Pork bones soup

Gamjatang 감자탕

Have you ever heard of gamjatang?
Gamjatang is soup made with pork neck bones and vegetables. Sizzling hot gamjatang is hearty and savory which makes it always popular at the dinner table. The soft fatty meat picked from the gaps between the bones is especially tasty. The fully cooked cabbage and bean sprouts in the stock turn soft yet retain a crispy texture. Gamjatang makes a perfect, satisfying meal when paired with a bowl of rice.

And another selling point is that the main ingredient, pork neck bones (or spine bones) is very cheap. Combined with lots of vegetables, this soup is full of nutrients.

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It’s unclear how this dish got it’s name. Some of you may know that gamja in Korean is potatoes. This soup always includes a cooked potato, so is that why it’s called gamjatang? But some people say gamja refers to the delicious meat around the pork spine bones, and that’s where it got its name. It’s still controversial and no one knows the true answer.

Some of you will remember that actually I posted the recipe long time ago, in 2009! Last month I had an event with my friend Hooni Kim at his New York restaurant. He’s also the head chef there and we made dinner and collaborated on some dishes. I entertained the readers who came to the restaurant to meet me, it was wonderful to see them.

One of my readers told me she makes gamjatang from my recipe very often and she always gets compliments from her family whenever she makes it. I realized I had forgotten about my gamjatang recipe because it was posted so long ago! I said: “The video must be blurry and low quality. Can you still learn the recipe from the video?” She said: “Yes, the recipe is still good!”

When I got home that night, I went back to watch my old gamjatang video. Oh my! I could make it better now with my HD camera and more accurate measurements. It decided to remake the video with a few changes to the original recipe.

Do you want to know what’s different? I skipped buchu (asian chives) and cooking wine this time because without them, I found it still tastes so good! And I simplified some of the process when I blanch the bones. I also soak the bones only 30 minutes instead of 2 hours. What else? Yes, I added 11 cups of water instead of 10 cups of water (my old version). So I can say that my revisiting this recipe means you can make a more delicious dish in less time now. : )

Good luck with making gamjatang. I’m looking forward to meeting you someday and hearing the story about the wonderful gamjatang you made from this recipe! : )

These are some tips for you if you make gamjatang tomorrow! : )

    1. Pork neck bones are found in the freezer section at a Korean grocery store. Try to choose bones with a lot of meat.
    2. My recipe is for 2 to 3 servings. If you want to make it for 4-6 servings, double the recipe and cook longer.
    3. Blanching and washing the bones is a very important step because it will remove the unpleasant smell from the bones and make a clear soup.
    4. You can replace perilla leaves with basil leaves and perilla seeds powder with sesame seeds powder.

The best perilla seeds powder to use is hulled and finely ground with a creamy color. You can also use toasted and ground, which is coarse and dark and kind of hard to swallow. Best to mix with water and strain and squeeze it, and use the water that is squeezed out in your gamjatang and discard the dregs. You can also grind whole toasted perilla seeds and then mix them with water, strain and squeeze out the milky liquid and use it. And if you can’t find any of these you can replace perilla seeds powder with sesame seeds powder.

From left, skinned and ground powder, coarsely ground perilla seeds, and whole toasted perilla seeds

Ingredients

Makes 2-3 servings.

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For seasoning paste:

Directions

Cooking time: 2 hours.

Prepare the bones and broth

  1. Rinse the pork bones a couple of times and soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the cabbage for 1 minute and then take it out with tongs.
  3. Keep the hot water boiling, we’ll use it later for blanching pork bones.
  4. Rinse the cabbage in cold water and strain. Tear the leaves in lengthwise once or twice to make it long bite sized pieces.
  5. Put the bones into the boiling water and cover. Let them cook for 7 minutes over medium high heat. The water will turn dark and some foam will come to the surface.
  6. Strain the bones and wash each one in cold running water to remove any extra fat, dark foamy stuff, and bone fragments. Put the cleaned bones into a large pot.
  7. Add ginger, soy bean paste, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, dried red pepper, and 11 cups of water. Cover and cook for 90 minutes over medium high heat.

While it cooks, make the seasoning paste

  • Combine garlic, hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, fish sauce, perilla seeds powder, ground black pepper, and ¼ cup water in a bowl.
  • Mix well until creamy.

