It has been nearly 2 months since I got a request for this soup (감자탕) from Sally. What took me so long to make this soup? Well, first of all, I am not a huge fan of bone soup such as Ox-tail soup, Seolleongtang, and this Gamjatang as well. They seem a bit plain for my taste buds (gamjatang is an exception for this matter). I like something crispy, crunchy, chewy, spicy, sweet, or even savory, that has a distinguishing characteristic as a food. But those bone soups don’t quite fit those realms, except that they smell fishy while they are boiling in a pot.
Second of all, I had a bad experience when I had this soup for the first time about 10 years ago. Korean restaurants, they really should specify the menus. Gamja is potato and tang is soup, I literally thought that it was a soup full of potatoes. I didn’t expect to see some chunky bones that look like they were just cut from a dinosaur. It was a truly intimidating scene for me, as I was young and teenagers are not used to such a surprise, unless they have had that soup in the past.
Now I made my first Gamgatang just yesterday and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was slightly spicy, but it had a very deep taste from being simmered for 2 hours, so its spiciness became a mild spicy flavour. I really appreciated the fragrance of crown daisy leaves (ssukgat, 쑥갓) since it diluted the fishy smell of pork.
It is a medium level of difficulty to cook and it also asks for some patience and tolerance. You will see why soon. Make sure you close any accessible door to the rest of the house (pork has a unique smell – I say fishy) and open the kitchen window while you are simmering the pork bones.
(It is enough to serve 3-4 people)
- Pork spine or neck bone – 1.4 kg (You need to pick the right one. The bone I bought had hardly any meat. Then why is it so expensive? Is this really free in Australia and USA?)
- 5 medium potatoes
- Crown daisy leaves (ssukgat) – 1 fistful
- Mung bean sprouts (sukju) – 1 fistful
- 12 perilla leaves (so called sesame leaf, ggannip)
- 6 Chinese cabbage leaves (Baechunip)
- 2 green chilies
- 22 cups of water total
Vegetables and spice to get rid of pork smell
- 1/2 stalk of green onion (just use the white part for this recipe)
- 1 medium onion (peeled)
- 5 cloves of garlic (peeled)
- 1 thumb size piece of ginger (peeled)
- 10 whole black pepper seeds (un-ground)
Sauce (mix these well in a bowl)
- Chili powder (Gochutgaru) – 3 tbsp
- Minced garlic – 1 ½ tbsp
- Ginger powder – 1 tsp
- Refined rice wine – 2 tbsp
- Anchovy sauce – 1 tbsp
- Water – 1tbsp
- Salt -1/8 tsp
- Soybean paste (Doenjang) – 2 tbsp
- Ground sesame – 4 tsp
- Pepper -3 sprinkles
1. Soak the bones in cold water for 2 hours (to get rid of blood) . Drain away the water.
2. Put the bones into a big pot and add 7 cups of fresh water, then boil it for 5 minutes.
3. Drain the water (throw it away) and add 7 cups of fresh water – again. Add the all ingredients from the “vegetables and spice to get rid of pork smell” section. Simmer it on medium to low heat for 2 hours. When the water seems to get reduced you need to refill the water to maintain 5 cups of expected broth (I ended up adding an extra 8 cups of water – 1 every 15 minutes.)
4. While you are waiting;
① Rinse the crown daisy leaves, cut off the thick stems.
② Rinse the mung bean sprouts.
③ Rinse the perilla leaves and thin slice them.
④ Rinse the green chilies, take out the seeds, and thin slice them diagonally.
⑤ Clean the potatoes. Boil them in a pot until 90% of them are cooked. Drain the water and cool them down. Peel the skin off.
⑥ Rinse the cabbage leaves. Boil some water for 1 minute and add the salt. Parboil the cabbage. Drain the water. If the leaves are big, you can tear them up length ways.
Steps Ⅱ (after the two hours of simmering)
- Sieve the broth into a separate pot. Then put the bones back into this broth but throw away the boiled vegetables.
- Add the peeled potatoes, soybean paste, and the sauce (that you previously made) into the the pot.
- Boil it until the potatoes cook completely.
- Add the crown daisy leaves, mung bean sprouts, perilla leaves, green chilies, and cabbage leaves on top.
- Add the ground sesame and pepper sprinkles.
- You can start eating when the vegetables are cooked.
- Enjoy your meal. (You can adjust the taste with some salt if it is necessary, but I didn’t add any.)
You need to start preparing about 4-5 hours before you are going to start eating. I know! It is a huge time consuming process. I started to prepare from 4 pm and ate it about 9:10pm, so I had to wait 2 more hours to digest before I went to bed. I had to say “You better be delicious”.