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.

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


Makes 2-3 servings.

For seasoning paste:


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.


  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.

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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  1. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 264 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    Wow. Just Wow.

    We’ve eaten other Korean Gamjatang before, and it was delicious, but this one …

    I had organic spareribs and Kimchi made from shin young Napa-cabbage, washed and squeezed, skipped soaking and pre-cooking (neither bone nor much fat), used less water and put all the ginger to the soup from the beginning.
    After 1/2 hour in the pressure-cooker, I took out the meat, pulled out the bones and cut it in pieces and the mushrooms, put the soup through a collander and added all the ingredients. I had to substitute some; no puchu, more green onions and extra garlic instead; roasted sesame seeds – and it took 20 minutes in the pressure-cooker to get the potatoes right (because of the sour Kimchi).

    We ate a lot (with rice only), but there’s still more, still delicious. Tomorrow, I will cook beef-ribs in the left-over broth, add the vegetables and reheat them.

    Bye, Sanne.

  2. venuss Canada joined 9/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi. I am new to Korean cooking and have just started stocking my pantry with the basic ingredients I need. Can you tell me how to properly store the perilla seeds powder? Also, how long can I keep soybean paste in the fridge after I’ve opened it? Thank you so much, I look forward to seeing more of your wonderful videos!

  3. jinjoo usa joined 8/14 & has 6 comments

    maang chi i’m going to try this tomorrow & if it turns OK i’ll send u the photo :) remember me Jinjoo i did the bread ppang last few wks ago? your recipes look v appetizing & yummy! i’ll try my best to make it look n taste like yours here :) kam sa hab ni da for sharing all wonderful recipes!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      yes, I remember you. How can I forget your name because jinjoo means pearl in Korean. : ) good luck with your Korean cooking!

      • Michin All over joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

        Hello, I just made the soup and I feel like it’s a little bland. I’m half korean and black and love all types of korean food. I didn’t add the perilla powder instead toasted sesame seed. What can I add to give it more flavor?

        • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 264 comments

          Hi Michin,

          What kind of bland?
          Maybe the Soybean Paste you use isn’t salty enough? Is it Doenjang or Miso?
          You may also add a little bit of Gochujang or more hot Peppers or some black Pepper or just a pinch of salt (preferably seasalt) or even just a little bit of vinegar or lemonjuice. Or you may add some well-fermented Kimchi for some sour taste, Kimchi-Jigae-wise. Or just less water …
          Do you use Korean Perilla-Leaves or Japanese Shiso?
          Did you put the dried Shiitake directly into the pot? That’s important; they add a lot of flavor that way! Use some more.

          Bye, Sanne.

  4. Bella Giyongchy Malaysia joined 8/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi, Maangchi Unnie, I just joining your cooking web today as I love to try all of your recipe.Unnie, for this Gamjatang recipe, can i sub the cooking wain with something else ???😁😁😁

  5. Cutemom Indonesia joined 3/13 & has 82 comments

    Maangchi ssi,

    Each time i make this dish, the better it tasted. However, I can never finished it within 2-3 days, so I make a large amount of the soup, seasoned it and freeze it. Then whenever I want to make the dish, i just defrosted 5 portions worth of the soup and just add the vegetables. I only put in my very fermented kimchi (made with your recipe), kongnamul, chives, potatoes and kaenip if i can find some in my local korean store. Otherwise, no kaenip in my gamjatang.

    However, I think the serving part of your recipe is inaccurate. It says 2-3 servings but i always ended up with 10 servings.

    Kamsahamnida Maangchi ssi,


    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      Oh Ima, Ima! : )
      “It says 2-3 servings but i always ended up with 10 servings.” That’s good, you can feed 10 people with this recipe. Everybody needs a different portion to satisfy their stomach. I eat a huge bowl of gamjatang.

  6. hunche04 south korea joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    Wow one of my favorite 감자탕 i need to cook this for my husband…i learned to much maangchi…please make a lot of korean foods..

  7. mustwin Malaysia joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    Dear Maangchi Shi,

    I absolutely love your website! It’s my go to for almost all the korean dishes we as a family enjoy.

    Could I use beef ribs/bones as we do not eat pork?

    I just bought a packet of perilla powder from the local korean mart here in Kuala Lumpur.

    Hope to her from you soon.

    Kamsa hamnida!

  8. Cutemom Indonesia joined 3/13 & has 82 comments

    Hi, Maangchi ssi!
    I just made this yesterday to share with my friends. I now have tried all of your recipe except for bungeoppang because I can’t find the mold anywhere here in Indonesia. I have requested my boyfriend in Korea to bring 2 with him when he’s coming to see me next month.

    As always, your recipes are awesome. Thanks to you and your recipes, I manage to lose 3% belly fat and 7% total body fat and 6kg in 3 months. Since I’ve been making more and more kimchi, I ended up selling kimchi and kimchi products such as jinpang mandu with kimchi & pork filling ( we call them bakpao around here) and kimchi mandu.
    I use my fresh kimchi in my Gamjatang in place of the blanched cabbage and omitted the fish sauce in the sauce. Let me tell you that I got endless compliments and more kimchi orders.