Finish

  1. 90 minutes later, open the pot. Take out the 2 shiitake mushrooms and put them on your cutting board. Add the cabbage, soy bean sprouts, 3 green onions, and the peeled potatoes.
  2. Slice the mushrooms thinly and put them back to the pot. Add the seasoning paste. Add ¼ cup water and cover.
  3. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes over medium high heat until the potatoes are fully cooked. Test them by poking one with a chopstick or a bamboo skewer. If the chopstick goes through easily, it’s fully cooked.
  4. Add the perilla leaves and stir. You can serve right away with rice and a few more side dishes.

Serve
There are a few ways to serve, depending on how you like it:

  • Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle each with some chopped green onion. You can also reheat the soup in earthenware bowls and then serve them to the table bubbling hot.
  • Put all the soup in a large shallow pot, and sprinkle some chopped green onion over top. Put the pot in the center of the table along with the rice and some other side dishes. You can share it all together. I recommend giving out small individual bowls and a ladle so that people can put some soup in their bowl and enjoy it that way, instead of eating from the pot in the middle of the table.

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225 Comments:

  1. deborah Toronto, ON joined 4/09
    Posted May 13th, 2009 at 9:59 am | # |

    hi maangchi,

    it’s great to see that you were able to make the gamjatang! my mom has been asking me to make this for her for as long as she knew i started looking at all your recipes! i can’t wait to make some for my mom.

    a couple questions,
    1. what is the purpose of cooking it in a regular pot then putting it into the earthen ware bowl before serving as boiling?
    2. i have noticed that restaurants use some sort of round seed… what is that?

    thanks!
    deborah

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 13th, 2009 at 7:38 pm | # |

      I’m sure you will make the most delicious gamjatang soon! : )

      1,
      The reason I transfer gamjatang to the earthenware bowl is to make it sizzling so that it will look more appetizing.
      I think many of my blog readers bought an earthenware bowls to follow some of my recipes such as soondubu and doenjang jjigae. I should give them more chance to use their earthenware bowl as many times as possible.
      If you don’t have it, you can serve it in any pot or skillet.

      2.
      round seed? Do the seeds look like very small balls? If so, they may be deulkkae(perilla seeds) Anyway, ground deulkkae is supposed to be used for gamjatang. If it’s not deulkkae, I don’t know.

      • deborah Toronto, ON joined 4/09
        Posted May 14th, 2009 at 10:06 pm | # |

        hi maangchi,

        i can’t wait! i have to do some planning though because i have to look for the deulkkae powder and seeds.

        i have two sizes of earthen ware bowls! i make soon dubu for my mom every month or so. i haven’t really used it for much else though… hehehe

        i think it is the perilla/deulkkae seed. it probably is more for garnish than taste though. good to know!

        thank you again! i’ll be sure to send a photo your way when a good batch turns out :)

  2. Nishu
    Posted May 12th, 2009 at 12:34 pm | # |

    Ye!Ye!
    Another Delecious Recipe Will Try It Soon
    Can You Show How To Make Korean Style CURRY RICE
    I Love It~~~
    !!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 12th, 2009 at 5:35 pm | # |

      sure, Korean style curry rice is one of my upcoming video recipes. Thank you. Let me know how your gamjatang turns out!

  3. manny
    Posted May 12th, 2009 at 6:37 am | # |

    Is this dish really spicy? Can I make it without the spicy ingredients, such as the hot pepper flakes and paste, and the red chilli pepper? I’d prefer to make it not spicy.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 12th, 2009 at 8:04 am | # |

      You could try it out without using hot spicy ingredients. Use more soybean paste then.

  4. I Love to Eat
    Posted May 11th, 2009 at 7:42 pm | # |

    This looks so good! I’ll definately have to try it sometime :)

  5. cindy
    Posted May 11th, 2009 at 3:47 am | # |

    oh i liked this soup very much when my husband was in korea
    Tommorow My Husband’s Boss Is Coming Who Is Korean And His Fav Food Is Kalbi
    I Know That You’ll Show Kalbi Video Someday But its Urgent
    Can You Tell Recipe In Short (PLEASE)
    :)

  6. Elleen
    Posted May 8th, 2009 at 11:55 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    Thank you for your recipe!
    One question: Why a lot of people use Soy Bean Paste to make this soup? Is it necessary? Thank you for your answer!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 9th, 2009 at 7:47 am | # |

      Yes, it’s necessary for this recipe. A little amount of soy bean paste removes pork meat odor and also makes this soup delicious.

