Kongnamul (soybean sprouts) is a staple Korean vegetable that’s used in many Korean dishes. It’s cheap and available all year around. Outside Korea, the best known dish made with soybean sprouts is kongnamul muchim (seasoned side dish), but the soup version, kongnamul guk, is one of the most frequently eaten soups in Korean homes.
It can be made with any type of broth such as beef broth, anchovy broth, or simply water. Often some gochugaru (red chili pepper flakes) is added for a spicy kick. However, unless I make kimchi kongnamul guk, I usually make it simply with a light anchovy broth to enjoy the natural nutty flavor of the soybean sprouts.
Some people snip off the roots for cleaner appearance, but it’s not necessary. I personally don’t think it is worth the time. Plus, the roots have nutrients too.
It’s important not to overcook the soybean sprouts to retain its crunchy texture. You can cook kongnamul guk either covered or uncovered. If cooking covered, do not open the lid while the bean sprouts are being cooked, or the raw bean smell will linger even after cooked.
If you have leftover saeujeot (salted shrimp) from making kimchi. Keep it in the freezer. It won’t freeze but will keep well for a long time. Use a little bit to season kongnamul guk. The soup will taste even better.
This light and refreshing soup, with a subtle nutty flavor, will go remarkably well with any Korean meal.
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Kongnamul Guk (Soybean Sprout Soup)
- 8 ounce kongnamul soybean sprouts
- 6 - 8 medium to large size dried anchovies for broth
- 1 plump garlic clove thinly sliced or minced
- 1 scallions chopped
- salt and pepper - See note
- 6 cups of water
- In a medium size pot, bring 6 cups of water with the anchovies and garlic to a boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium high and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove the anchovies and garlic from the broth.
- Rinse the soybean sprouts a couple of times, discarding any skins floating.
- Add the bean sprouts and 1 teaspoon of salt and boil, covered, Bring it to a boil, and continue to cook for 4 - 5 minutes over medium high heat. Do not open the lid while the bean sprouts are being cooked, or the raw bean smell will linger even after cooked. Once kongnamul is cooked, taste for salt and pepper. The amount of salt needed at this point will depend on your salt and taste. Add the scallions and serve.