Not many dishes on the Western menu date back to the 15th century. Some say seolleongtang is even older — with the long-simmered beef-bone soup tracing to Korea’s Mongol invasion in the 1200s. Either way, the bubbling broth is a taste of history. And in NoVA, the dish is forging its own story, with two new outposts that specialize in seolleongtang that have opened in recent months: Shin-Chon Sul Lung Tang in Annandale and a link in a small national chain, Yi’s Traditional Korean Beef Soup, in Centreville.
Yi’s has been packing in diners for its brief menu of soups, but on a recent Thursday, I had no problem scoring a table. Service was friendly and although the server struggled to answer one of my questions, bowls of soup came steaming from the kitchen in short order.
One of the available soups is mandu-guk, one of my favorites, but the housemade pork dumplings are also served on their own. Their thin, slick wrappers are a delight, soaking up a lightly vinegared dipping sauce. I skipped the mandu-guk in favor of two other bowls of brothy delights.
The seolleongtang at Yi’s cooks for at least 24 hours, extracting every bit of collagen from the bones for a milky white body. It’s served with a bowl of salt on the side to allow diners to season it to their taste. I found that a spoon and a half hit the spot. The intense beefiness of the soup reminded me of some of the Mongolian dishes I’ve tried, making me think that perhaps that story is true. Woven with glass noodles and scallions, thin slices of surprisingly lean brisket make the biggest impact. Diners who want all the meat can go beyond the basic bowl and add tripe, shank, cartilage, tendon, or tongue to their brisket.
The beef in the yukgaejang is shredded, making for a heartier bite. I enjoyed the spicy soup more than the seolleongtang thanks to its garlicky bite that lasted well into the afternoon. Both pair beautifully with the funky housemade Napa cabbage kimchi and disarmingly spicy radish kkakdugi.
As cool weather takes over NoVA, soup is in order. And at Yi’s, the sides satisfy every bit as much as the steaming bowls.
Centreville Square II Shopping Center: 14001 St. Germain Dr., Centreville
See this: A sleek dining room allows diners’ attention to focus on what’s at the end of their spoons and chopsticks.
Eat this: Seolleongtang, yukgaejang, jjin-mandu
Feature image of seolleongtang by Tyson Bateman
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