Recipe: Songi wanja-tang, pine mushroom meatball soup
With the fragrant songi beoseot (송이 버섯, pine mushrooms or matsutake) in season, I wanted to find a recipe that would really bring out their lovely scent. Wanja-tang (완자탕, meatball soup) is a recipe from Korean royal cuisine that I love for its delicate flavors. I decided to put the two together since the wanja-tang wouldn’t overwhelm the scent of the pine mushrooms. Sonja and I went to a market in Punggi, North Gyeongsang Province and saw some pine mushrooms for sale—they’re pricey (almost $200/kilo!) but we managed to convince the vendors to sell us just three. 🙂
However you get your songi mushrooms, we hope you get the chance to try them this time of year. They’re so delicious, and this songi wanja-tang (송이 완자탕) is really nice and warm on chilly fall days.
For the stock:
200g brisket or top round, soaked in cold hour for at least one hour before cooking
The white part of a daepah (대파, Welsh onion), including the root*
½ small onion
2 cloves garlic
5 whole black peppercorns
For the wanja (meatballs):
200g minced beef
100g non-silky tofu
1 tsp minced garlic
Pinch of grated ginger
2 tbsp chopped carrots
1 tbsp chopped daepah
3 tbsp chopped onion
2 pinches of salt
A little pepper
1 small egg + 1 egg for egg wash
½ cup flour for coating
Seasoning for soup:
2 songi (송이, pine) mushrooms
½ tbsp cheongjang (청장, young traditional soy sauce)
2 tsp salt
Julienned daepah to garnish
*Cut your large daepah into thirds: Use the bottom (white) third for the stock, the middle (light-green) third for the garnish, and save the top (dark green) third for your next batch of stock.
1. Add the soaked beef, daepah, onion, garlic and peppercorns to the cold water and boil on high heat
2. Once it boils, skim and simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes, then remove the solids
3. Meanwhile, place your minced beef on a paper towel to drain out the blood
4. Put your tofu into a cheesecloth and squeeze out any moisture
5. Combine the wanja (meatball) ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the egg last, putting in about half at first then adding more as needed. The texture of the meatball mixture should be just sticky enough to hold together but not squishy.
6. Shape into balls about 2.5cm or 1 inch in diameter (smaller than your typical American meatball!) and roll in flour, shaking off all excess. Too much flour will result in bumpy meatballs!
7. Use your spoon to dip each flour-coated wanja into the egg wash, tipping the spoon at the edge of the bowl to drain excess egg. If you’re not careful, your broth won’t be nice and clear and you’ll end up with egg drop soup!
8. While the wanja boil, use your mandolin to carefully slice your songi mushrooms into thin slivers (about 2mm). Don’t slice them too thin—you won’t be able to enjoy the nice, chewy texture of cooked songi.
9. Once the wanja begin to float it means they’re fully cooked. Season with young ganjang (soy sauce) and salt. Be careful when seasoning with ganjang—too much ganjang and your broth will turn dark. The goal here is to get a nice light broth so add just enough soy sauce to give a touch of flavor depth and season the rest of the way with salt.
10. Once you’ve seasoned the broth to your liking, you can add the songi and garnish with julienned daepah. Turn off the heat right away and serve while hot.