    Thank you Maangchi ssi for turning this international home cook into a korean home cook. I cook korean food for my daily meals 4x a week. The other times when I don’t feel like cooking, I just eat rice with kimchi or kaenip jangaji. Thanks so much for your extensive website, easy to follow and accurate recipes. It helps me lose weight and eat well even when the heat kick me out of my own kitchen.


    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      Hi Ima,
      wow, you have made all of my recipes except for bungeoppang! I’m so happy to hear that you lost 6 kilograms in 3 months. “when I don’t feel like cooking, I just eat rice with kimchi or kaenip jangaji.” That’s right!

  9. Hi Maangchi! I am trying to make your pork bone soup but have not been able to find perilla leaves or perilla seed powder in any Asian shops in my city. Can I substitute them with mint leaves and just leave out the seed powder? Is there something else I can substitute them with? Thanks Maangchi, I love your website!!

  10. rickg Toronto joined 9/10 & has 5 comments

    Maangchi, I love you. I think you’re awesome.

    1. I’m trying this recipe for the first time (though I’ve been wanting to try it for years!). To save time for tomorrow, I did a few things tonight: the pork is cooked, the sauce is made, the veggies are chopped, the nappa cabbage is blanched. Is this okay?

    2. Also, I bought perilla seeds and ground them myself. I made a kind of chunky dry paste rather than a powder. Is that okay? It tastes fine, but I’m not sure.

    3. I don’t have cooking wine, so I have to leave it out. Is that okay?

    Thanks, Maangchi. Keep on cookin’!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      How did your gamjatang (pork bone soup) turn out? All you said is very ok to me!

      • rickg Toronto joined 9/10 & has 5 comments

        I’m not going to lie to you, Maangchi. IT WAS AWESOME! I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Doing all the prep work the day before worked really well. The next day, I just had to heat up the soup, add the veggies and sauce, then wait 25 minutes for everything to cook together.

        I’ve tried the gamjatang in about 20 different Korean restaurants all over Toronto, mostly the Yonge and Finch area, where there are a million and one Korean restaurants (Note: I’m on the lookout for a new favourite Korean restaurant. Sadly, Todamgol on Yonge & Cummer closed. Sad face!). Some places have better gamjatang than others, that’s for sure. It’s all in the broth; if it’s tasteless and watery, I never go back! Anyhow, I’d like to think I know what good gamjatang is. In my humble opinion, it would be impossible for your recipe to disappoint anyone. The pork was cooked to perfection and the broth was rich and spicy – the way it should be. Thanks again!

        • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

          “I’ve tried the gamjatang in about 20 different Korean restaurants all over Toronto,..” Check out Eomji Bunsik (엄지분식) in Koreatown Yonge & Bathurst. That’s the best gamjatang place. I was inspired to make this recipe after trying theirs.
          The address: 615 Bloor St W.
          Toronto , ON
          Thank you for sharing your story. You are so passionate about food and cooking! Cheers!

          • rickg Toronto joined 9/10 & has 5 comments

            Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve seen Um Ji Bun Sik on Bloor. I’ve only been to Ka Chi across the street (great gamjatang, terrible service!) I’ll give it a try the next time I’m in the “other” Koreatown (I still think the Korean food around Yonge & Finch is better – sorry!)

          • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

            ok, think about me when you taste their gamjatang. : )

  11. rockyxu Canada joined 2/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello!! I have a question about the perilla seed powder, mine is almost expired is it still okay to use?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      ” mine is almost expired is it still okay to use?” I’d like to ask you if it was stored in the freezer or not. If you bought it long time ago and kept it in the freezer, you still can use it. Smell it and taste it and if it tastes ok, you can use it. But you bought it recently and found it passed expiration date, throw it away.

  12. Zulumom Concord, CA joined 9/13 & has 35 comments

    Hi Maangchi!! I made this soup using some pork spare ribs I had! It’s raining a lot in CA and I didn’t want to BBQ outside, so I decided to make this soup instead. Wow…just simply amazing flavor using the fish sauce instead of soy sauce. Also, I added a ton of veggies as you suggested, and it was great. Thanks again!!! Hope all is well.

  13. MDT Canada joined 2/14 & has 1 comment

    I can’t get enough of Gamjatang and this by far is the best recipe on the internet. I just have a quick question regarding the cooking method.
    Is there a reason why you wait until the last 30 mins of cooking before adding the sauce (hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste..etc)? Wouldn’t adding the sauce in the first stage (when you add the soy bean paste) of cooking gives the pork more flavor?

  14. christan Singapore joined 1/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    Just want to thank you for the wonderful recipe.
    My wife has been craving for gamjatang ever since we came back from Korea last year. I followed your recipe and she was very satisfied with the results. I invited a friend over as well and needless to say, we finished everything. Thanks again :)

  15. rala12 Korea joined 9/13 & has 1 comment

    Hello, Manngchi.
    Thanks for you cooking.
    I always cook for my mother with your recipe.
    She’s very satisfied with my cooking.
    It’s all your help.
    I’m in Korea…and I am in difficulty in finding your ‘fish sause’
    In Korea how can I replace your fish sause-umami?
    What is the most similar taste to umami?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      I am very impressed you cook for your mother! Good luck with your Korean cooking!
      Aekjeot (액젓) is fish sauce in Korean. You will be able to find it easily in any grocery stores in Korea. I recommend you get Kkanari aekjeot or myeolchi aekjeot there.

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