Kongnamul Guk 콩나물국 (Soybean Sprout Soup)

We had a very simple soup the other day called kongnamul guk (soybean sprout soup) and it couldn’t have tasted better with its mild and refreshing broth. We are accustomed to eating spicy jjigaes (soup/stew) that Korean food is known for, so it was a nice change of pace to get something light and easy on the palate. The broth is made from boiling myeolchi (dried anchovies) and kelp, providing an aromatic fishy smell (yes, fish can smell aromatic) that reminded me of the coastal fishing towns that I used to frequent in Korea. If you don’t have access to these ingredients, substituting them with minced garlic and salt will work just fine. And for those suffering from the occasional hangover, this soup is just for you. Koreans enjoy this as haejangguk  (“hangover soup”), a pick-me-up tonic after a hard nights drinking, but it can be regularly found alongside the mains and banchan in many Korean homes and restaurants. Though we don’t eat soup on a regular basis at home, this soup is always a welcome addition…..especially after the tedious long cleaning of the stems and tips.  🙂

Servings: 4 people
Prep time: 25 minutes (includes cleaning sprouts)
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. kongnamul (soybean sprouts), or roughly 4 handfuls for each serving
  • 10 myeolchi (dried anchovies)
  • 1 piece dashima (dried kelp)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 block firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes; optional)
  • 8 cups water



Directions:

1. Submerge the soybean sprouts in a large bowl with water, floating skins and other small debris should be picked off and discarded. Although optional (but recommended), remove dirty end tips by hand until desired amount is reached. Some cook the sprouts without removing the tips, but I like to follow the common adage: if it looks dirty, it usually is dirty.

2. In a pot, bring 8 cups of water with the dried anchovies and kelp to a boil, uncovered. Boil for about 10 minutes; remove and discard ingredients from the broth.

3. Add the sprouts and minced garlic, cover, and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Keep lid covered during the entire duration of cooking. Add cubed tofu pieces, boil for another minute.

4. Sample the broth and adjust with salt. Garnish with chopped scallion and serve hot.

*Be careful when purchasing these soybean sprouts (kongnamul), as they are often confused with mung bean sprouts (sukju). The soybean sprouts have larger heads compared to their counterparts, which are much smaller and sometimes do not have heads on them. They are available at most Korean grocery stores or your local Asian market.



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