      • Anonymous
        Posted May 15th, 2009 at 8:52 am | # |

        I was wondeirng, if you can use japanese miso instead of the soybean paste. Would it taste very different? Thanks

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 15th, 2009 at 8:59 am | # |

      yes,it will be good, too!

  7. Cam
    Posted May 7th, 2009 at 11:48 am | # |

    Hi!
    Wow, that looks really tasty!
    I’ve never been able to find perilla leaves at my korean grocer, so its good to know that basil might work as well.
    I was just wondering what the purpose of soaking the pork bones in water is?

    Thanks for the new recipe-
    Oh, and i love the new layout for your website- très cool.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 7th, 2009 at 7:46 pm | # |

      oh, the reason for soaking pork bones is to get rid of blood that has some odor.

  8. Vicky
    Posted May 7th, 2009 at 9:29 am | # |

    Hi..Kam Ja Tang was one of my favorite meals on a cold winter day. It is so delicious. I’m going to try this recipe for sure! I think it’s odd that it is called “potato soup”. There’s really a lot more meat than spuds!

  9. Anonymous
    Posted May 7th, 2009 at 1:56 am | # |

    Thanks for all the recipes and cooking demonstrations on youtube.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 7th, 2009 at 7:44 pm | # |

      You are very welcome! Make delicious gamjatang!

  10. Michelle Kim
    Posted May 7th, 2009 at 1:19 am | # |

    Thanks for the recipe! Is it possible to make this recipe with beef? If you can,what part of beef can you use? (my husband doesn’t like pork)
    I’ve been wanting to eat 감자탕 ever since 감자탕 전문 식당 opened up in Flushing. By the way, I’ll be making 화전 for my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day. Thanks a lot! 좋은 주말 보내시길 바래요. ^_^

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 7th, 2009 at 5:56 am | # |

      I think you could replace pork bones with beef short ribs. Let me know how it turns out if you make it.

      • 이한민
        Posted December 1st, 2009 at 3:47 am | # |

        Hi Maangchi! Have you heard back about whether 감자탕 would taste good with beef short ribs? 저는 되지를 못먹어요. I have allergies to pig, so I wanted to know how it would taste. I never had 감자탕 made for me due to my allergies. Please let me know! 고마워요!

        • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
          Posted December 1st, 2009 at 9:20 am | # |

          : ) beef short ribs for this recipe sounds good! I should try it out, too. Thank you very much for your question.

  11. Mun
    Posted May 6th, 2009 at 10:20 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    Can you upload the podcast? Bcuz u prefer to cook and watch the video at the same time…

    =) thank you!

  12. Tuty
    Posted May 6th, 2009 at 7:55 pm | # |

    Maangchi,
    I just recently stumble into your blog.
    I love your informative blog and video too.
    This soup looks very hearty. H Mart just recently opened in my neighborhood and they have great selection of everything Korean :-)
    I should try some of your recipe.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 6th, 2009 at 8:17 pm | # |

      oh, you are lucky to have a Korean grocery in your neighborhood!
      Some of my blog readers drive hours and hours to get ingredients.
      It sounds like you will become a regular customer of the store.

  13. Anastacia
    Posted May 6th, 2009 at 7:34 pm | # |

    So yummy yummy!

  14. Anonymous
    Posted May 6th, 2009 at 4:17 pm | # |

    If only I have a korean market nearby my house…My asian market never sell perilla leaves and perilla seed powder.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 6th, 2009 at 8:15 pm | # |

      hmmm, sorry to hear that. How about replacing perilla leaves with basil leaves. Use just a little bit. And instead of perillar seeds powder, use sesame seeds powder. If sesame seeds powder is not available, just skip it. Modify the recipe adjusting to your situation. Let me know how it turns out if you make it. I’m curious.

      • ryan
        Posted June 7th, 2009 at 11:23 pm | # |

        I just tried it out and substituted with basil and sesame seeds as you suggested. I also used beef bones and a brisket, instead. I have to say it turned out better than I could imagine! I’ll send you a pic when I upload it. Thank you for the tip and many inpirational videos.

      • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
        Posted June 8th, 2009 at 9:31 am | # |

        ryan,
        you are so smart! : )

    • Kim Inhae
      Posted May 15th, 2009 at 9:43 am | # |

      Hi – I thought that I’d point out that sometimes the powder will be labelled as “frutescens powder” (latin name). That’s how it is at my local market, but it’s the same thing!

  15. Sylvia joined 9/08
    Posted May 6th, 2009 at 2:39 pm | # |

    I’ve never had this, it looks delicious.

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