Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not Your Grandma's Gamjatang

Looks like I'm on a Korean roll for the moment. 감자탕 (oh snap, yes I did just bust out the Hangul typing function) gamjatang is a spicy pork bone soup with potatoes and vegetables. I knew nothing about it before looking up recipes for the pork bones I'd bought. Why'd I buy the pork bones? Well, I saw a recipe in the Seattle Times for ham bone soup that sounded good, and I like the idea of making soups and stews with meat bones since it makes for a richer soup and feels less wasteful than just throwing the bones away. By the way, they're cheap as hell--$1.29/lb.? Nice. Anyway, when I was trying to find that Times recipe again, I found, instead, recipes for gamjatang. It sounded better than the recipe I was originally looking for, so I decided to try to pull elements from a couple different recipes, leaning more toward the gamjatang. In the end, I whittled it down pretty much just to this one, from Maangchi. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, for introducing me to the site! It's a great resource for Korean recipes.

But as the title of this post says, this isn't your harmuhnee's gamjatang. I didn't have several of the ingredients asked for, wasn't going to make a trip out to H-Mart or Great Wall, and Harris Teeter failed.

// begin Harris Teeter gripe //
Although Harris Teeter stocks a pretty good variety of things used in different cuisines (at much higher price than you'll find at your local Asian grocery), produce is often left on the shelf to the point that it's wilting and no longer desirable. As such, I was not going to buy the soft 大白菜 dabaicai (Napa cabbage) or the slimy 豆芽 douya (soybean sprouts). My guess is that this is a result of their offering a pretty good variety of produce/products. The customer base doesn't buy the diversified selection quickly enough for them to turn over (well, profitably) the produce very quickly. Though, the tomatoes and lettuce do fine, of course.
// end Harris Teeter gripe //

Anyway, I went for plain ole cabbage instead, and just dropped the bean sprouts. There were no perilla leaves or seeds, Chinese chives, and of course no soybean paste or hot pepper paste (which are Korean sauces, though I think soybean paste is really the same as miso paste). Hell, I didn't even have pork neck or spine bones (I'm pretty sure it was a leg bone, judging from the enormous ball and socket on one side and groove for the patella on the other). I bet they've all been exported to Korea where they sell for more than they would in the US. So instead, I adapted Maangchi's recipe with my previous spicy stewed beef recipes and threw in black beans for good measure; I wanted some more protein anyway, since the bones have only a little meat on them. But it turned out very well, (and my recipe was so different) so I'll actually post a recipe this time!

Simmering with first group of ingredients

2 hours after first starting to simmer, second group ingredients added .5 hours ago, done! Well, almost.

Sprinkle with garnish, and now it's done.

Wow, so this turned into kind-of a monster post; took a while longer than I'd anticipated (writing up the recipe added a fair amount of time). I was going also to talk about my second attempt at baking (quickbread!), but I think I'll do it as a separate post. Anyway, next time I make gamjatang, I definitely need to try it with the perilla leaves/seeds.

Modified 감자탕 gamjatang (pork bone soup)

2 lbs. pork bones
1 one-inch piece ginger, sliced

first group ingredients
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 one-inch pieces ginger, sliced (yup, another one)
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 dried red chili pepper, seeds removed
2 TBS salted soy beans
1 cup black beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups water

second group ingredients
¼ cabbage (2-3 cups), parboiled one minute, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 small potatoes, peeled
2 green onions, cut into two-inch pieces, whites included
(ideally use napa cabbage instead; also add 2-3 cups Chinese chives, cut 2-inch pieces)
the sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS hot pepper flakes
1 heaping TBS chili garlic sauce
3 TBS rice wine
3 TBS fish sauce

chopped green onion

0. Soak black beans overnight.

1. Soak pork bones in cold water 2 hours, drain and rinse. (Maangchi's recipe says 2 hours, but I don't think it's necessary. I think it's just to get the blood out, but the blood comes out when we parboil the bones anyway...I only soaked it for a half-hour)

2. Boil water in a large pot.
3. Add cabbage and blanch for 1 minute.
4. Drain and rinse the cabbage, tear each leaf into big bite-sized pieces and set aside
5. Boil water (just enough to cover the pork bones). Drain and rinse the bones, and boil for 7 minutes.
6. Rinse and strain the pork neck bones and put them in a large pot with 10 cups water.
7. Add first group ingredients and boil for 1.5 hours over medium high heat. (skim off any scum that rises).
8. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, add ingredients from the sauce and mix together. Hold off on the fish sauce until right before adding to the pot if you want to avoid its smelling up your kitchen.
9. Prepare second group ingredients: tear, cut, peel ingredients as described in ingredient list above, and set aside.
10. 1.5 hours after the first group started cooking, take the (formerly) dried chili pepper and shiitake mushrooms out of the pot.
11. Slice shiitake mushrooms into bite sized pieces.
12. Add second group, the sauce, and the chopped shiitake mushrooms into the soup. Cook for another 30 minutes.
13. Turn off heat, transfer the soup into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with chopped green onions. Serve with steamed rice.


  1. Wow, nice! Thanks for the shout-out. ;) I love 감자탕, and my sister likes to make it, so it's been on a short list of mine of things to make (someday in the future, haha). We'll have to try your recipe....

  2. No prob; thank you for referring me to her site! Heh, probably try Maangchi's first, before mine if you're looking for actual gamjatang.