Sunday, October 12, 2014

Korean Pork Bone Soup (Gamjatang)...

I was asked whether I was cooking up a turkey this Thanksgiving... and the answer is no... I was serving up something totally irrelevant.... Gamjatang! This traditional Korean dish is a hearty pork bone stew with a complex taste of spicy rich broth made from boiled pork neck bones (which is my preference of pork bones to use in soups). I've been meaning to have my best friend and her family over for dinner and we got talking about gamjatang as the perfect fall weather food. When we landed on this Thanksgiving weekend as the date, I thought, heck this is exactly what I want to make for them. Sometimes I would also make a mild soup version for the young kids but I decided on prepared bulgogi- a marinated beef dish as it was easier and less messy to eat. Unconventional as the dinner was, we had the best time... great friends, great conversation and great food... now that's what I'm thankful for this holiday! Check out this awesome soup in another gathering with family!

Gamjatang is famous for its hangover cure... maybe that's why these speciality pork bone soup shops are opened 24/7 in Korea as well as in Toronto's Korean towns to cater to the drunken late evenings and early mornings. 

There are a lot of ingredients and plenty to prepare here, so it only makes sense to me to make a huge pot every time. The leftovers could be served the next day, or placed into empty tofu containers and frozen for a later mealtime on a whim. Half the recipe to serve four to six.

Big Pot Korean Pork Bone Soup (Gamjatang)
Makes 8 servings

7 lbs. pork neck bones (*buy from a Korean supermarket)
1/2 medium napa cabbage, leaves removed from stem
5 slices ginger
2 onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. minced ginger
1/4 cup soy bean paste
3 dried red chili peppers 
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
12 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup hot pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. hot pepper paste
1/3 cup cooking wine
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup perilla seeds
20 perilla leaves, cut into bite sized pieces
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
a bunch Asian chives (5 cups), cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb. soy bean sprouts, washed and drained
6 potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
chopped green onions and ground black pepper for garnish

*Since pork neck bones is the star of this soup, I spend a little more at Korean grocers for quality and meaty bones!

TIP: If possible soak pork neck bones in cold water for two hours to draw out the blood and impurities. Boil water in a large pot and blanch whole napa leaves for one minute. Rinse, drain and squeeze excess water from the cabbage and put it in a bowl. Tear each leaf lengthwise once or twice to make it bite size and set it aside. 

Rinse pork neck bones in cold water and put them in a large pot of boiling water with some salt and ginger. Cook for seven minutes. Rinse and strain the pork neck bones and return them in the same but rinsed large pot. Fill the pot to 3/4 way with water and bring it to a boil.

When you rinse the pork bones, pick out any excessive fat. 

Remove any bone fragments and debris to create a clean broth.

Add onion, ginger, dried red chili peppers, shiitake mushrooms and
 soy bean paste to the pot. Boil for 1-½ hours over medium-high heat. 

In the meanwhile, prepare a bowl to make the sauce by mixing together garlic, hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, cooking wine, fish sauce and perilla seeds. Set aside.

Perilla leaves are commonly used in Korean cuisine, as well as its tiny seeds, also known as "wild sesame".

About 1-½ hours later, take the red hot chilli pepper and shiitake mushrooms out of the pot. Slice the shiitake mushrooms into bite sized pieces. Add the prepared vegetables, the sauce and chopped shiitake mushrooms into the soup. Cook for another 30 minutes. 

Adjust seasoning and spice levels, and ladle the soup into serving bowls, sprinkled with some chopped green onions and ground black pepper.

Deliciously flavourful and spicy with tender hunky pork meat and a bunch of vegetables to make it a hearty meal! Serve with rice and a side of kimchi and seasoned sesame spinach.

TIP: If you have an earthenware bowl, put the soup into it and heat it up until it sizzles. Finish with chopped green onions and ground pepper!


  1. Thank you for posting the recipe!

    1. Thank you dychui for your comment. I love this comfort hearty soup!