Koreans love meat and Seoul is a great city for meat lovers. Since beef was very scarce in Korea, Koreans eat almost every part of the cow. (Check out this interesting post about the difference between the US and Korean beef cuts: here). If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant and if you’re not a vegetarian, you probably have had a Korean barbecue dish like bulgogi (marinated barbequed beef), galbi (ribs), or samgyeopsal (pork belly).
But have you heard of suyuk? The name literally means “water meat,” which doesn’t sound too appetizing. And honestly, it doesn’t even taste that special. It’s boiled beef or pork that usually tastes quite bland without soy sauce or salty shrimp dip. It’s the remaining meat after making beef or pork soup.
But after discovering Baeksong, an old restaurant near Gyeongbokgung, my thoughts about suyuk are forever changed. Before Baeksong, I thought “why eat meat drained of juice when you can eat it flavorfully grilled?” I never even liked suyuk that much. But Baeksong taught me what real suyuk should be. To borrow my dad’s words, it really is “the best watered down beef.”
Unlike ordinary suyuk, Baeksong’s has three layers. The top is various parts of high quality Korean beef, including: brisket, cow’s foot, oxtail, joints, tendons, and tongue. The second layer is lots of cabbage and lettuce, and the last layer is milky white soup of meat and veggies. The whole dish is kept warm by the radiating charcoal on the bottom.
In Baeksong’s version of suyuk, the meat is exceedingly soft, tender, and juicy, despite having been boiled once. Somehow it managed to retain all the moisture and flavor without being greasy and fattening. The joints and tendons can be very tough if cooked improperly, but Baeksong’s is creamy and chewy.
Surprisingly the cabbage in this dish tastes just as good as the meat itself. The cabbage is coated with the meat’s deeper flavors and it has been cooked until it melts into a silky, soft texture. Its sweetness is a pleasure to indulge in, when paired with the meat. After devouring the meat and vegetables, you’re left with a delectable broth – the honest essence of beef and veggies, with no other intruding flavors.
Although it isn’t an inexpensive dish (a big sized suyuk is 80,000 KRW, or approximately $70 USD), it’s intended to feed 3~4 people. By paying a little extra, you’re also ensuring that you are eating the best quality meat. Baeksong is also a great place for seolleongtang (ox bone soup) since they don’t use MSG or peanut butter to simulate the “rich taste.”
Koreans consider local beef as the highest quality beef because it tastes better than imported ones. Baeksong claims to use only local, natural ingredients and premium quality Korean beef. And you cannot help but believe their claim when you taste their food. It’s open all the time, so whenever you feel like having a good bowl of beef soup or quality meat without grease and guilt, this is the place for you.
Baeksong (Changseong-dong 153-1, Jongno-gu; Subway Line 3 (Orange Line), Gyeongbokgung stop, Exit #3; Tel. 82-2-736-3565; Open 24/7; ₩9,000 ~ ₩40,000 per person)