It’s January. The week’s slush has dissipated. The forecast says rain, rain, and more rain. The day defines gloomy. Sounds like a recipe for traditional Korean beef soup! Sure, I could run out to the store to buy some oxtails, marrow bones and beef knuckle and get to work making stock for homemade sul lung tang, but why bother when I can leave the hard part up to the professionals?
The Korean transliteration of this soup shop is Chun Tung Sul Lung Tang or Jeon Tong Sul Lung Tang — depending on which Korean translator I’m talking to. I’m told the Chun/Jeon Tong/Tang means “traditional” and the Sul Lung Tang translates as “beef stock soup.” But seeing as my A-B-C’s don’t include Hangeul, I’ll stick with what I know:
Here at Traditional Korean Beef Soup, opened last summer, the traditional Korean beef soup is served in a steaming cauldron invested with slippery noodles and beef (brisket, tongue, shank, cartilage and tendon, in various combination). On the side comes rice, kimchee (cabbage and radish) and condimentia for self-doctoring, including flaky sea salt, scallions and gochujang — the addictive sweet and spicy Korean chile paste.
In its natural state this soup is distinctive for its blandness. So, feel free to put those pickled radish cubes right in there. Not only do they taste good, they’re good for you. If you use them up, ask for more: your waitress will be happy to oblige.
Like its Vietnamese pho-pushing neighbor, Than Brothers — kitty-corner on Highway 99 — the traditional Korean beef soup at Traditional Korean Beef Soup is practically the only attraction on the brief menu — if you don’t count the heaping platters of meaty extras you can order, or the seafood pancake or handmade dumplings that make a fine complement. Like pho, it’s also inexpensive: $7.99-$8.99 depending on which meat(s) you order, and if you add in a pancake or some dumplings, you can easily share a big bowlful.
Dippity do. You may order a dozen but I stuck with the small-scale version: six for $3.50.
Count me lucky to live in this soupery’s orbit, especially seeing as it’s open at 7 a.m. (now that’s my idea of breakfast!) and stays open till 10:30 p.m. daily. But note that North or South, this is far from the only Korean restaurant specializing in this beef-soup tradition. You may have already heard about Original Sul Lung Tang in Lynnwood, where, name aside, you might also order bulgogi and barbecue.
Or perhaps you’ve been to Traditional Korean Beef Soup’s same-name sibling at 31248 Pacific Highway South in Federal Way. It’s also owned and operated by the Im family, says Jamie Im, who runs my local shop. You’ll find her brother Andy at the Federal Way cafe, says Jamie, whose family is preparing to open a third soupery in Tacoma’s Koreatown. I’d tell you where, but she was unable to provide me with that information. May I suggest keeping your eyes peeled for a sign that reads, well, you know.