Everything you need to know about
Gopchang Jeongol

The variety of Korean food continues to fascinate foreigners and enthral Koreans, all for the good reasons that it is one of the most flavourful, savoury and delicious foods your tongue will ever come in contact with. There's also the spice factor of which the all-time favourite gopchang jeongol, or simply gopchang, has plenty of.

Gopchang Jeongol is a spicy stew or casserole made from beef tripe, vegetables and seasoning, all of which are boiled in a beef broth. The term gopchang refers to the small intestines of cattle while jeongol pertains to a category of Korean stew. Other subcategories of beef tripe in Korean cuisine are makchang, daechang and yang, to name a few.

It is said that almost all types of Korean food are rooted in the people's hardships, be it from nature or from man. Gopchang jeongol is no exception. Historians trace the history of the dish to ancient times when Korean soldiers cooked their food in their iron helmets simply because there were no other cooking utensils available. Other dishes consisting of thinly sliced seasoned beef was combined with oysters, bamboo shoots and baby octopus with a sprinkling of pine nut powder, have a similar history.

The preparation of gopchang is a laborious process so much so that the best place to eat it is in restaurants with beef trip specialties, hence why I haven’t made an at home recipe on my website. Cooks must remove all odour and excess fat from the beef tripe, which requires meticulous rubbing with salt and wheat flour as well as repeated washings. Plus, its preparation requires specialized cooking techniques learned through years of training as an apprentice starting from the home kitchen.

The base of the gopchang jeongol - the broth, of course, - can be made in two ways. First, it can either be from brisket or from beef tripe. If it is the beef tripe broth, the cleaned beef tripe, garlic, ginger, onions and scallions are combined with water, placed on a large pot and then boiled until the beef trip is thoroughly cooked. If it is brisket, the same methods and secondary ingredients are used.

Second, the gopchang base may also be used. This is a thin soup made by simmering ox bones for a long period, which results in a broth with a rich flavour. In restaurants you may be served either of these two broths although it is also possible to make a request for either one in some specialist gopchang restaurants.

The beef tripe is cut into long strips while the briskets are cut into bite-sized pieces. These are marinated and kneaded. Then the other ingredients of the gopchang jeongol are added, including parboiled, squeezed and seasoned oyster mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms, seeded and chopped green chilli peppers, and scallions cuts into long strips.

These vegetables are arranged in a circular fashion together with the tripe or briskets at the bottom of a pan. The broth is placed over it, salt is added and any floating foam is skimmed. The gopchang is now ready to be served with a bowl of rice or with alcoholic beverages like soju.

Gopchang jeongol is an acquired taste for many foreigners but once you acquire the taste, you will definitely be addicted to it. After all, where else can you get the juicy yet chewy texture of tripe, the flavourful broth and the spicy combo all in one dish?

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