4.199 Baeksuk + Juk [recipe]

-Cycle 4, Item 199-
23 (Tue) July 2013

Baeksuk + Juk [recipe]


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, Ian

As per traditional Korean belief, boknal (복날) are three predetermined days that officially mark the beginning, middle, and end of the summer's hottest and most humid period.  Reckoned by the lunar calendar, the corresponding dates differ every year on the western calendar but typically span about 20 days around mid-July to mid-August.  This year, canicular period comprises chobok (초복) ("cho" = "beginning") on July 13, jungbok (중복) ("jung" = "middle") on July 23, and malbok (말복) ("mal" = "end") on August 12.  In addition to the obvious discomfort, the sweltering heat is believed to drain the body of vital energies.  The term means "bok" = "surrender" + "nal" = "day."

Although this photo was taken before the remaining broth was poured into the bowl, baeksuk should be served with broth to keep the meat moist.

To prevent such loss and/or to replenish those energies if lost, the solution is to eat something hot and steamy, specifically on each of the boknal.  Fight fire with fire.  One example from yore would be bosin tang (보신탕) ("bo" = "protect" + "sin" = "body"), a spicy stew made with dog meat, which seems to have largely fallen out of favor in modern times, perhaps gone altogether someday soon.  More commonly these days, samgye tang is the thing.  Regardless of whether they actually believe in the therapeutic effects, a lot of Koreans do eat such foods around the boknal, if only symbolically.  In fact, for the final malbok, I'm planning on reviewing a samgye tang restaurant for my OKRKL series; I'll have to go around 3:00 to avoid the crowds, but I'll still probably have to wait at least an hour.

Daechu (대추) (jujubes) don't really affect the flavor of the overall dish; they can be eaten, tasting a bit like mushy prunes, which I don't like, but they look nice as garniture.
An acceptable substitute for samgye tang is baeksuk.  Whereas one is always cooked and served whole, along with the rice and herbs stuffed within, including ginseng by definition, the other may be made and consumed according to personal preference, whole or in pieces or shredded, with or without rice, during or after, potatoes maybe, ginseng optional.  Due to its more casual nature, baeksuk is quite often done at home, while samgye tang rarely is, if ever.  Even in restaurants (see for example 2.046 Baeksuk), baeksuk is arguably more popular because it can be shared with others, while samgye tang is an individual dish.

 juk (죽) (porridge)

Here's my recipe.  It's really 2 recipes that can be prepared separately, the chicken and potatoes for dinner followed by the porridge in the leftover broth for breakfast the next morning, but ideally they should go together.

- - - -

Recipe for Baeksuk + Juk
(serves 2-4)

These packets containing dried herbs/woods/spices for baeksuk are often provided free with the purchase of a whole bird, especially around this time of year.

12 cups water
1 daepa (large scallion)
10 cloves garlic
1 small knob ginger
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 bag baeksuk packet (see above)
2 1-kg chickens
1 tsp salt
8-12 baby potatoes
6 jujubes
1 cup glutinous rice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 dash ground white pepper

Chapssal (찹쌀) (glutinous rice), a short-grained starchy rice that turns dense/sticky/chewy when cooked, has a distinctive perfume (like jasmine or basmati rice, though not all like them), which is what gives both samgye tang and baeksuk juk their characteristic flavors, more than anything else.

1.  As early as possible, even overnight in advance, rinse the rice until the water runs clear and soak the rice in water (rice that hasn't been presoaked can take up to 10 minutes longer to cook (see step 15 below).

This will turn into about 4 cups when cooked.

2.  Prepare the aromatics as necessary.

3.  In a large pot, combine the water and aromatics, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Substituting aromatics is fine (e.g., regular scallions or onion for daepa, adding carrots), though I did use celery once and everyone commented on a peculiar off-flavor.

4.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut the chicken into quarters (if necessary to fit them into the pot).

In Korea, chickens don't get any bigger than 1 kg; 12 baby potatoes may seem like a lot, but everyone in my family (except me) loves them; as noted above, jujubes are totally optional.

6.  Remove the aromatics from the stock and discard them. 

Surprisingly, other than turning the stock a brownish color, the herb/wood/spice packet doesn't influence the flavor profile all that much, not enough to matter; I used a packet here because I had it on hand, but I wouldn't have gone out of my way to acquire one; in fact, I know people who don't even bother, even when the packets comes with the chicken.

7.  Add the chicken and salt to the stock and bring back to the boil over high heat.  

8.  Skim any foam that rises to the surface.

Halfway through, I cut the birds into smaller pieces right there in the pot, which is much easier than quartering them raw, one less cutting board to clean.

9.  Cover, reduce the heat to low-medium, and simmer for 40 minutes.  

10.  Add the potatoes and jujubes, cover, and simmer for 20 another minutes until both the chicken and the potatoes are fully cooked.

11.  Transfer the chicken+potatoes+jujubes along with about 4 cups of broth into a large serving bowl.

12.  Serve family style, ladling some chicken+potatoes+jujubes and broth into individual bowls.

Here, because I wanted to serve (and photograph) everything as a single spread, I set aside the chicken+potatoes+jujubes in a covered bowl to keep it all warm until the porridge was ready.  

13.  Meanwhile, set aside about 4 cups of the remaining broth (the original 12 will have reduced to about 9-10 by this point) and about 2 cups in the pot.

14.  Strain the rice from the soaking water and add the rice to the broth.

15.  At a steady simmer, stir the rice constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed, add another 1 cup of liquid, and repeat, until the rice is thoroughly cooked (way beyond al dente) (this is not risotto) and quadrupled in volume, around 15 minutes and 5 cups total.

16.  Season with the soy sauce and pepper to taste.

17.  Serve alongside the chicken+potatoes+jujubes.