Pyeonyuk, or sliced beef, is a healthy and flavorful dish. Thinly sliced pyeonyuk, neatly arranged on a platter, is an attractive offering for guests at a dinner party or reception. It is perfect when served with vinegared soy sauce or kimchi. Pyeonyuk can also be served in sandwich wraps.
Lee Jong-im Director, Korea Food and Culture Research Center
Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
Boil a chunk of beef and wrap it with hemp cloth. Weigh the beef down so that it can be shaped into a rectangular loaf. Cut the beef into thin slices with a sharp knife and serve with vinegared soy sauce or seasoned shrimp sauce and condiments.
Pyeonyuk is a traditional dish of thinly sliced meat that has been boiled until tender. It is an example of the various unique ways that Koreans prepare meat dishes. Since pyeonyuk is cooked as a whole chunk and then sliced when served, it is often described as an Eastern version of roast beef. There is, however, a notable difference between the two traditional favorites: roast beef is roasted in an oven, while pyeonyuk is boiled.
Meat Cuts: From Prime to Exotic
Pyeonyuk can be made with either beef or pork. When using beef, brisket is the best choice. If you use pork, belly or neck would be recommended. Pyeonyuk will be mild-flavored and tender when made with beef brisket deckle because of its liberal marbling with fine streaks of fat. Other suitable beef cuts include: shank, offal such as lungs and sweetbread, head, tongue, testicles, and genitals.
A whole chunk of meat is boiled, wrapped with a hemp cloth, and pressed with a heavy weight to shape it into a rectangular loaf. The pressed meat is then sliced thinly with a sharp knife and served with vinegared soy sauce or salted shrimp extract.
Today, Korean restaurants typically serve pyeonyuk with a side dish of geotjeori (freshly made kimchi), or mumallaengi (seasoned dried radish) heavily dressed with spicy red pepper powder, and aekjeot (fish sauce). Pyeon¬yuk wrapped in fully fermented cabbage kimchi also makes a savory delicacy for the home dinner table.
Pyeonyuk is a fixture of the dinner menu during gimjang season, one of the most important seasonal periods of the year, in late autumn or early winter, when large quantities of kimchi are made and preserved to prepare for the long winter ahead. Many Korean families boil a sizable chunk of meat so that they can enjoy pyeonyuk with freshly seasoned kimchi in the evenings of gimjang days.
Tender pyeonyuk slices are delectable with saengchae muchim (fresh vegetable salad dressed with red pepper powder, vinegar, salt, and sugar) and kimchi. A recipe for a fancy side dish, fresh ginseng salad with honey dressing, called susam kkulchae, is provided below.
If you prefer something simpler, however, pyeon¬yuk needs little more than a soy dipping sauce mixed with vinegar and finely chopped pine nuts. To enhance the flavor of this simple dish, serve it with lettuce or perilla leaves for wrapping the meat slices.
Boiling the Meat
Today, pyeonyuk is preferred by the health conscious over the dishes that involve deep-frying, stir-frying, or roasting. Pyeonyuk is an impressive dish to serve dinner guests because of its attractive visual appeal, with thin beef slices arranged neatly on a platter. It is always a welcome addition at a potluck party as well. Care must be taken, however; the boiled meat should be sliced right before serving to maintain its tenderness. To maximize the flavor, allow the chunk of meat to rest in its liquid, and then press it into a loaf a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Pyeonyuk recipes vary from one family to another, and from cook to cook. Innumerable “secret” ingredients are added to the boiling water to reduce the meat odor and add flavor: a tablespoon of doenjang (fermented soybean paste), a splash of soju, wine, or sake, whole pepper kernels, a pinch of ground coffee, etc. There are as many different techniques as there are cooks, but to boil the meat properly, it is best to test the meat with a knife to determine its wellness. It is nicely done when the meat juice is clear, with no trace of blood.
A tip for making tastier pyeonyuk calls for adding a pinch of salt to the boiling water and allowing it to simmer for a while before adding the meat, which will absorb the saltiness. Do not overcook the meat so as to retain its natural juices and nutrients.
Pyeonyuk is often served as a garnish for a bowl of naengmyeon, chilled buckwheat noodles in cold beef broth. The beef that is boiled to flavor the broth is removed and sliced to decorate the noodles.
Pyeonyuk is also produced during the preparation of seolleongtang, ox bone soup, made by slowly simmering ox bones, gristle, and other beef cuts in a large pot until tender. The meat is removed from the pot and sliced to garnish the milky soup. Ever versatile, pyeonyuk can also be used to make quick non-traditional dishes: for example, beef slices, cut more thinly than usual, make an easy and flavorful filling for wrap sandwiches.
600 grams beef brisket, 6 cloves garlic, 1 scallion (about 80g)
1/2 onion (about 60g), 20 grams chopped ginger
10 whole black pepper kernels, 10 cups water
• Susam kkulchae (Fresh ginseng salad with honey dressing)
1 fresh ginseng root, 10 jujube dates, 5 chestnuts
2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons pine nuts
• Mustard sauce
2 tablespoons mustard powder (combined with water to make a paste), 2 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons vinegar,1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon finely chopped pine nuts, 1 teaspoon soy sauce
• Vinegared soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 3 tablespoons vinegar,
2 tablespoons fresh water, 1 tablespoon finely chopped pine nuts
1. Trim excess fat from the beef brisket and soak in cold water for about an hour to draw out the blood.
2. Bind the beef brisket with kitchen string. This step can be skipped, but the binding helps to maintain the meat’s shape and makes it easier to slice the boiled beef.
3. Chop scallions and onions into thick pieces, and slice ginger into slivers. Peel the garlic but do not slice; keep whole.
4. In a large covered pot, bring water to a boil. Add and simmer the beef and the above vegetables, for about 30 minutes.
5. Skim off foam, add salt, and simmer, with the pot covered for another 40 to 50 minutes.
6. When the beef is cooked, remove from the pot. Wrap the beef with a clean hemp cloth and have it pressed down with a heavy weight, such as a brick, for a few hours to shape into a neat loaf. Cut the beef into thin slices.
7. Wash the ginseng thoroughly and scrub with a brush, then julienne into 3cm lengths. Peel and slice the chestnuts.
8. Wash jujubes thoroughly and drain off the water. Cut the jujubes crosswise into rings.
9. To make the fresh ginseng salad with honey dressing, mix together the ginseng, chestnuts and pine nuts, and add honey to the mixture.
10. Combine mustard paste, sugar, vinegar, finely chopped pine nuts, soy sauce, and salt to make the mustard sauce.
11. Arrange the sliced beef and ginseng salad neatly on a serving platter. Serve with the prepared mustard sauce.
12. Take a slice of pyeonyuk, top with a bit of ginseng salad, and add mustard sauce. Fold over or roll up the meat slice, and enjoy!