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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230 Comments:

  1. Hi Maangchi,

    I have searched for this recipe for year and have sorely missed gamja tang since leaving Korea. I would eat at least once a week when I was in Gunsan. Have asked many Korean friends for a recipe but no one knew how to cook it. I had given up looking a couple of years ago and just decided to try again. Thanks for the recipe. I look forward to cooking it soon as I can find the right ingredients.

  2. Hi Maangchi,

    Is perilla leaves necessary? I mean how is this recipe if I cannot find perilla leaves? Can I use any substitute? Thanks

    chit

  3. Starving Man& has 5 comments

    I love Gamjatang! My first taste of Korean food was in a Gamjatang restuarant. I cooked with your awesome recipe this weekend and my wife loved it so much that she ate it for dinner, breakfast and lunch!
    Thanks again Maangchi ~ your recipes really help me give her some taste of home when she’s so far away from it!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,049 comments

      You are such a cool husband! I’m very glad to hear that your wife loved your gamjatang! Gamjatang recipe is a little difficult but you made it. I think you can make any kinds of recipes I have posted so far. Cheers!

  4. I followed you recipe and it’s AMAZING!
    It is fairly long to make, but it’s well worth it! I even tried to remix it a bit by adding some fresh algae (that they sell at my local Korean market)… it was pretty good, but you got to be careful not to add to much or it will completely destroy the recipe (they quadruple in size when soaked and cooked and its taste takes a lot of place!)
    But I have one question Maangchi. I have seen some pics on the web which shows this recipe to have a very deep red color (like the photo shown on wikipedia: )
    Do you know what they added to make it to have this deep red tint?
    Thank you in advance and thanks again for the recipe! ;)

  5. hello!

    i tried your gamjatang today and the result was great. thanks for the wonderful recipe. this taste much better than my not so successful soon dubu jigae. :)

  6. hello maangchi!
    i am a new fan!! i tried this dish last week and i think my husband fell in love with me all over again. he asked me if i could make it once a week for him.
    thank u!!!
    anna

  7. Elisa Kim& has 1 comment

    My husband has been craving gamja tang for months… I didn’t know how to make it. when I found this recipe, I tried it and it was absolutely fabulous! My husband thought it was delicious. This recipe is definitely a keeper. He’s asking when I will be making it again. Thanks for your awesome recipe!

  8. Thanks for another great recipe Maangchi….I tried making this yesterday and it turned out really OILY with lots of fat! Any tips to fix this ? Thanks!

  9. Hello Maangchi! Thank you for the recipie I enjoy Gamjatang quite often just down the street, it will be great to make it on my own!

  10. Hey. Thanks for the recipe. I am going to make this with 6 lbs of pork neck bone. Instead of about doubling the ingredients, is there anything else in particular that I should alter, such as the cooking times?

  11. Same as Debora, I’d like to request a video of Kalbi Tang, so that I can make it myself.
    It’s pricey in the resturant, consider paying $15 for a bowl which filled up with liquid(broth), only one piece of kalbi, a little bit of Dang Myun, and some egg…

  12. How do you eat that whole potato?
    Just use ta spoon to scoop it when eating from the earthware?

  13. deborah Toronto, ON joined 4/09 & has 47 comments

    hi maangchi, i too just made gamjatang tonite. what a treat the final result was! my mom loved it!! i forgot to get the bean sprouts but i just substituted for more nappa cabbage instead (b/c the sprouts didn’t look fresh). though this is one of the longer recipes i’ve tried, it’s well worth all the work at the end! :)

    thank you again and i can’t wait to see what else you put up! :)
    p.s. kalbi tang or seollang tang would be fun to see too ;)

  14. HI! I just made the gamjatang and it was EXCELLENT!!!!!! I couldnt find perilla leaves nor the powder so i didnt put them, but i did put seasame powder like you suggested to another member. I also forgot to buy the napa cabbage after two visits to the grocery store =__= So i used the white part of the chinese *bok choi* and it came out pretty well! I added some ENOKI mushroom as well…

    THANK YOU, ure a genius ^^

  15. kim inhae& has 2 comments

    Thank you =) I was wondering if you thought too much flavour would be lost if I soaked the pork necks for about 12 hours – I would like to make it for dinner for someone next week, but I don’t have enough time to wait for it to soak for 2 hours before we will sit down to dinner

    Thanks!

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