Saturday, November 11, 2017

finally: legitimate homemade al-tang!

At long last, I was able to make a decent, edible version of one of my favorite Korean soups: al-tang, which is a stew whose signal ingredient is fish-egg sacs (the Korean word al means "egg"). While these sacs often look ugly and veiny, like the ripped-out glands of some unfortunate land animal, I tend to think of them as salty hot dogs made entirely of caviar, and they are glorious. I based my recipe on the one found in this Korean video I dug up on YouTube. The video called for something called goni (곤이) in Korean: basically, fish guts, the brain-like hunks of protein that you can see in the video. My building's grocery didn't have any goni, so I added a tiny freshwater snail called ureong (우렁) instead, and that worked out perfectly, rounding out the stew's taste.

I made two huge pots of the soup. Some pics:

When I tried making a seafood stew a couple years ago, I proceeded on the assumption that I could use the same base as the one I use when making budae-jjigae. This turned out to be only partially true, and the wrongness of my assumption was enough to make the seafood soup taste weird and thoroughly un-Korean. So instead of making an ass out of you and me this time, I decided it would be best to shut up and listen to the masters, which is how I ended up on YouTube, watching al-tang videos. The above-linked video was one of the most straightforward; the simplicity of its recipe was what I found attractive, so I decided to risk following that vid's method for prepping the stew.

I altered some things, of course: as mentioned above, I used ureong instead of goni; I also changed the proportions of the red-sauce component (I did a 3:2:0.2 ratio of gochu-jang to gochu-garu to mirim, and I used mirim instead of matsul, although I suspect that mirim is a type of matsul); in addition, I splashed a bit of sesame oil into the red sauce. I added regular onions in with the dae-pa (large green onions that are almost leeks). I almost added carrots, but I chickened out at the last second, and I think that was the right decision: carrots would have added a weird sweetness to the stew that wouldn't have belonged there. Oh, yeah: I had leftover chili peppers, so I chopped those up and dumped them in as well.

The result was awesome. The taste of my stew rivals that of my favorite al-tang restaurant in the Chungmuro district. I'm very, very pleased with the result, and now that I have a good base for fish stews, I'm going to see what happens when I switch out the current proteins for something like shrimp, scallop, etc. I think that's going to kick ass.


broth: water, laver (seaweed), dried-pollock "silk," fish bouillon, fish sauce

red-sauce broth component: gochu-jang (red-pepper paste), ground garlic, gochu-garu (red-chili flakes), mirim (Jpn. mirin), sesame oil

vegetables: white onion, dae-pa (large green onion), mu (large Korean radish), green chilis, oyster mushrooms (very fragrant and earthy!), jjigae (stew) tofu, ssuk-ggat (쑥깟, mugwort)

proteins: pollock roe in sacs, various other roes (frozen), ureong (freshwater snails)


Create broth by gently boiling water with laver, dried-pollock "silk," fish bouillon, and a splash of fish sauce. After 15 minutes, fish out the laver and pollock silk.

Create red sauce by mixing gochu-jang, gochu-garu, garlic, mirim, and sesame oil.

Add mu, sliced about a quarter-inch thick, to the hot broth. Chop up and pile together all remaining veggies, which will all be dumped into the pot at the same time. Let mu boil until fork-tender. About five minutes after adding the mu, add the red sauce and stir until there are no more lumps and clumps of gochu-jang.

Add veggies into the boil. Stir. Let cook a few minutes.

Add egg sacs and ureong. Cook until the sacs change color, then cook another 3-4 minutes to make sure their centers are cooked.

Enjoy some of the best damn al-tang out there.


Charles said...

Wow. That looks awesome! I love me some al-tang. Make me some when I get back?

Kevin Kim said...

Of course. You're back soon, ja? A year goes by so quickly when you're old.

Charles said...

Tell me about it. We've got about six weeks left now, I guess. It will be sad to leave, but I am sort of itching to get back to things.