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. Princess kila Missouri, United States joined 2/17
    Posted March 9th, 2017 at 7:38 pm | # |

    Was excited to serve this to my husband. Thank you for all the great recipes. Everyday I make things


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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 12th, 2017 at 2:38 pm | # |

      Wow, now you can make delicious gamjatang anytime you want! Happy cooking!

  2. jeaniem23 joined 11/08
    Posted February 28th, 2017 at 4:57 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi!!! I’m a long time subscriber and haven’t really posted a lot, but I wanted to let you know that I love your recipes!! I made your gamjatang yesterday and it was delicious! My 9 year old even ate it and he doesn’t even like spicy food :)


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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 1st, 2017 at 10:07 am | # |

      I’m so impressed with how your gamjatang turned out! Vegetables look so soft yet crispy and the broth looks full of umami! Your 9 year old was also impressed by your delicious homemade gamjatang! Bravo! : )

  3. Princess kila Missouri, United States joined 2/17
    Posted February 19th, 2017 at 11:26 am | # |

    Can I still add the buchu like in old Recipe? When would be best time to add It? I like how it seasons the broth

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 1st, 2017 at 9:28 am | # |

      Yes, of course you can add buchu. Add it with perilla leaves together and cook a few more minutes before serving.

  4. irredescent chamelion Australia joined 2/17
    Posted February 18th, 2017 at 1:42 am | # |

    Hi Maanchi, I love your recipes, every one I have tried has been amazing. I really want to try this one but I can’t find fermented bean paste, is there something I could substitute it with? TIA :D

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14
      Posted February 18th, 2017 at 8:35 am | # |

      You can most certainly find miso?
      That’s very similar.

      Bye, Sanne.

  5. yosabara Baltimore, MD joined 2/17
    Posted February 17th, 2017 at 4:40 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi! I’m a big fan of gamjatang and have made your recipe years back to great success when you first posted it! I am wondering if there is a similar stew using lamb instead of pork? I no longer eat pork but, still very much love korean food and have been looking for good substitutes for pork in korean recipes. Some dishes I just leave the pork out but some others I think it adds a lot of meaty depth that I’d like to recreate using another meat. Any advice?

  6. Cilcil Singapore joined 2/17
    Posted February 17th, 2017 at 10:08 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!
    I m from Singapore & I love Korean food!!!!
    I made Gamjatang with ur old recipe & I love it soooo much!
    But I cannot find Perilla leaves
    I love the fresh Perilla leaves when I was in Korea for holidays!!!!
    My not very clear photo because we are most of it already! Haaaa!


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  7. jsp73 joined 3/15
    Posted February 17th, 2017 at 5:15 am | # |

    My favorite Kamjatang restaurants in Seoul and many other places in Gyeonggi-do (Bundang, Migeum, and others) all used 시래기. That is the name of a dehydrated leafy green (rehydrated when cooking). How do I prepare this? I know it is very very common in South Korea — at least in Seoul and surrounding areas. 시래기 is my favorite!!!! I can’t eat kamjatang without it. https://namu.wiki/w/%EC%8B%9C%EB%9E%98%EA%B8%B0

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14
      Posted February 17th, 2017 at 12:00 pm | # |

      Well – judging from the pictures I’ve found, it’s just radish leaves. i. e. the green from radishes.

      Bye, Sanne.

  8. thespicykimchi New York joined 1/17
    Posted January 29th, 2017 at 9:33 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi-shi!

    I want to make this for my dad’s birthday tonight but I have a bigger family so I’m using 6lbs. Should I double the recipe? 20 cups of water sounded like a lot…. Or am I supposed to leave everything and just add extra meat? Please let me know! Thank You!

    • sa_pilipina Kunsan City joined 6/09
      Posted March 12th, 2017 at 1:05 pm | # |

      Hi, in your directions you have two different amounts of water when making the paste; one place indicates 1/4 cup, another spot indicates 1/2 cup. I know it won’t matter in the end, but if 1/2 cup water is used for the paste, it’s not “creamy”…..

