[Epicurean challenge] Blood soup for non-vampires, seonjitguk

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : May 10, 2018 - 20:24
  • Updated : May 10, 2018 - 20:26

Seonjitguk, literally translated, means soup made with cow blood. But no worries, the soup is not as intimidating as its name.

At first glance, seonjitguk is far from bloody red and looks rather mild. The visual is as ordinary as any other Korean soup, as the broth is made by simmering ox bones with shreds of Napa cabbage. The soup’s name originates from chunks of congealed blood called seonji. 

Seonjitguk (By Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

Making seonji is simpler than it seems. Scoop cow’s blood with a ladle into boiling water and chunks of the blood will rise to the surface. Then, cool the pieces in cold water.

When eating seonjitguk, the congealed blood chunks won’t be an obstacle as the taste is not strong. The texture is not a barrier either, being just soft and mushy. If you visit good places, the odor won’t even be detectable. Similar to black pudding, some won’t even know what seonji is made with until someone tells them.
Seonjitguk (By Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

But scooping up the soup with a spoon, one may be horrified with the strange-looking pieces of tripe. 

Seonjitguk (By Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

The soup is often categorized as a type of haejangguk, meaning a soup to chase a hangover. Any type of soup that helps overcome a hangover can be haejangguk, which literally means “detoxifying soup.”

After a long night of binge drinking, people gather in seonjitguk places in the middle of the night or at dawn. Many places operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, welcoming heavy-drinkers. Served with a bowl of warm rice, the soup serves as a hearty meal.

Cheong Jin Ok, arguably one of the most famous seonjitguk restaurants in Korea with more than 70 years of history, even has a branch in Los Angles, California.

By Im Eun-byel (