Korea is known for its hundreds of different kinds of soup. When I say ‘a hundred different kinds,’ I’m not exaggerating. To sum up the Korean comfort food in one, the answer will easily be “Gukbap.” Gukbap is literally translated as “soup and rice.” These soups are served in black clay pots called “Ttukbaegi,” which is a type of earthenware pottery. The use of ttukbaegi is dated to the Goryeo dynasty (918 ~ 1392) and can easily be found in historical K-Dramas. The essence of these Korean traditional pots is that they do a wonderful job of trapping the heat and keeping the soup inside boiling hot for a long while.
As I said, Korea treats Gukbaps as the comfort food of the whole country. How much the country loves these soups can be proven by each province in Korea having its own representative Gukbap. Seoul is known for its Seolleongtang (Ox Bone Soup), Chungcheong province for Soondae Gukbap (Korea Sausage Soup), Gyeongsang province for Dwaeji Gukbap (Pork Soup), and finally, Jeolla province is famous for its Kongnamul Gukbap (Bean Sprout Soup). Jeolla-do is brilliant when it comes to food, Jeonju city in particular. And one of the must-have dishes you need to try on your trip there is the Bean Sprout Soup that has a special twist of Jeonju’s own.
The unique features that Jeonju Kongnamul Gukbap has are the diced squid for a more refreshing soup base, the cooking method straight from the Ttukbaegi pot, and one fresh egg dropped on serving as a cherry on top! The way these dishes are cooked is quite fascinating as well. The Ttukbaegi is placed on high heat, all ingredients are thrown together, and it’s then ready to serve! As it goes out to the customer, a raw egg is dropped into the pot and the ttukbaegi does its job of boiling all ingredients together. You can have the dish without mixing the egg in the soup for a clean base, and then mix in the egg later for richer flavours.
Forks Over Knives
Fun fact, Kongnamul Gukbap has been introduced in National Geographic and CNN as one of the best foods to overcome hangovers with. Korea’s drinking culture is highlighted as one of the most intense worldwide, even having dishes called “hangover soups.” Kongnamul Gukbap is one of the many that Koreans search for after a crazy night out. With bean sprouts filled with amino acids like Asparagine, its ability to break down alcohol in the body is outstanding. If you’re a party animal who knows how to enjoy your night outs, this recipe could come in handy! (FYI, don’t worry if you don’t have a Ttukbaegi laying around at your place. It’ll taste just as fine without it 😂)
1) Cut up the broth ingredients into big slices and boil in 2L of water for 10 mins. This is optional for when you want an authentic Kongnamul Gukbap! You can use tap water to make things easier.
2) Boil the bean sprouts in a separate pot of water for 3 mins only. Rinse in cold water straight away to keep the crunchiness.
3) In the water left from boiling the beansprouts, blanch the squid for 1 min only - if cooked for too long, it will become too chewy and hard!
4) Once blanched enough, dice the squid into small pieces and put them aside.
5) In a ttukbaegi or a normal pot on high heat, put in the broth (or water), bean sprouts, and squid to boil. You can optionally add your steamed rice in the pot instead of serving on the side.
6) Once the soup starts to boil, put in all the seasoning ingredients. If you like some spice, you can chop up chilli pepper and add it for a subtle kick!
7) After about 5-10mins, put the pot off the heat and drop a raw egg in the soup before serving with a side of a steamed bowl of rice.
Of course, you can add more broth/water or salt to match your taste. I personally like my Kongnamul Gukbap sitting more on the bland side, to taste the rawness of all the refreshing ingredients. Here’s a recipe video of how you would make a Jeonju Kongnamul Gukbap in a ttukbaegi pot! A recipe is always easier shown than written, so I recommend you all give that link a click. If anyone feels intrigued to get the clay pot for a legit gukbap at home, you can easily find them in your local Korean supermarket! It’s always nice to have pottery around if it makes all stews and dishes 5 times more delicious and aesthetically pleasing 😋