Growing up, my mom’s only slow cooker recipe was Korean beef stew. It was sweet and there are cute sesame seeds floating on top. Falling off the bones tender, it was always a hit among my siblings and I.
Then in 2006, I went to Korea to become a flight attendant, knowing only one dish I could probably survive with. In a few weeks of training, I tried to learn the language to the best of my ability (well, I know how to read the characters) because it’s quite difficult to go out and just make assumptions about the food. I tracked down the beef stew which translated to 갈비찜 (gal-bi-jjim), but it was nowhere near what my mom cooked.
After a year with the airline–my tolerance for spicy food has become significantly higher–my parents were then eligible for free tickets. They decided to go to the US, but along the way–as any [Filipino] parent would–they planned to stop by Seoul for a few days and see what my overseas life was like.
Spicy food being unpopular in our household, I warned my parents that almost everything was spicy (except if they end up at an Italian restaurant or a bakery). My mom said, “Well, just tell me where to get Korean beef stew and I’ll be fine.”
It’s that I-hate-to-break-it-to-you moment. I had to tell her. “The Korean beef stew that you make is the Filipino version; there is no beef stew here that’s sweet like that.”
Apparently, this Korean beef stew version that most Filipinos came to know was from a highly popular food stall(?) called the House of Kimchi, way back when Korean food, K-pop and Korean dramas were unheard of in Manila.
Because I have grown accustomed to Korean food, I can’t really go back to the ungodly sweet version, so this time around, I made my own version with my leftover 고추장 (go-chu-jang, red chili paste ) from when I made kimchi fried rice. It’s still not the authentic Korean beef stew, more like the spicy version of the Filipino-style one.
I also added carrots as I’m now feeling guilty about making a dish without any vegetable. It added a different kind of sweetness to the stew, and made my version a little more orange. You’re welcome to skip the carrots if you want to enjoy the stew in its all-beef version.
Filipino-style Korean Beef Stew
- 500g beef short ribs, cut to serving size
- 1 medium carrot, roll cut
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 thumbs ginger, cut into wedges or big strips
- 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp gochujang
- 2 tbsp rice wine (see recipe notes)
- 6 tbsp brown sugar
- 5 cups of water
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (patis)
- 2 bay/laurel leaves, crushed
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped spring onions (or leeks, or scallions) and more sesame seeds for garnish
- cooking oil
- On medium heat, add cooking oil in a pot. Add beef short ribs and brown the meat on all sides.
- Add ginger, garlic, onions and fish sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until fragrant.
- Add water, rice wine, sugar, soy sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, switch to low fire for a continuous slow simmer, removing scum.
- After about 1 hour, add 1 tsp sesame seeds and gochujang. Continue simmering until beef is tender (about another hour and a half), adding some more water if needed. Adjust sweetness and spiciness by adding brown sugar and/or gochujang, as preferred.
- Add carrots and simmer until fork-tender. Serve hot, garnished with spring onions, more sesame seeds, with a bowl of hot steamed rice.
- Don’t have rice wine? Skip it, don’t substitute regular white vinegar.
- Make ahead tip: As with most stews, this one will taste better tomorrow! 🙂 Store it in the fridge (with half cooked carrots, if you prefer) and reheat for an even more flavorful dish.