While rice is essential to a Korean diet, there is actually a wide range of grains used in Korean cooking.  I came across one in particular that I have never seen before, called yulmu in Korean, or job’s tears in English.  Other than the strange names, it looks much like pearled barley with it’s rounded shape and striped groove down the middle.  It apparently has some health benefits and is often used to make tea in Korea.

Other than adding yulmu to steamed rice and making tea out of it, I don’t know of other ways it can be prepared in Korean cooking.  So when I made japchae for my Mom’s birthday, I tried to prepare yulmu risotto style with the extra spinach leftover.  Risotto works with different grains if you can be open to the different textures and subtle taste of each unique grain.

I found yulmu to be a hearty grain with substance.  It is not mealy starchy, but rather waxy-like starch, much like the waxy corn kernels that you find in Korea.  It keeps it’s shape very well with long cooking, which makes it a high potential for soups, stews and salads, and has a rather pleasant texture with a slight chewiness.

So this was an experimental dish that turned out more than okay.  For the stock, I used a bouillon cube and mushroom liquid that I had on-hand from rehydrating dried shittake mushrooms. It was cooked for about 40 minutes, adding a bit of stock through the cooking, then fresh spinach tossed in right at the end.  A little grated parmesan cheese and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil rounds out the flavor and that’s it.  Simple, healthy and a nice change to everyday rice.


  • 1 cup job’s tears (율무, pronounced yul-moo in Korean)
  • about 3 cups vegetable stock (homemade or bouillon cube)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big handful of fresh spinach, washed, trimmed
  • grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil for garnish

1.  Soak yul-mu for 1 hour, then drain.

2.  Heat up the vegetable stock in a pot to a low simmer.

3.  In a medium pot, heat olive oil and saute onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add strained job’s tears.  Add about a cup of stock and let it simmer on low heat.  Keep adding stock as it becomes dry. Simmer until grains are fully cooked, stirring occasionally, about 40-45 minutes.

4.  Add another 1/4 cup of stock or so at the end with the spinach.  Heat for about 2 minutes, or until spinach wilt.  Serve with garnish of grated parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil.