Seolleongtang (Korean Beef Bone Soup)

January 21, 2021 Updated: January 21, 2021

A proper seolleongtang requires boiling beef bones for at least 10 hours, with constant babysitting to skim impurities, add water, and maintain the right heat. Still, it’s a worthy endeavor, as you can make a big batch to freeze and enjoy time and time again.

I was eager to use Mr. Choi’s winning formula of cow’s feet and knuckles, but found that it can be very hard to source these types of bones at non-Asian butchers. Thus, I had to settle for using oxtails and marrow bones. The oxtails add some meat into the broth, and are not traditional, but it was still a successful combination.

This recipe calls for boiling the bones for 12 hours, but you can go longer, too. I have an electric stove, so I filled my pot of bones with water, covered it with a lid, and let it gently boil overnight. In the morning, I added water and continued to babysit the broth for the rest of the day. In the end, I had a gorgeously creamy, silky, milky-white soup, full of rich, beefy flavor.

A note on using organic bones: Toxins are stored in fatty tissues and marrow, and if the animal has been given hormones and antibiotics, you may be compromising the nutritive quality of your soup.

  • 5 1/2 pounds oxtails, organic
  • 1 pound beef marrow bones, organic
  • 1 pound beef brisket, organic, trimmed

To Serve

  • Rice or thin wheat noodles (somyeon)
  • Chopped scallions
  • Korean radish kimchi (kkakdugi)
  • Kosher salt

Place all of the bones in a large bowl and wash them under cold water. Fill the bowl up with cold water until the bones are fully submerged. Place the brisket in another bowl and cover with cold water. Allow the bones and brisket to soak at room temperature for 3 hours, to draw out the blood. Drain and rinse the bones well again.

Place the bones in a large pot with enough water to cover, and then set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Place a large colander in a sink and drain the bones, discarding the hot water and scum. Repeat once more.

Meanwhile, place the brisket into a medium pot with enough water to cover, then set over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove the meat using tongs and allow to cool. Once cooled, slice the meat thinly on a cutting board, wrap with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Once you have boiled and drained your bones for a second time, rinse the bones with cold water and clean the pot well. Place the clean bones in the clean pot and fill with water to cover the bones by about 3 inches. Put back on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Skim off any fat, scum, and other impurities. Cook at a low boil until the liquid is reduced by a third. You must continuously boil—not simmer—the bones to get a milky white broth, so adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a low active boil.

Add water to keep the liquid at the same level, and continue boiling, repeating this process of skimming and adding water as necessary, for 12 hours (or longer—it just keeps getting better and better!), until the broth is very white, creamy, and thick.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then place the pot in the fridge overnight. In the morning, use a spoon to remove the layer of fat that solidifies on top of the soup. Carefully remove the bones using a large slotted spoon, and strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer. Pick out any pieces of meat and reserve.

Return the soup to the pot and reheat over high heat. Stir in the sliced brisket and any of the reserved oxtail meat. Pour the soup into bowls and serve with rice, chopped scallions, radish kimchi, and kosher salt on the side.