Galbitang (갈비당) is a sweet beef soup I’ve come to love and overindulge in regularly in Chungju. (It helps that galbitang is available 24 hours a day at a nearby restaurant.)
The soup is made from big beef ribs boiled in some kind of stock. I still haven’t quite figured out what the stock is. I’ve seen it, tasted it and even cooked with it, yet I could not tell you what the base of most Korean soups is.
The soup is served boiling hot in a black stone pot with plenty of tangy onions and black pepper for spice. Occasionally the soup is served with local spices I cannot identify. The spice I get most often is most like boiled fresh ginger in it’s texture, but the taste is much more tree-like. Not that I’ve eaten tree, I just think of bark when I bite into this stuff. It’s not terrible just kind of bland.
In addition some glass noodles are thrown into the mix. I’ve even had a few dishes with thick rice noodles in them. And of course, the most memorable galbitang had potatoes in it. That made my heart dance in happiness.
In wonderful Korean tradition, restaurants serve a few side dishes or banchan (반찬) with every dish. Generally galbitang comes with cabbage kimchi (the one you are probably thinking of), cucumber kimchi (my favorite kind) and onions soaked in soy sauce. Depending on the restaurant, I’ve gotten different sides including dried squid stir-fried in hot sauce and fermented daikon.
The ever-present rice or bap (밥) is served with a tang (soup) as well. I love to mix the rice in with the left over broth after eating all the meat and glass noodles. All the carbs make for a deliciously filling finish to the meal.
Galbitang is delicious, not at all spicy and a wonderful dish for anyone curious about Korean cuisine. Plus it would be fairly easy to make on your own if you’re far from a Korean restaurant. Meanwhile for those of you in the ROK, galbitang costs between 4,000 and 7,000 won at most restaurants.