Gamjatang. A spicy, hearty soup made from pork bones. It’s a famous stew in Korean, known as an effective hangover food. Yes, – you heard correct! In fact, many gamjatang restaurants are open 24 hours. Many drunk people stumble in late-night to have a bowl before calling it a night. Or crawl-in first thing in the morning to shake off that nasty (soju) headache!
There a few special ingredients in this stew:
The first special ingredient is pork spine bones. Pork spine may seem exotic, as its rarely used it western cuisines. But it is simply amazing when making broth. With this specific cut, you can make a light and milky broth. The broth is not overpowering and harmonizes any flavors or spices you add to it. Pork spine bones also have some of the best-tasting, tender meat stuck to it. The only catch is that you have to poke at it (or suck them out) to eat it. Kinda like eating crabs – get in there with your hands!
The second ingredient is radish greens (무청). Radish greens are the sprouted greens of Korean radishes. I add some images below for your reference.
In Korea, we like to use these fibrous greens as they holds their form and chewing texture well – even when boiled for a long period of time. However, in our recipe, we will use boy choy as a substitute. Radish greens is hard to find outside of Korea.
The third key ingredient is perilla leaf seed powder (들꺠가루). It’s made by grinding perilla leaf seeds. Gamjatang restaurants in particular will use alot of this in their stew. It help balance out the saltiness of the soup and adds a touch of herbal flavor.
This recipe is rated medium difficulty. It involves a number of involved steps and special ingredients that are hard to procure. If you see this on a menu at a Korean restaurant, give it a try!
Gamjatang - Spicy Pork Bone Soup
Yield 3-4 people
We make a rich and umami stock using pork spine. Then add potatoes, veggies and Korean spices to make a hearty stew. For this stew, don't be afraid to get in there with your hands.
- Pork spine bones - 1.5 kg (~3 lbs)
- Potatoes - 4 medium-sized (each, about the size of your palm)
- Bok choy - 6-10 stalks (the more the better)
- Perilla leaves - 10
- Spring onions - 2 whole stalks (leeks work well too)
- Onion - 1/2 a whole
- Gochujang - 1 Tablespoon
- Doenjang - 1 Tablespoon
- Gochugaru - 3 Tablsepoons
- Minced garlic - 1 Tablespoon
- Soup soy sauce - 1/3 cup
- Fish sauce - 3 Tablespoons
- Perilla Seeds Powder - 4 Tablespoons
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon (to taste)
- There are a lot of impurities in the spine bones. Let's start by cleaning them: Take out your largest pot. Put the bones in. Pour enough cold water to cover the bones. Set aside for one hour. After one hour, change the water out with fresh new water. Then let it sit again for another hour.
- After a total of 2 hours, drain the water again. Then put bones in the pot. Refill with enough cold water to cover the bones. Now, we will give the bones a rapid boil: Put your pot on high heat and bring it up to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and drain the pot (be careful not to burn yourself).
- Wash each bone under cold running water. Shake off any visible impurities. Then place each cleaned bone back into the large pot. Fill the pot with 12 cups of water. Place on high heat and bring up to a boil.
- Once the pot comes to a boil, add in 1 stalk of spring onion and the onion. Let it boil away on a high heat for 10 full minutes.
- After 10 minutes, reduce the heat down to a medium-low heat. Place the lid over the pot and let it gently simmer for another 50 minutes on medium-low. It should be a gentle boil.
Prep vegetables & sauce
- While you wait, let's prep the vegetables: Give each bokchoy stalk a thorough wash. Then chop the ends off each. Then, take out a small pot, pour some water in and bring it up to a boil. Then blanche the leaves for 1 minute. Drain and cool the leaves down under cold running water. Then, squeeze the water out of the leaves and set aside.
- Use a peeler and take the skin off the potatoes. Cut the potatoes in half.
- Cut spring onion stalk into smaller pieces. Then roll the perilla leafs and cut them into small strips.
- Make marinade sauce: Thoroughly mix all of the listed ingredients under 'stew seasoning'.
- Take out a small mixing bowl. Drop in a few spoonfuls of the stew seasoning sauce and coat the blanched bok choy. Set aside.
- After 50 minutes, take the lid off. Take out the spring onion and onion piece out of the broth.
- Then add in the potatoes. And the seasoned bok choy.
- Finally, add in the remaining stew seasoning.
- Put the lid back on. Let everything boil together for another 15 more minutes.
- After 15 minutes, take off the lid. Skim the surface with a ladle and scoop out any oils, impurities. Take a sip of the soup here.
- Add salt. Then the perilla seed powder. Then throw-in the sesame leaf and spring onion pieces. Let the soup boil for a final 2-3 minutes.
- Congrats! Your done! Pour a few ladle-full into a big bowl. Eat with hot rice.
- Soup will taste even better the next day - the more boils, the better it tastes!
- If you can not find pork spine bones, you can also use baby back pork ribs.
- See video below for more details