Gamjatang – literally “potato stew” but actually referring to pork chunks not potatoes – is one of my favorite Korean stews for its hearty and rich flavors, but unfortunately it is one of the most time-consuming and laborious. The pork neck bones (or pork spines if you can find them) need to be first soaked in water for at least a couple of hours to drain the blood, and then should be boiled another good hour or so for the bones to settle into a nice broth and get tender pieces of meat. Also, the perilla seeds powder and perilla leaves give this stew a unique aroma that is distinct from other Korean soups. While eating this stew, it reminded me of the great gamjatang restaurants I used to go to in Korea. Though I have a personal disdain for soju (Korea’s version of vodka), these gamjatang restaurants are always filled with soju drinkers who drink (one shot!) throughout the night while downing this soup to help prevent next-day hangovers. We don’t eat this for our hangovers, but we do enjoy it in the cold season—which I heard Wisconsin is known for.
Servings: 4~6 people
Prep time: 2 hours (minimum 1 hour soak time)
Cooking time: 3 hours
- 4 lbs pork neck bone (or pork spine if available)
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 15~20 ggaetnip (perilla leaves), cut into strips
- 8 Chinese cabbage leaves (baechunip)
- 8~10 small potatoes (size of eggs is perfect)
- 1/2 large leek or green onions (optional)
- 10 cups of water
- 5 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
- 10 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 tbsp deulkkae garu (perilla seeds powder)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp saewujeot (salted shrimp)
- 2 tbsp dwenjang (soy bean paste)
- 3 tbsp cooking wine
- 1 tbsp ground sesame seeds
- salt and black pepper (to taste)
1) Soak the bones in cold water for an hour or two to get rid of the residual blood, then drain under cold water.
2) Put the pork bones into a large pot and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium heat with a mix of garlic, onion, ginger, green onions, black pepper to get rid of the pork smell, cook about 2 hours. The water should reduce from simmering, add more accordingly. Discard any particles of oil and fat that float on top.
3) Drain and rinse the cooked pork bones, discarding the vegetables and removing any excess fatty debris.
4) Prepare the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl, set aside until ready for use.
5) Add 10~12 cups of fresh water and bring to a boil. Add the sauce and whole potatoes (halved if large) with the pork. Cook on medium heat for 25~30 minutes.
6) When potatoes are soft , include the chopped vegetables to the mix and boil for another 15~20 minutes.
7) Sample the broth and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Adding extra deulkkae garu (perilla seed powder) and gochugaru (red pepper flakes) is also okay. Let the stew simmer for another 10~15 minutes.
8) Serve with warm rice and plenty of banchan (side dishes).
*If you want to shave off prep and cooking time, you can skip the soaking of the pork bones and just boil them with the vegetables. Boil the pork bones for an hour (instead of the recommended two) and the meat should still be tender.