenne pepper (to taste)

dak guk dalk kug korean chicken soup recipe

Brace yourselves for how easy this is, because at first blush, it appears too good to be true.

Put the first four ingredients into a stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, uncovered.

After an hour, remove the solids, reserving the chicken and garlic. The ginger and onion can enjoy a trip to the compost or trash.

Add the fish sauce and Tablespoon of salt to the stock, and stir. It will have reduced to about 12 cups at this point. Now taste that shit. Can you believe that only took one hour?! The stock is now DONE.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use your hands to pull it into shreds. Don’t snack on it just yet.

Place the garlic cloves into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a fork. Mix in the sesame oil, salt and pepper, and then massage the garlic oil paste into the chicken meat. This gives the chicken an incredibly moist consistency, perfumed with so much aromatic flavor… it’s addictive. Snack on some now. Marvel at what you have created. Then, stop snacking. You want there to be plenty for your assembled soup!

dak gook korean chicken soupI personally like to gently sauté sliced carrots and celery and add them to the broth for a bit more veggie bite and fiber – but carrots and celery are my chicken soup favorites. You could do this with any vegetables of your preference, or give veggies the middle finger and let the chicken and stock speak for themselves. If you do add veg, once they’ve reached your desired level of doneness, hit them with a splash of soy sauce for a bit of extra umami caramelization. Then just layer them into your serving bowl with some chicken, ladle on some stock, and enjoy the simple, rich, soul-soothing properties!

This recipe is extra brilliant, because you can make it in advance, which makes it great for entertaining or daily lunches! Just keep the chicken, broth, and veggies (if you use them) in separate containers in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the stock to a simmer, and pour it over the chicken as you serve. Easy peasy. And oh, so good.

For those of you who enjoy a bit more spice in life, here are two ways to heat things up a bit:
1. sprinkle whatever veggies you sauté with cayenne while they’re cooking.
2. make a paste using 2 Tablespoons Gochugaru (korean red chili flakes) and 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a bowl. You can add some to the chicken when mixing in the garlic, or just spoon it directly into your soup. Or both! Which is what I do. Mmmmm.

I hope you try this. It might just change your life forever.

If you do, come back and let me know how it went! Until next time…. 안녕히계세요! (Goodbye!)


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