  9. HW joined 11/15
    Posted November 16th, 2015 at 5:35 pm | # |

    Nothing is better than this in a fall/winter time. Obsessed with Manngchi’s recipes.


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  10. nrpharmd joined 11/15
    Posted November 13th, 2015 at 11:18 pm | # |

    Made my first Maangchi recipe tonight, the spicy pork neck stew. It was a big hit with my parents. And considering that my mom is one of the best cooks on earth (in my opinion), that is high praise indeed. Can’t wait to try some of the other recipes. Thanks!


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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 14th, 2015 at 12:07 pm | # |

      This is such a great looking gamjatang photo! It looks very delicious. I’m happy to hear that it was a big hit!

  11. pp_123 Hong Kong joined 12/14
    Posted September 20th, 2015 at 9:27 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    Can you suggest any non-spicy version of this recipe? Thanks!

    • jubillante Vancouver, BC joined 1/16
      Posted January 17th, 2016 at 1:32 am | # |

      Hi stranger! I would say leave out the gochujang and gochu garu and it will still taste quite delicious and complex. The combo of ginger/shitaake/pork in the beginning smells and tastes really good to begin with and I don’t think too much flavour is lost in omitting the spicy ingredients. Happy cooking!

  12. afan toronto, ontario, canada joined 11/14
    Posted April 19th, 2015 at 12:40 pm | # |

    Hello again Maangchi! from Toronto,

    Today i took a quick trip to Galleria to pick up some Perilla seed powder and made this soup. SO DELISH!, outstanding recipe. I used up all my Nappa in my 2nd batch of Kimchi and only had regular cabbage but it still was amazing! Today I will not eat it with rice but with thick noodles because my Taiwanese step daughter is with us and she likes those thick noodles used in the noodles with black bean sauce. Its a big mix and match around here…not 100% authentic, but very suiting to eveyones taste buds. ALSO: readers might be interested in this. If you are not in a hurry and can make your pork bone soup one day ahead. Its very good to make the broth and put it in the fridge, then you can “skim” off all the hard fat! Reheat when you are ready to season it and its a much leaner soup, without worrying bout too much fat! This is a great recipe. Thanks Maangchi. I am always looking for your new posted recipes.

    Faye

  13. sanne Munich joined 8/14
    Posted March 17th, 2015 at 4:19 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I did it again! ;-D

    This time with veal (spine and ribs) and pickled perilla because it’s not the season for fresh one. But this time, I had fresh baechu.

    Do I have to mention that it turned out delicious – again? ;-D

    Bye, Sanne.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 17th, 2015 at 7:55 am | # |

      Of course you can mention it! I’m always happy to hear that. haha! Baechu (napa cabbage) is so delicious when it’s cooked. I love the texture.

  14. edloveskoreanfood philippines joined 3/15
    Posted March 8th, 2015 at 3:41 am | # |

    i indeed cooked it for 2 hours.the wait was too long but it was worth it. i’m happy with what i made especially the soup. the meat became so tender but it was quite tasteless. is that okay? so i dipped the meat in soy sauce with sesame oil, then it got a better taste. thanks for the recipe maangchi… ^^

  15. I LOVE KOREAN FOOD india joined 1/15
    Posted January 24th, 2015 at 11:14 am | # |

    hi maangchi-shi I’ve received your e-mail, thanks for your reply and i’m so happy that you replied me. now I can eat pork without fear.

    maangchi-shi can you make a video about how to make sundae
    [Korean blood sausage and sausage soup].
    I’ve watched in many Korean dramas they’ll eat Korean blood sausage soup and after I watched it I was excited and want to eat it sooooo much.
    can you please make a video about this recipe maangchi-shi.

    thanks for reading my comment maangchi-shi.

    • DeeBelle Toronto joined 2/15
      Posted February 24th, 2015 at 6:52 pm | # |

      What if I don’t have fish sauce? Can I make it without it?

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